Cannabis Compliance in Australia – Background Info, Fees & How-to Checklist [FREE LICENSING GUIDE]

August 16, 2023 | Category : Cannabis Compliance Country Reports | Posted By : Deon Maas

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The land down under 

Are you grappling with the complexities of obtaining a cannabis license in Australia, a country known for its stringent regulations and high standards? Strap in for an enlightening journey as we demystify the process in our comprehensive guide.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur venturing into the Australian cannabis market, a professional seeking to ensure your organization’s adherence to local laws, or just a curious reader, this guide is your ultimate resource.

What you will learn

The history of cannabis in Oz

Where things stand today 

How the government system works 

What the law says

How to get the cannabis license  

Our journey takes us through the intriguing world of cannabis licensing in Australia, from understanding its importance to navigating the legal landscape, and finally, the steps to secure your license.

In this comprehensive guide, we simplify the process of obtaining a cannabis license in Australia1, breaking down the necessary requirements and associated costs2. We also provide a step-by-step roadmap to navigate the complex regulatory system3.

We express our gratitude to the Australian Government for their support and assistance in providing the necessary information for this guide4. Their cooperation has been instrumental in bringing this comprehensive report to life.

Are you ready to dive into the intricate world of cannabis licensing in Australia? Let’s kick-off!

The history of cannabis in Oz 

Cannabis is not indigenous to Australia. It arrived with the first colonialists. Echoing what was happening in the USA at the same time, the New World was viewed as a huge growing area for hemp to help make sails and ropes for the seafaring nation that was Great Britain.  

For the first 150 years of colonial government, the growing of hemp was actively encouraged and the usage of it, both medicinally and recreationally, was widespread and socially acceptable. Until the late 1800s Cigares de Joy, a cannabis cigarette was widely and commercially available and used for asthma, bronchitis, hay-fever and flu.  

By the early 1920s it started following the road of all other countries who were signatories to the Geneva Convention, slowly clamping down and eventually outlawing the usage of cannabis and hemp. In 1938 a newspaper called Smith’s Weekly published a Reefer Madness-style piece about how this drug from Mexico makes people go mad and cause victims to behave like sex maniacs. Even though it caused huge waves, it still did not change the majority of peoples’ minds about the drug – usage continued but for a small elect group of people. 

In 1964 the New South Wales authorities discovered hundreds of acres of wild hemp and began a large eradication campaign. At the same time a group of surfers and hippies calling themselves the Weed Raiders moved into the area to benefit from the agriculture. At the same time American soldiers fighting in Vietnam who came to Australia for rest and recreation, popularised the usage of it. 

Where things stand today 

In terms of the broader population, cannabis was not widely used in Australia until the 1970s. Today Australia is considered to be some of the most prolific users of cannabis in the world with 36% of people over the age of 14 having used it. It is widely grown, very popular and most citizens feel that it should not be illegal to grow and use it. 

Australia legalised the growing of medicinal cannabis in 2016 and in 2017 legalised low-THC hemp for human consumption. In 2019 the Australian Capital Territory passed a bill allowing possession and growth of small amounts of cannabis for adult recreational use. These laws conflict with federal laws that prohibit recreational use.  

How the government system works 

Australia is a federation of six states which, together with two self-governing territories, have their own constitutions, parliaments, governments and laws. 

This means that something can be legal under state law, but not federal law. Different states and territories have different laws. The main difference between state and territory parliaments is where they get their powers to make laws. Each state has their own constitution which lists the powers of that state’s parliament, including the ability to make laws. The territories do not have their own constitutions. Personal usage ranges from legal (in one territory) to decriminalised (in the rest). 

What the law says 

On 17 February 2017, The Office of Drug Control in the Federal Department of Health issued the first Cannabis Research licence under the medicinal cannabis provisions of the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967.

Cannabis medicines must be registered with the Therapeutic Goods Administration, unless they are exempt from being entered into the ARTG. Some jurisdictions also require relevant state or territory approvals.

Download Now: Free Cannabis Licensing Guide for Australia [Get Your Guide]

A licensing and permit scheme regulates the cultivation of cannabis plants, the production of cannabis and cannabis resin, the manufacture of cannabis drugs and activities relating to such cultivation, production and manufacture. Cultivation and production under the scheme may be undertaken for medicinal or scientific purposes whereas the manufacture of cannabis drugs may be undertaken for a permitted supply. 

A separate licensing and permit scheme regulates the manufacture of narcotic drugs. 

Authorised inspectors have monitoring, inspection and enforcement powers under the Regulatory Powers Act to ensure this Act is being complied with. 

How to get the cannabis license 

This is what is needed 

The first qualification that you need to get an Australian growing license is to be “fit and proper” and before you go off to the gym and learn how to raise your pinky while drinking tea – this is actually a government defined term (and this is a direct quote) “fit and proper means the person is competent – they have the skills, knowledge and experience needed to comply with the law. A good character – they are diligent, honest and have good judgement and integrity. Law abiding – not disqualified by law from performing their role. free of conflicts of interest. It goes further to add that (and again, this is a quote from the government website) “The Fit and Proper Person Test is where the State decides whether a person or company is of a trustworthy nature and demonstrates the personal integrity to export agricultural goods from Australia.” 

To qualify as a fit and proper person, the following criteria may be evaluated: 

  • Do you have any convictions?
  • Have you had a civil penalty issued against you?
  • Have you had a license suspended?
  • Connections you have with other people (including family) 
  • Previous business experience 
  • Capacity to comply with the conditions of the license 
  • Do you have a sound and stable financial background?
  • Are you a person of good repute, having regard to matters going to their character, honesty and professional and personal integrity?

In the case of a company, replace “a person” with “company” and you get the idea… 

So there you have it. If you consider yourself “fit and proper”, or at least if a representative of the government does, you have taken your first step. 

Curious about the permits, procedures, and licensing fees for starting a cannabis operation in Australia? Unlock the comprehensive guide here and gain access to valuable insights and expert recommendations!

Do you have any questions on the regulatory framework in Australia? Contact us!

Sources that will help you with the process