Nine million bottles of cannabidiol will be produced each year from Northern Tasmania after a new facility was opened.
Tasmanian Alkaloids cut the ribbon on its new $10 million medicinal cannabis facility at Westbury on Wednesday, with production already underway.
Tasmanian Alkaloids executive general manager Colin Ralph said the facility would cover all aspects of the cultivation, extraction and bottling of medicinal cannabis.
“It’s a very exciting day for the 140 employees on-site, and it continues a strong tradition of innovation and is very synergistic with our existing opioid business,” Mr Ralph said.
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The journey has been more than three years in the making, with the facility supported by the state government. The project was funded through a $10 million grant.
Mr Ralph said the cultivation and processing of medicinal cannabis were similar to the processes involved in its poppy manufacturing business and will help to diversify the business.
The product will serve the national market, but Mr Ralph said when borders opened for exports the company would look to international opportunities.
He said there was already a high demand for the product.
“The marketing and research data we have compiled showed that at the beginning of last year there were about 1500 registered patients and by the end of last year that grew to around 10,000 patients,” he said.
Mr Ralph said forecasting data showed that number would swell to about 30,000 patients by the end of the year.
Tasmanian patients who are seeking access to medicinal cannabis are required to access it through the state government’s controlled access scheme.
However, the latest figures show only 16 people have been approved for the scheme since its introduction three years ago.
State Growth Minister Michael Ferguson said the government had and always would take a compassionate approach.
“We will follow the advice of doctors on this, doctors who are medically trained and caring. If they prescribe with their specialist expertise then the government will pay for the prescription,” he said.
Mr Ferguson said the opening of the facility was a good day, not only for the health industry but also for agriculture.
“Tasmania is now firmly and squarely on the map as the place where the product can be grown research and development undertaken extracted and ultimately taken directly to market with 9 million doses available each year through their production.
“It’s also a big win for the agricultural sector as well because this product ultimately we want to grow as much of it as we are able in this state.”
Tasmanian Alkaloids chief executive Ross Murdoch said the opening of the development was a proud moment.
“The medicinal cannabis capabilities at our Westbury site are second-to-none and now span everything from the R&D [research and development], propagation, cultivation and extraction to formulating, bottling and all analytics required for release of a product to the market,” he said.
Dr Murdoch was not present at the opening due to being in Victoria but joined the presentation via Facetime.