Cannabis leaf

Perhaps helped by a late-December name change from the frivolous PUF Ventures to the more medical sounding Solaris Nutraceuticals*, the company that intends to grow and produce medical grade cannabis in a 9.3 hectare glasshouse operation in Casino has received a $2.5 million Federal grant.. 

The huge score was announced by the Federal MP for Page, Kevin Hogan, as part of a raft of grants for nine job-creating projects - Solaris claims 280 jobs will eventuate. These cover such disparate industries as blueberry growing for export, macadamia processing to make nut-based cheese, and expanded aged care in Kyogle.

A report on the company’s plans was published in the previous edition of GP Speak (Summer 2017). This followed Richmond Valley Council’s open-armed welcome and undertaking to enter into a ‘strategic partnership’ with the business whose home base is Vancouver, Canada.

According to the local company’s CEO Michael Horsfall, "The new name reflects our focus on distinct innovations to provide medicinal cannabis grown under the Northern Rivers sun… In addition to our name change, you will see a fresh new look and feel to the corporate image of the company which reflects the innovation, quality and environmentally sustainable products to be developed in our glasshouse and manufacturing facilities.”

A statement from the company’s head office said “applications for a medicinal cannabis license for the Northern Rivers Project in Australia, for both cultivation and production, cannabis research license and manufacturing license have been accepted by the Office of Drug Control.” 

The ODC, an Australian government body, advises that, “Medicinal cannabis products will only be available for specific patient groups under medical supervision.”

So far a small number of cannabis-related prescriptions have been issued in Australia - estimates suggest less than one hundred. Pain management and appetite stimulation are among the main reasons.

It remains to be seen how future demand will soak up the anticipated production at the facility - 100,000 kg per annum at full capacity - even if clinicians warmly embrace the therapeutic (not to mention psychotropic) benefits of cannabis sativa.

A pointer to the apparent supply-and-demand anomaly may come in another of the company’s lengthy public statements: “Assuming recreational cannabis becomes legal [as it now has in various US states]… it is suggested that the cannabis market in Australia could grow to $9 billion over the next 7 years.”

The next question then is whether ‘medicinal’, along with ‘Nutraceutical’ may not be smokescreen terms to disguise the true purpose of the operation. And in consequence whether the National Party’s local MP, and the Liberals’ Minister for Regional Development, Dr John McVeigh (PhD in agribusiness), whose parties are staunchly anti decriminalisation, may not have handed out a large sum to assist dope growers.

If so, perhaps the door will open for a similar, if less ambitious operation, in Nimbin, where the unemployment rate is even higher than in Casino.

* A seeming misnomer, as the word is used to describe these medicinally or nutritionally functional foods, according to various definitions. “Nutraceuticals, which have also been called medical foods, designer foods, phytochemicals, functional foods and nutritional supplements, include such everyday products as “bio” yoghurts and fortified breakfast cereals, as well as vitamins, herbal remedies and even genetically modified foods and supplements” -

Image by Christopher Thomas [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons