The Courier-Mail

High hopes to produce cannabis

Processing facility plan for Qld

- GLEN NORRIS

ONE of the world’s biggest medicinal cannabis production facilities is planned for Queensland amid surging demand for the pain relief medicine.

The $400m growing and processing facility near Towoomba could produce 500 tonnes of the medicine each year and generate 1000 jobs.

The project follows the merger between Byron Baybased Australian Natural Therapeuti­cs Group (ANTG) and Toronto’s Canadian Asterion Cannabis.

Constructi­on of the 75ha complex adjacent to the Wellcamp Airport, west of Toowoomba, is scheduled to begin in the next few months, with the first 10ha glasshouse and manufactur­ing facility operating by the end of next year.

ANTG chief executive and founder Matt Cantelo said the agreement represente­d a “golden opportunit­y” for Australia to reach its full potential in growing and cultivatin­g medicinal cannabis, serving both domestic and export markets. The company earlier this year signed a $92m, nineyear deal with Germany’s Cannamedic­al Pharma to export commercial­ly-grown Australian medical cannabis flowers to Europe.

“We have the gold standard in our regulatory framework, depth of research and climate for growing excellent produce,” said Mr Cantelo. “What we haven’t had is the option of scale. Once we get scale, we will ensure medicinal cannabis is more accessible to Australian­s.”

Australia legalised the cultivatio­n of medicinal cannabis at federal level in 2016 allowing access to a global market that is now worth an estimated $22bn and is used to treat everything from pain relief for cancer and arthritis to epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.

Although Australia is relatively late in legalising medicinal cannabis, over the past four years the government has approved about 30 licences to either cultivate, produce or manufactur­e the medicine. They include Melbourne-based Cann Group, which listed on the ASX in 2017, and Western Australia’s AusCann.

Mr Cantelo said the company plans to purchase land for the facility from the Wagner family, which owns the Wellcamp Airport and is one of the biggest supporters of the project. “This is an important regional project and job creator,” he said. He said funding for the project was still being finalised, but could include an initial public offering next year. “We are looking at ramping up the project fairly quickly, but it will be dependant on demand,” he said.

Mr Cantelo, a former senior executive with Brisbaneba­sed Corporate Travel Management, first became interested in medicinal cannabis after working in 2011 in Colorado that at the time had just legalised the drug.

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