THERE'S a flurry of activity in the 'farm to pharma' sector.
A pot stock boom looks set to sweep the Australian sharemarket after plans to legalise medical cannabis, with a host of ASX-listed companies fast-tracking their moves to enter the market.
Australia's first listed medical marijuana company, MMJ PhytoTech, which merged with Canadian grower MMJ Bioscience in a $15.5 million deal in March, will announce on Friday that it has raised $2 million from a Spanish fund to launch its Australian operations, adding to its businesses in Europe, Canada and Israel.
And MGC Pharmaceuticals, which raised $2.7 million earlier this year, will also announce on Friday the appointment of renowned cardiologist and media commentator Dr Ross Walker as a director and appoint him to chair a strategic advisory board to evaluate the commercial opportunities of medical cannabis in Australia.
MGC Pharmaceuticals struck a reverse takeover deal with Erin Resources earlier this year in the hopes of transforming the languishing gold explorer into a cannabinoid resin producer for cosmetic products.
The flurry of activity follows a federal decision last week to lift a ban on growing cannabis for medical purposes which led to a spike in the price of ASX's pot stocks.
Though several states have invested in clinical trials, Victoria is set to become the first state in Australia to legalise marijuana cultivation to treat serious medical conditions including cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy and chronic pain.
"We are talking about what I think is going to be one of the next big things in medicine...I would say that we are probably one to two years away from cannabidiol being mainstream for the sort of conditions I have suggested," Dr Walker said.
"For a lot of these conditions we are talking about people who are either in terminal pain or their life has been made a misery by chronic pain, so what is the problem?" he asked.
MGC Pharmaceuticals, which is run from Israel, grows and exports cannabis from Slovenia for use in products for the cosmetics industry but will investigate extending its operations into medical cannabis in Australia.
One cannabis producer, AusCann, gained permission in May to grow and export marijuana on Norfolk Island.
"MGC will, hopefully once it is made legal for Australia, cultivate it in Australia which has ideal growing conditions for crops and in the same way as Australia has wonderful wine growing regions, we will have the same thing for the appropriate cultivation of marijuana," Dr Walker said.
Australian spokesperson for PhytoTech, Gaelan Bloomfield, described the business as a "farm to pharma" medical cannabis company which grows the crops and delivers the product to market in forms that include capsules and vaporisers.
It is teaming up with law firm Piper Alderman to advise on the regulatory approvals and the licensing needed to quickly launch into the Australian market.
"The perception that you are going to go down to the pharmacy to get a bud of marijuana and smoke it, is the exact opposite of where the industry is headed," Mr Bloomfield said.
"This is proper pharmaceutical-grade products in capsules, in liquids, in sprays, that are administered in controlled doses and come from production in controlled pharmaceutical-grade environments."