MEDICINAL marijuana is illegal in Australia but Norfolk Island authorities have agreed to host a plantation for marijuana that will be sold overseas.
The first Australian-grown crop of medicinal cannabis will be planted in Norfolk Island within months, with the crop destined for overseas markets.
Australian company AusCann announced on Wednesday that it had signed a landmark agreement with the Norfolk Island government to grow the crop at a ‘secure location’.
The company said it picked Norfolk Island for its climate and security, and will begin planting in November this year.
The first one-tonne harvest is expected in May 2016, and will be sold in Canada.
AusCann managing director Elaine Darby said the company’s two-hectare site and the climate on Norfolk Island would allow the company to grow strains that could not be grown in Canada.
It will focus on growing a strain known as Sativa which could essentially be “grown-to-order” with varying levels of many chemicals that make up cannabis.
“Essentially cannabis has a whole range of cannabinoids. There’s about 80 different ones, and we will be able to vary the ratios of the different cannabinoids depending on the ailment, because if you have epilepsy, or MS or nausea from chemotherapy you will need different ratios,” Ms Darby said.
The company would also be able to produce some crops that were higher in THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the chemical that is generally thought responsible for the “high” from cannabis.
“THC also has quite a few beneficial properties, and some clinical trials they have done overseas show it has a definite role to play,” she said. “They call it the ‘entourage effect’, because it’s about how all the components work together.”
The company expects production to be scaled up to 10 tonnes by 2018, and has engaged a security firm to protect the outdoors site needed for the Sativa strain plants, which can grow as high as 5 metres.
Norfolk Island Health Minister Robin Adams said in a statement that Norfolk Islanders were “whole-heartedly behind this venture, which will provide much-needed employment and revenue for our community”.