Maribyrnong council is planning to become the first Australian council to grow medicinal cannabis to reduce household rates.
Mayor Michael Clarke said with the rapidly rising domestic demand for medicinal cannabis, an opportunity existed to cultivate, produce and manufacture it within the municipality.
He said the enterprise could deliver a source of revenue independent of rates and boost local employment.
“It’s become increasingly apparent, particularly with COVID, the community are really hurting financially,” Cr Clarke said.
“The community ask us to look at rates. They ask, can we reduce rates?
“We know that people are looking to council to try and provide services but reduce costs.
“We’ve done a scan of what we can get into and it looks like we’re fairly clear: that the industry of medicinal cannabis represents a huge opportunity to council.”
Cr Clarke said the industry was still in its infancy with huge growth potential.
“We know that it is going to grow incredibly significantly between now and 2025, and we understand it will continue to grow,” he said.
“Importantly, it’s an industry that we can enter in to and it’s not going to impact on other segments of the business sector in our community – this is an industry that no one else is involved in.
“It’s an ethical industry: we’re looking at providing a product that’s going to help the health and wellbeing of our community.
“It’s an opportunity for employment.
“In a world where Australia has lost its manufacturing base, it’s lost its heavy industry, this is an industry that we can enter in to that’s a growth industry – that is potentially a major export industry for us and it can be undertaken by council.”
He said Footscray previously had its own electricity business until it was bought out by the former State Electricity Commission, so the council entering industry was not new.
Medicinal cannabis products are prescribed by doctors to treat symptoms of a medical condition or the side effects of a medical treatment.
“This is to help people with chronic pain, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, cancer, epilepsy,” Cr Clarke said.
“It’s an industry that will have a strong academic research to it at its base but it will be a financially-driven industry where we are looking to generate substantial amounts of money where we can significantly impact on household rates.
“We want to reduce the rate burden.”
The community will be consulted before plans proceed.
“We will ask the community, do you want us to engage in this industry as a means of reducing household rates,” Cr Clarke said.
“We will not act unless we’ve got the support of the community.”