Weed Week: Australia’s medicinal cannabis sector had its ‘hockey stick’ moment in 2019
Health & Biotech
Health & Biotech
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Cannabis analytics company Freshleaf released its latest report on the Australian market earlier this week.
One of the key takeaways? It’ll probably be a while (if ever) before local authorities allow retail CBD products to become reality in Australia.
But for an industry under strict regulatory control, there’s still been plenty of activity ticking over this year.
While the sector is yet to spin any huge numbers, it’s hitting some nice early-stage growth metrics.
Approval numbers — patients who’ve been cleared for medicinal cannabis use by a medical professional — were a particular highlight.
According to Freshleaf, the sector had its “hockey stick moment” at the end of last year, when approvals started rising sharply.
“Freshleaf is now forecasting a total of 28,031 new patient approvals in 2019 — growth of 1,023 per cent on the 2,500 approvals in 2018,” the report said.
However, that doesn’t mean there are 28,000 active users in the market. Most patients receive multiple approvals, due to stocks out or expirations.
Freshleaf estimates that the number of active medical cannabis patients in Australia was more like 5,000.
In addition, the report estimated the total addressable market in Australia of around 500,000 — meaning the sector is currently only serving around one per cent of potential customers.
Taking stock of the current trends, Freshleaf said it expects annualised sales turnover across the Australian medical cannabis industry to reach around $50m by the end of the year.
Looking ahead though, regulatory developments will be key. In particular, Freshleaf pointed to other jurisdictions where the sale of CBD products has been legalised through retail and over-the-counter channels.
Here in Australia, it’s strictly by doctor’s orders only. And whether or not that changes could be an important factor in assessing the future profitability of the sector.
Freshleaf said unrestricted access “may not be an acceptable scenario here in Australia”. In that event, a two-tiered market of freely available low-dose products combined with more strictly-controlled high-dose products may be more realistic.
So in view of all that:
After a rough month in August, the listed cannabis plays tracked by Stockhead held steady to start September in what was a pretty quiet week.
14 companies posted a gain while 10 lost ground, and another nine were unchanged.
One of the largest stocks in the sector by market cap, Botanix Pharmaceuticals (ASX:BOT), posted a 16 per cent weekly gain as it pushed back towards 2019 highs.
The company, which is focused on cannabis-based medications for skin conditions, made no major announcements but has steadily gained ground since the release of its annual report in late August. BOT shares are up around 170 per cent over the last 12 months.
A couple of cannabis minnows — YPB Group (ASX:YPB) and ECS Botanics Holdings (ASX:ECS) — also ticked higher for the week, but have both struggled for traction over the the past year.
And this year’s standout performer — Impression Healthcare (ASX:IHL) — pushed higher with an 8 per cent gain. The company announced two new appointments to its medical advisory board, as it continues to run clinical trials on four cannabis products including a treatment for sleep apnea.
While 22 stocks on the Stockhead list have lost ground over the past 12 months, IHL has posted an annual gain of more than 400 per cent.
Below is Stockhead’s latest summary of weekly and annual price performance for ASX-listed cannabis stocks.
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