Australia made history late last year in October when the country passed legislation to legalize the growth and cultivation of medical marijuana. For the first time ever in the Land Down Under, cannabis can be used for scientific and medical research.
The legislation wasn't too much of a surprise, seeing that Australia has been one of the biggest markets for marijuana for years. Recent studies have shown that a whopping one-third of all Australians under 22 have tried marijuana at least once. It's also estimated that 750,000 Australians use marijuana every week and 300,000 using it every day. The support for medical marijuana, in particular, is especially high with over 69 percent supporting medical legalization way back in 2013. The public support for marijuana reform has been there: it was only a matter of time before it actually happened.
Not only was the general public on board for reform, but some of Australian's businesses were, too. Before medical marijuana legalization was even on the table, Australia's stock market had three marijuana companies already listed. The marijuana-based pharmaceutical research company Phytotech was listed on the stock exchange all the way back in January of 2015. Even though Phytotech is forced to do its operations in Israel using Uruguayan cannabis, they are headquartered in Perth.
Two other marijuana companies, MGC Pharmaceuticals and Nutrawerx, are also listed on the Australian stock market. The only difference between these companies and most others on the exchange is that they are actually disguised as mining companies. As legalization spreads across the West, many marijuana companies could use the tax benefits of being headquartered in Australia. The sad fact is, though, recreational marijuana is still very much illegal in Australia so marijuana companies have to find inventive ways to get their hands on the emerging market.
Now that medical marijuana is officially legal in Australia, the country is dealing with ironing out all the complexities associated with introducing the once illicit substance. Australia is unique in that, unlike in America, even though marijuana may be legal at the federal level, they have to wait for the states to legalize medical marijuana cultivation in order for the drug to be fully legal. In the US, marijuana is illegal at the federal level but the states can decide whether or not to legalize the plant for medical or recreational use.
Some of the states in Australia, however, seem to have a different view of marijuana than the country's federal government. The only states that have decriminalized marijuana include the Australian Capitol Territory, the Northern Territory, and South Australia. If you're caught with any amount of weed in these states, you'll only get a fine. If you're caught with the plant in any of the other territories, though, you're committing a criminal offense and could get jail time.
Australia's neighbors, too, aren't exactly happy with the island nation's latest reforms. Indonesia is currently facing a widespread narcotics epidemic and puts some of the blame on Australia and the West's permissive and liberal behavior for the outbreak. Australia's medical marijuana industry, however, will be extremely regulated to make sure the medication doesn't get in the hands of those that don't need it.
Australia's leap towards reform is still very new and we can only wait and see what the future will hold for the pot-loving country. As growers and cultivators get their licenses and begin production, Australian patients will finally get the medication they need. It seems likely that the remaining Australian territories will join the booming business to help their citizens in need, too. Things are definitely looking up in the Land Down Under.
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