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Australia to host one of the world’s largest cannabis facilities

The regional town of Victoria will soon be home to one of the world’s largest medical cannabis production facilities in the world. Australian company Cannatrek will be developing the plant worth $160 million. They plan to produce 160 tonnes of medical marijuana a year and create over 400 new jobs in the process. It comes amid a push to drive patients away from the thriving black market in the country.

Cannatrek Chief Executive Tommy Huppert said Shepparton was one of the first locations in Australia to tap into the growing market. “We believe that the region will become a major centre for the production of medicinal cannabis,” he said. The facility was approved by the Greater Shepparton City Council just this week, after earlier securing Federal Government approval. The construction is soon to begin and it could be in operation as early as 2020.

‘Positive knock-on effect for the region’

Mr Huppert explains that Shepparton was selected because of its “abundant water, long hours of sunlight and passionate people, with significant skills in agri-technology”. The Chief Executive went on to say that Cannatrek will be a major employer in the region and they are expecting significant and positive knock-on effects of reduced crime. He said a wide range of skills would be needed to operate the facility, including researchers and agronomists. “We are now preparing the development to build a scalable project and we have received planning permission for the entire project. The facility is over 160,000 square metres, so that's a lot of people to be employed to run the site”.

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“Researchers are essential to breeding the correct strains CBD flower species which will adapt in the environment — once the plants are put into the grow rooms, there's constant taking care of the plant during its lifetime, which is 10 to 12 weeks.” The investment was welcomed by the Greater Shepparton City Council. Mayor Kim O’Keeffe expressed their gratitude, “We would like to thank the State Government for their support of our region and encourage other investors to talk to us about opportunities for growth and investment in Greater Shepparton”.

Reducing black-market sales

According to the Victorian Government, a medical cannabis prescription can cost patients up to $1,000 a week or $52,000 a year depending on the condition. John Teh, a GP and medical director of PlantMed said that the high cost often led patients to the illegal market. He hopes more onshore production will reduce the cost, and the number of people sourcing it from the black market.

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By Cannatrek’s estimates, around 500,000 Australians illegally source cannabis each year in order to self-medicate. Mr Hupperts hopes the up and coming facility will decrease these numbers and can contribute to reducing patient risk. The company has said that the number of prescriptions from medical cannabis has already steadily increased, with authorities granting approximately 11,500 – 10,500 of which were approved in the last year under a Special Access Scheme.

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