Australians could source far cheaper cannabis by shunning pharmacies and turning to the black market, a new study has suggested.

The cost of medicinal marijuana has halved in Australia in the past year, but Australians are still paying AU$370 ($260) a month for treatment.

The cost of medicinal marijuana has halved in Australia in the past year, but Australians are still paying AU$370 ($260) a month for treatment, according to the market analysis from Cannabis Access Clinics. Epilepsy sufferers are forking out AU$1,000 per month for cannabis to treat their condition, while pain sufferers are paying around AU$350 a month.

Costs are going down and that trend should continue when the country begins to cultivate large cannabis crops. Right now the marijuana used for medicinal purposes is mainly imported from Canada, which is an expensive process. But the costs are still so high as to be prohibitive, and users could reduce costs by at least 25% by turning to dealers, according to Cannabis Access Clinics.

However, the clinic expects the gap to shrink going forwards and it’s pleased to note that the number of legal products available to Australians has increased by more than 300% in the past year. There are now 35 products on the market, available from 11 suppliers. That could soon rise to 25 suppliers, as the country has issued eight domestic cultivation licenses and approved 17 importers.

Cannabis Access Clinics is based in Sydney and it’s rolling out clinics across Australia. It doesn’t dispense cannabis, but it has doctors that screen patients and if they deem medicinal cannabis to be a suitable treatment, it applies to the regulatory authorities for a prescription, which can then be taken to a pharmacy if approved. It claims to have a strong handle on the market, and it said that the larger number of players entering the field has led to pricing pressure.

Consumers are the chief beneficiaries of this competition, and it found that the floor price for cannabis oils has fallen by 47.6% in the past year. It said that epilepsy sufferers are paying the most, followed by pain sufferers and then those with conditions such as insomnia, fibromyalgia, anxiety, and multiple sclerosis. It noted that Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme does not cover medicinal cannabis, making it seem expensive compared to alternative medicines that are heavily subsidized by the government.

“Many patients suffering from chronic, complex conditions are accustomed to paying $39.50 (or at concession rates, as low as $6.40) per PBS prescription, and will struggle to justify out of pocket costs for medicinal cannabis in the hundreds of dollars per month,” said the study. Yet it signed off on a positive note, claiming the outlook is strong for patients as more Canadian and European producers try to muscle into the market and a larger domestic crop is produced, leading to an inevitable decrease in prices.