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View of Louisville, Kentucky at dusk from across water.

Scott Oves

Ecofibre, Australia’s largest medicinal cannabis producer, is moving its operations to Kentucky, according to a Business Insider report. The company has grown low-THC cannabis on 340 acres in New South Wales, which has been used by the University of Sydney for medical experiments.

Barry Lambert, an Australian banker and adviser for Ecofibre, said the company is closing up its New South Wales operation due to onerous Australian cannabis legislation that includes so many restrictions it’s become unworkable. Lambert, whose granddaughter uses cannabis extracts to treat epilepsy, said that Australia’s laws are driving sick people back to the informal market.

“We have an Australian company, Australian seeds, Australian shareholders, but we have to go to America because of the legislation,” he said in the report.

Ecofibre already has a 500-acre plot in Kentucky – where hemp cultivation is backed by Republican congressmen, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The company plans to expand its operations to 1,200 acres next year. Additionally, Ecofibre in nearing the launch of a branded low-THC product, with hopes of applying for an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange within the next two years.

Lambert indicated that the decision is also due, in part, to Australia’s requirements that all cannabis be grown in high-security greenhouses to prevent diversion — even plants with low-THC, which would be of little use to recreational users. An Australian Department of Health spokesman said that under the new regime, approved cultivators would have the option to grow outdoors.

The New South Wales government is currently funding three medical cannabis studies with products imported from Canada and the Netherlands.

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