Australia will experience a marijuana brain drain unless it gets its act together on medical cannabis regulation, says Elixinol chief executive Paul Benhaim.

Yesterday Elixinol said it had started exporting its hemp-based cannabidiol (CBD) products to New Zealand.

The Kiwis passed the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Act in December, allowing for some 25,000 terminally ill or ill patients to use marijuana products without fear of arrest.

Mr Benhaim says Australia is at risk of falling further behind as companies like his wait for local regulations to catch up.

“We’re very excited and happy that New Zealand has not followed Australia and has implemented its own commonsense laws,” Mr Benhaim told Stockhead.

“From a commercial perspective, New Zealand is far more attractive than Australia, in fact, nearly every country in the world is far more attractive.

“We have heard plenty about making Australia a world leader in the field but very little has been done to change that situation and the country is far, far behind.

“So we continue to focus our efforts overseas, building jobs and improve healthcare outcomes overseas, and many companies are doing that right now and going overseas because they are frustrated.”

Australian officials say they have been swamped by applications for licenses, hence the delay in approving them, but Mr Benhaim doesn’t buy it.

“I am continually frustrated by what seems to be very misleading statements coming from the Australian government,” he says.

“When we first applied a year ago it was very clear at the time that it was going to take about six months and we could expect responses within 20 business days, but we’re still in contact and we’re having no final decisions being made.

“Saying ‘we got more applications than we can deal with’ is in my opinion quite unreasonable.

“At the moment an Australian patient needs to see their GP, who needs to see a specialist and also see an ethics committee so it makes it virtually unattainable, and so Australia now has one of the largest illegal cannabidiol markets.

“Hopefully Australia can start catching up so they can protect this population.”