Ask LH: How Do I Grow Medical Marijuana Legally?

Dear Lifehacker, The Australian Government recently passed a bill to give licence for cultivation of Medical Marijuana in NSW. I would like to know the licencing formalities, application process and other related details. I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks, Dr K

Dear Dr K,

For those who don’t follow the news (or are permanently stoned), the Australian government recently passed national laws to permit the use of medicinal cannabis for people with painful and chronic illnesses. The resultant Narcotic Drugs Amendment Bill allows licensing and permit schemes to be established for the cultivation and production of cannabis and cannabis resin for medicinal and scientific purposes.

To grow medical marijuana legally, you will need to apply for a manufacturer licence and then secure a permit. As explained in the Bill:

A manufacture licence may authorise the manufacture of a drug and activities related to such manufacture, including manufacture for the purposes of research relating to medicinal cannabis products.
Before a licence holder can manufacture a drug, the licence holder must obtain a manufacture permit. Permits deal with matters such as the types and quantities of drugs that can be manufactured.
Certain conditions are imposed on all manufacture licence holders and the Secretary may impose additional conditions.

There are two types of cannabis licence: one that authorises the cultivation of cannabis for manufacture into medicinal cannabis products, and another that authorises research into the cannabis plant that is to be used for medicinal purposes. (For example, testing growing conditions, cannabinoid yields from different strains and ensuring consistency in yields.)

You need to apply to the Secretary of the Department of Health. The Department will then decide whether to grant, or refuse to grant, the licence.

The decision whether to grant a licence will be based on a number of factors. This includes the information and documents you provided in your application, the proposed use and possession of drugs manufactured under the licence, the financial resources at your disposal, the suitability of the location, facilities and security arrangements where activities authorised by the licence will take place and your level of expertise.

Naturally, there’s also a “fit and proper person” test that will cover such matters as criminal history, connections, associates and family, financial status, business history and capacity to comply with licensing requirements. This test is explicitly designed to ensure the exclusion of criminal elements, including organised crime, which may be tempted to use the licence scheme as cover for illegal activities. (The test doesn’t just apply to the applicant but to all relevant business associates too.)

Licence holders will need to ensure crops are carefully secured and accounted for so as not to be diverted to illicit uses. The Amendment Bill goes into greater detail and is essential reading for anyone who is considering applying for a licence. As you’d expect, it’s a complex procedure, so best of luck!

Further Reading: What Marijuana Actually Does To Your Brain And Body

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