Mouthguard maker Impression Healthcare wants to hook its customers up with new marijuana products including cannabis chewing gum.

Impression (ASX:IHL), which is best known for anti-snoring mouthguards, has signed up as the local distributor for US cannabis researcher AXIM Biotechnologies.

AXIM — a $US114 million company that trades over-the-counter in the US — is developing a wide variety of cannabis-based products including its flagship chewing gums MedChew Rx (designed to treat symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis) and CanChew RL (to treat restless leg syndrome).

The deal is still just a letter of intent but opens the door for Impression to import all of AXIM’s products — ranging from the gum to toothpaste and future products such as cosmetics and nutraceuticals.

The company’s consultants are working through which if AXIM’s lengthy product list they wish to licence.

The two companies will also work together on a mouthwash that can be used on strep throat and oral mucositis, a nasty complication from chemotherapy where the lining of the mouth breaks down.

Impression investors will be hoping it gets a marijuana high from the news.

The stock is close to historic lows, trading around 1.7c valuing the company at $4 million. It’s traded between 1.2c and 4.5c over the past year.

The stock spiked in late March to levels not seen since May 2017, when the company announced a big rise in quarterly sales. It is currently suspended from trading.

Impression Healthcare shares (ASX:IHL) over the past year
Impression Healthcare shares (ASX:IHL) over the past year

AXIM already sells its hemp cannabis gum in the US. It’s allowed to do so because the levels of cannabis ingredient cannabidiol (CBD) are below the regulated volume.

But it’s taking a more powerful version through clinical trials to see if it can work on everything from Parkinson’s and dementia to ‘restless leg syndrome’ — the irresistible urge to move your legs.

AXIM chief George Anastassov says they’re keen to start taking on global markets as they open up.

“Collaboration on development of new products and seeking of regulatory approval is the fastest and most cost-efficient way to expand into new markets,” he said of the deal with Impression, last week.

AXIM has also signed distribution deals this year for Canada, South Korea and Thailand.

Getting the right permission

Alignment Capital director Brad Dilkes, who engineered the deal between the two companies, says Impression will import via a registered distributor once the deal starts but they will look to eventually get their own import and sales licences.

It’s unclear yet when imports might start and which products might be first — ultimately Impression is anticipating that regulations loosen in future to allow products like cannabis cosmetics to be sold over the counter, something that is currently impossible in Australia.

While the hemp gum is likely to be able to be imported, higher cannabis dose products will need to be registered as a medical product and sold via the restrictive Special Access Scheme.

Products with more than 2 per cent CBD need to be registered and sold as a medical product, effectively ruling out high-CBD cosmetics and nutraceuticals.

Impression is looking closely at AXIM’s psoriasis cream which it is taking through Phase 2 clinical trials. In Australia, Botanix (ASX:BOT) is also making a cannabis psoriasis cream and planning on launch a Phase 1b trial this year.

Getting mouthy

Impression backdoor-listed on the ASX via a former miner in 2016.

Back then it was a sports mouthguard maker called Gameday and was pursuing partnerships with a range of sports organisations.

In 2017 management began thinking a little more laterally, moving into teeth whitening to smooth out seasonal mouthguard sales, and then into medical mouthguards for jaw grinding and snoring.
Revenue has been slowly ticking up each quarter but leapt forward with the new dental products.

Revenue rose to $1 million in the year to June 30, from $282,000 last year, and the full year loss dropped 86 per cent from $20.7 million to $2.9 million.