The Australian Government has moved to further bolster the local cannabis industry with the passing of the Export Control Legislation Amendment (Certification of Narcotic Exports) Act 2020, which will facilitate legitimate export of narcotic goods, such as medicinal cannabis and low-THC hemp products to markets including in South-East Asia, China, Canada and the United States.

The amendments come in response to a trend identified by the Government in the past year of Australian producers looking to export to markets that require government certifications for products including narcotic goods.

Certain countries’ biosecurity import controls require that a phytosanitary certificate accompany plant exports. In Australia, phytosanitary certificates are government-to-government certificates issued by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, certifying that plants and plant products have been:

  • appropriately inspected; and / or
  • appropriately tested; and / or
  • sourced from particular pest free areas; and / or
  • considered to be free from quarantine pests or diseases specified by the importing country.

The Export Control Act 1982 (and its impending replacement, the Export Control Act 2020) (the Export Control Legislation) provides for the issuance of certificates in relation to goods exported from Australia with respect to matters that a country requires to be certified before the goods can be imported. However, the definition of “goods” under the Export Control Legislation previously excluded “narcotic goods” as defined under the Customs Act 1901, i.e. goods consisting of a narcotic substance, being a border controlled drug or a border controlled plant.

As a result of this limiting definition, the Australian Government was not able to issue certifications for the export of products such as medicinal cannabis and hemp products. The Export Control Legislation Amendment (Certification of Narcotic Exports) Act 2020 formally amended the definition of “goods” under the Export Control Legislation to remove this barrier to the issuance of government certifications.

The amendments came into effect on 23 June 2020.

Other regulatory controls relating to narcotic goods, such as those under the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulation 1958 and the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 remain unchanged.

For advice in Australia, please contact Greg Bodulovic (Partner) and Stephanie Wang (Senior Associate).