The cannabis industry in Oceania is in an exciting phase – Prohibition Partners


The cannabis industry in Oceania is in an exciting phase of development.

Medical cannabis is legalized in one of the region’s powerhouses (Australia) and is set to become legal in New Zealand by 2020.

There are signs of progress across the region’s smaller island nations too with the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands recently moving from total prohibition to total legalization for both medical and recreational use.

At present, foreign companies dominate Oceania’s commercial landscape. However, local players are ramping up operations which will see them take a bigger slice of the global industry, and also ensures they are well-placed to take first-mover advantage for when the region’s cannabis market starts to mature.

Prohibition Partners’ first report on the cannabis industry in the Oceania region (The Oceania Cannabis Report™) provides a comprehensive guide to the governing legislation Introduction and regulatory environment in the region.

We provide independent market data, segmented commercial analysis, and expert commentary to support the development of the industry. As the global cannabis market enters the second phase of development, data, insights, and intelligence will play a key role in defining the new market dynamics.

Stephen Murphy

Co-Founder & Managing Director

Prohibition Partners


Prohibition Partners’ first report on the cannabis industry in the Oceania region provides an industry overview of the market. The report outlines regulations and changing attitudes towards cannabis for medical, recreational and industrial use as well as providing an estimate of market sizes in 2018 and their potential value in 2028. The report provides opportunity analysis and an overview of the medical cannabis programs across the region. Although primarily focused on Australia and New Zealand, a topline view on other Oceanic countries is also provided.

Oceania is comprised of more than 30 countries and territories, including Australia, New Zealand and the numerous Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICT) of Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia. The fact that more than 1,000 languages and dialects are spoken in the region, is testament to Oceania’s cultural and political diversity. Although Australia and New Zealand are highly developed, the PICT face numerous challenges owing to poverty, governance, and technical capacity. The cannabis industry in each of Oceania’s constituent countries and territories varies significantly. Cannabis is produced in Australia and New Zealand, but in 2017, Australia was the second largest destination for medical cannabis products from Canada. According to the International Drug Policy Consortium, most cannabis produced in the region is consumed in the region with little evidence of export or smuggling to other regions. However, in August 2018, Little Green Pharma became the first company (based in West Australia) to grow and produce medicinal cannabis for sale to Australian patients. Although the company is part-owned by Canadian LGC Capital, this milestone move could help to reduce the country’s dependence on Canadian imports. Oceania’s annual prevalence of cannabis use is relatively high compared to other regions in the world, (between 9.1% and 14.6% of 15 – 64 year olds). Although some data is available for Australia and New Zealand, little is known about the prevalence of drug use in the PICT due to a lack of reliable data. The region adopts a supply reduction approach to enforcing the prohibition of non-medical use of controlled drugs through border and domestic policing. In the region’s more developed nations of Australia and New Zealand, the criminal justice system deals with drug dependence although some policies have a focus on public health. In June 2017, New Zealand extended a pilot drug courts scheme which seeks to integrate drug treatment into the criminal justice system. Research and reports commissioned by the New Zealand Drug Foundation have found that cannabis penalties and convictions under the Misuse of Drugs Act in New Zealand remain inconsistent, disproportionate and largely ineffective for Māori, the indigenous people. The current Government has committed to a referendum on the legalisation of cannabis by 2020 with recent public opinion polls showing the majority of New Zealanders favour decriminalisation, cannabis possession may soon be permitted. Possession of any amount may lead to a criminal charge, though people caught with small quantities often only receive a warning from the police. In November 2018, the New Zealand parliament is expected to approve a bill that will lay the groundwork for regulating the country’s future medical cannabis industry. Although medical cannabis is expected to become legalised in 2018, it is unlikely to be implemented until 2019 at the earliest. In the largest country in the region, Australia, there are a number of models of cannabis decriminalisation across its constituent states. The country’s legal process seeks to help treat drug users rather than imposing custodial sentences. In addition, South Australia, the Northern Territory, and the Australian Capital Territory have decriminalised cannabis in some way. However, in 2011, the centre right liberal party repealed the Cannabis Infringement Notice in Western Australia (this meant that people were fined for possession rather than receiving a prosecution). It has been reported that cannabis use in Australia has actually increased in states that have not decriminalised cannabis.


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