Australian cannabis producer Althea (ASX: AGH) has become one of the first companies to enter the UK medicinal marijuana market.

The Melbourne-based firm has created a UK subsidiary and it plans to start supplying British patients with medicinal cannabis next month. It has tied up a deal with Aphria (TSX: APH) and it will distribute the Canadian producer’s cannabis in the UK for the foreseeable future. It expects to start distributing its own Australian cannabis in Britain by March next year.

The UK legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes towards the end of 2018 after public outcry over sick children that were denied marijuana that could ease their pain and suffering. It is currently difficult for patients to gain access to cannabis due to “cruel and ridiculous” guidelines issued by the Royal College of Physicians and The British Paediatric Neurology Association.

However, the global cannabis industry is trying to change all that by boosting awareness of marijuana’s benefits among British doctors, while parents of sick children continue to lobby the government vociferously in a bid to see the guidelines relaxed.

Earlier this week, Aurora Cannabis (TSX: ACB) announced it had completed its first shipment of medicinal cannabis to the UK. Wayland Group is also making a play for the potentially lucrative market, and now Althea and Aphria have joined them.

Althea will allocate AU$2.5 million ($1.8 million) per year to funding Althea UK. Its sales strategy will follow a similar format to its Australian approach, focusing on building up relationships with patients and healthcare professionals while it has outsourced medical education around cannabis’ benefits to Ashfield Healthcare.

“The UK’s highly regulated framework for prescribing, supplying and possessing medicinal cannabis products is very similar to that of Australia,” said Althea CEO Joshua Fegan. “We know focusing on improving patient access to medicinal cannabis and educating medical  practitioners on treatment is the key to establishing market share.”

It has signed up 93 doctors in Australia and they are now prescribing the firm’s cannabis to their patients. It claims to enjoy a 20% share of the nascent Australian market.

Aphria president Jakob Ripshtein said his company is proud to be one of the first licensed cannabis producers to make inroads into the UK.

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