A firm in Perth has completed the first ever export of medical cannabis oils from Australia to the UK.

The UK Home Office announced last month that licensed wholesalers could start importing larger quantities of medical cannabis to meet growing patient demand. It followed new guidelines from the NHS that make it easier for doctors to prescribe medical marijuana, which was legalized in October 2018.

Little Green Pharma (ASX: LGP) in Western Australia quickly seized upon the opportunity by tying up an export deal with British distributor Astral Health. The first shipment to the UK has been completed and British patients will soon be able to access the oils.

Australia hopes to become a world leader in the global cannabis trade and sees this as an important landmark. “This first export of Australian-produced medicinal cannabis oils to the UK marks an important step in fulfilling Australia’s vision of building a global medicinal cannabis industry capable of supplying quality medicinal cannabis products to both Australian and overseas patients,” said Minister for Health Greg Hunt.

In September 2019, Little Green Pharma became the first Australian producer to export medical cannabis to Europe. It shopped products to Germany, where Frankfurt-based firm Cansativa then distributed them to the broad network of pharmacies it serves.

Germany’s domestic production is miniscule – Aurora, Aphria and Demecan are involved in a pilot scheme to produce 2,700kg per year until 2023 – so it is heavily reliant on imports. Cansativa said Little Green Pharma can help it tackle growing supply problems and meet increasing patient demand.

The UK is the second largest economy in Europe after Germany, so the Perth-based producer is well placed to become a market leader on the continent.

Analysts at London-based Prohibition Partners estimate the UK cannabis sector will be worth more than £1 billion by 2024, with 400,000 patients being prescribed medical cannabis. Little Green Pharma is now one of a small handful of producers present in the British market.

The UK previously banned bulk imports of medical cannabis, but it decided to end that in order to eradicate the long delays patients have faced. A survey conducted by YouGov earlier this year suggested that 1.4 million Brits turn to illicit means to source marijuana in a bid to ease their pain, and the government is now taking steps to move them into the legal market instead.

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