A medicinal cannabis factory in Wonthaggi is expected to create around 20 local jobs and provide new opportunities for local farmers.
The factory will be built on a 1000-square-metre site at the corner of Korumburra Road and Cyclone Street currently used as an informal car park by visitors to the Wonthaggi Market.
Mr Everitt said the cost of the building would be around $1 million plus another $2 million to furbish it with “clean rooms” to laboratory standard for producing pharmaceutical products.
He expects the business to create around 20 local jobs for chemists, security personnel and plant operatives, as well as new opportunities for local farmers.
Mr Everitt and his wife Karlya (nee Studham) grew up in the local area, and are former students of Wonthaggi Secondary College.
He said they chose Wonthaggi for the business partly because of their family connections to the area but also because Wonthaggi had easy access to farmland, electricity and clean water, with back-up from the desalination plant. “Coca Cola didn’t want to use it but it provides opportunities for business like ours.”
He’s also keen to use the area’s green credentials – the wind farm and coastal location – to market the product’s green image.
The business is owned and operated by MediPharm Australia, a subsidiary of a private Canadian company called MediPharm which has been manufacturing medicinal cannabis for several years.
Initially the Wonthaggi plant will extract oil from imported cannabis and material sourced from other parts of Australia, but Mr Everitt said he was keen to partner with local farmers looking for alternative crops.
The factory will be capable of processing up to 100,000 kilograms of cannabis material.
Medicinal cannabis production only uses the flower heads so farmers will also be able to market the hemp fibre, which is used for making rope, canvas, paper and a high-end linen-like material.
Victoria was the first state to legalise the use and production of medicinal cannabis, initially only for use by children with severe intractable epilepsy, but it is now able to be prescribed for any condition where doctors think it may benefit patients.
Other states quickly followed the Victorian lead. Last year the Therapeutics Goods Association (TGA) rescheduled medicinal cannabis products, so it is now legal for doctors to prescribe it.
MediPharm Australia has been licensed by the federal Office of Drug Control and has now applied to TGA to commence local business operations.
Mr Everitt began his working life as a plumber before studying IT and working in digital marketing. Curently a “global partner” with the Melbourne firm MarketOne, he intends to step aside from that role to concentrate on the cannabis manufacture.
“I’ve found my passion,” he said. “I want to move into this space because it’s really exciting.”
Mrs Everitt, who is a registered nurse, said she was excited about the medical potential of cannabis.
Asked if they expected a local backlash from anti-drug campaigners, Mr Everitt responded: “The reality is if you look at what causes most grief it’s prescription drugs, the opiates, oxycontin, that people get addicted to.”
He said there was a growing market for medicinal cannabis worldwide.
“If you look locally it’s being used to treat epilepsy and autism and provide pain relief for cancer, back pain, arthritis. The use of cannabis is much more developed in other countries.
"Today Australians are prescribed opiates for pain relief but that may change once cannabis is more widely used.”
He would like to hear from local farmers interested in partnering with MediPharm Australia’s Wonthaggi operation.