Some of the vivid green plants are no more than 10cm high but within two months WA’s first crop of medical cannabis will be ready for harvesting.
They were planted at a secure hydroponic growing facility in the South West last month by phyto-pharmaceutical company Little Green Pharma.
The private company expects to be harvesting by late March and sending resin to a manufacturing unit in Perth where it will be processed into an oil-based cannabis medication, ready for patients by mid-April.
The plants are not all the same, with various strains aimed at providing different therapeutic effects — but not the big psychoactive high associated with recreational marijuana.
Company managing director Fleta Solomon said indoor hydroponic plants tended to take 12 weeks to grow before their flowers were harvested for resin. The plants were now from10-40cm high.
The two main types of medical cannabis plants being grown were sativa and Indica, with hybrids in between. They had different concentrations of the cannabinoids THC and CBD as well as other compounds.
“The sativa plant is tall with long, narrow leaves and tends to be more uplifting and invigorating, and is often prescribed for daytime use,” Ms Solomon said.
“Indica plants are shorter, denser and have broad leaves, and these strains tend to be more relaxing and are often prescribed before bedtime.”
Although they originated from similar plants, medical cannabis and recreational marijuana had little in common.
“Many people are surprised to learn this,” she said.
Once the products were ready in April, they would be kept at the manufacturer until a patient presented a prescription to a pharmacy and the order was filled, she said.
“It’s getting to a really exciting stage now and the biggest issue we probably have now is getting doctors to prescribe it. But I think in 12 months time the landscape will have changed quite a lot,” Ms Solomon said.
“There’s also a bit of a misconception out there that it’s a synthetic product and just another pharmaceutical pill. But it’s not, it’s almost a herb, and we’re not allowed to modify the plants.”
Company medical adviser and Perth GP Joe Kosterich said they were working with local medical specialists from neurology, cancer, palliative care and pain management disciplines to research the effects of different strains.
Dr Kosterich said there was a lot of focus on the human endocannabinoid system, which was thought to regulate homeostasis, which is the balance of different bodily functions such as metabolism.