Australia’s ODC Clarifies Medical Cannabis Security Guidelines

Medical cannabis security - Australia
Image: BigStock

Australia’s Office of Drug Control (ODC) recently provided additional information as to how security guidelines may differ between operations growing high-THC medical marijuana and those growing low-THC crops.

The Guideline: Security of Medicinal Cannabis document, released in October,  details mandatory requirements in relation to the cultivation, production and transportation of medicinal cannabis. Actions under the guidelines are designed to prevent the diversion of cannabis into the recreational or black market.

It appears the guidelines may have been causing some confusion/concern among industry stakeholders. Not all medical cannabis has high levels of THC, a psychoactive cannabinoid. Some strains and species have been bred to be very low in THC, but high in cannabidiol (CBD) – a compound sought for its therapeutic properties that has no recreational value.

“Essentially, low THC medicinal cannabis is no more attractive to criminal diversion than is industrial hemp,” says the ODC.

“If, for example, a licence holder has agreed as a condition of their licence that they will only cultivate low THC and high CBD crops, then the expectations around intruder resistance and access controls are substantially reduced.”

As for what qualifies as “low THC”, industrial hemp (a variety of cannabis sativa) grown in Australia needs to have a THC level in its leaves and flowering heads of no more than 1%.

The ODC has offered some examples of how the security guidelines may apply for the two types of crops.

For example, with regard to creating an intruder resistant cannabis site, a high-THC operation may need two- layer perimeters such as walls and/or climb-proof fencing; whereas a low-THC facility might just require sturdy high fencing or greenhouses.

In a scenario where mixed crops will be grown, then the more stringent guidelines will apply.

The security guideline clarification statement from the ODC can be viewed here.

In other recent news from the ODC, Australia’s Governor General signed into law two legislation items critical to the Commonwealth’s medicinal cannabis framework early in December. The first protects of sensitive law enforcement related information that the ODC is required to review when assessing cannabis licence applications. The second enables ODC to accept payments from cannabis licence holders for annual charges.