A new initiative by a medical marijuana firm aims to provide relief for returned soldiers suffering physical and mental ailments from their time in uniform
A new initiative by a medical marijuana firm aims to provide relief for returned soldiers suffering physical and mental ailments from their time in uniform

Medical marijuana push for veterans

A new initiative by a medical marijuana firm in Brisbane aims to provide relief for returned soldiers suffering physical and mental ailments from their time in uniform.

MedReleaf Australia has launched what it calls "Releaf for Veterans'' in a bid to help them cope with a chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder and other maladies.

It's hoped that the campaign, which has been recognised by the Department of Veterans Affairs, will help reduce the number of service people who rely on opioids to cope with their pain and can easily become addicted.

MedReleaf co-founder Nathan Davis told City Beat that his firm will be reaching out to doctors and veterans groups to help them wade through a fog of misinformation which surrounds medical marijuana.

"Our country, like many, is built on the hardworking, brave individuals who put both their minds and bodies on the line for their fellow Australians,'' Davis said.

"Effective solutions are in high demand, and while there is a lot of misinformation about new forms of treatment such as medicinal cannabis, I'm proud to be in support of a cause that can assist so many of our servicemen and women who are in desperate need of help."

HUGE DIFFERENCE

One of those needing help is Jonathan Clark. The Brisbane-based former soldier, who deployed to Afghanistan as part of his 17-year career in the Army, said he suffered from intense pain in his lower back, knees and feet as a result of carrying heavy gear over such a long period.

It got so bad that he had severe problems sleeping and exercising. He would even struggle to pick up his 15-month-old son.

But Clark, 35, has seen a huge improvement over the past two months since he started ingesting a tiny amount of MedReleaf's cannabis oil before going to sleep each night.

"It's made a massive difference,'' he said when your diarist rang for a chat. "I know what opioid dependency looks like and I don't want a bar of that.''

GROWING DEMAND

MedReleaf Corp is a Canadian outfit which was acquired by Edmonton-based industry giant Aurora Cannabis last year in a friendly $3.5 billion takeover deal.

Davis launched the Australian outpost for MedReleaf in early 2017 with Russell Harding, who established a pharmacy at Annerley more than 30 years ago and went on to oversee six more start ups.

The company currently imports all of the cannabis oil, capsules and dried buds that it supplies to customers.

But Davis said that plans are well-advanced to launch a massive new growing facility within an hour's drive from Brisbane and the proposal has already secured needed approvals.

In a nod to the cloak of secrecy which surrounds much of the industry, he declined to say where it will be located, when it will open or how much it will cost.

Heather Randazzo
Heather Randazzo

Regardless, it seems pretty clear that demand for the products will continue to grow.

Nationwide approvals by the Therapeutic Goods Administration have swelled from 351 in October last year to nearly 3600 last month. They are on track to exceed 25,000 for the calendar year.

Those numbers make it fairly obvious why MedReLeaf and seven of its competitors joined forces this year to launch their own lobby group, dubbed Medicinal Cannabis Industry Australia. It will hold its inaugural conference in Melbourne in March.

Meanwhile, not everything is hunky dory with MedReleaf's parent company, Aurora Cannabis, back in Canada.

Quarterly results released this month revealed wholesale revenue falling by nearly 50 per cent and production is already getting scaled back.

That's hardly what observers expected to happen after Canadians voted to legalise recreational weed in October 2018.

But supply problems, tax dramas and licensing issues have all made life more difficult for the industry as plenty of consumers continue to turn to the black market.