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University of Melbourne gets $500,000 from Turnbull Government for research into medicinal cannabis

A grant of almost $500,000 could fast track the production of medicinal cannabis in Australia. Picture: File.

THE Turnbull Government is giving Melbourne researchers almost $500,000 in a bid to fast-track local production of medicinal cannabis plants.

It is hoped the pilot program, run by the University of Melbourne, will improve how scientists extract the parts of cannabis plants which can be used for pain relief.

The researchers, who have teamed up with Under The Three Biopharmaceuticals, will analyse different types of weed crops to decide what will grow best in Australian conditions.

They say it could spur the development of a local cannabis industry — which could be worth $150 million with demand for 8000 kilograms of plants every year — and prevent patients from having to resort to black market treatments. The $466,000 grant will be announced on Wednesday by Education Minister Simon Birmingham, who said the government was keen to get the “best minds” from universities and businesses working together “to come up with solutions to problems Australia faces”. “We’re backing this project because we can see the clear benefits of having local medicinal cannabis production and a local supply chain for the many patients that stand to gain from the use of medicinal cannabis products,” Senator Birmingham said. Professor Tony Bacic, who is part of the University of Melbourne research team, said Australia “has the potential to become a major player” in growing cannabis crops, given our strong agricultural track record. The Victorian Government harvested Australia’s first medicinal cannabis crop earlier this year, which is expected to be available to treat children by the middle of this year. The Herald Sun reported last month that supplies of the drug had also been imported from Canada to provide immediate treatment for 29 children suffering from multiple seizures every day. Prof Bacic, the director of the Plant Cell Biology Research Centre, said scientists were taking advantage of recent law changes to try and cultivate cannabis plants for Australian conditions. He said they were trying to develop “state of the art separation technologies” to extract the medically useful parts of cannabis plants while depleting the psychoactive elements.

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