In brief - Exports of medicinal cannabis and low-THC goods will now qualify for Australian government certification, which is required to meet the importing requirements of many overseas countries 

The Export Control Amendment (Certificate of Narcotics Exports) Bill 2020 passed both houses on 17 June 2020. 

The Bill broadens the current framework under which government certifies agricultural exports by permitting certification of legitimate exports of narcotic products. The change is aimed at enabling Australian exporters to access markets in South-East Asia, China, Canada and the United States.

The Bill amends the Export Control Act 1982 (Cth) and Export Control Act 2020 (Cth), the 1982 Act due to be replaced by 28 March 2021. These Acts regulate the export of goods (as defined) from Australia. Before the Bill passed, narcotic goods were excluded from the definition of goods in the Acts and thus were not eligible for Australian government certification to satisfy the importing requirements of many overseas countries.

Narcotic goods exception removed from Australia's Export Control laws

The Bill's sole purpose is to update the definition of "goods" in each Act to read as follows (as amended):

Export Control Act 1982

Section 3 (definition of goods) 

Goods means:

(a) an animal or a plant, or part of an animal or a plant; or

(b) an article or a substance (including reproductive material) derived from an animal or a plant, whether or not in combination with any other article or substance; or

(c) food;

but does not include narcotic goods within the meaning of the Customs Act 1901

Export Control Act 2020

Section 12 (definition of goods) 

Goods means any of the following:

(a) an animal or a plant; 

(b) an article, substance or thing (including reproductive material) derived from an animal or a plant, whether or not in combination with any other article, substance or thing; 

(c) food;

(d) any other article, substance or thing;

but does not include narcotic goods within the meaning of the Customs Act 1901 

What this means for Australian growers and exporters

The upshot is that legitimate exports of narcotic goods, including medicinal cannabis and low-THC hemp products, will now qualify for Australian government certification to meet the import requirements of overseas countries.

The Bill does not change or relax the existing export licensing and permit conditions imposed on industry participants. It simply enables individual consignments to receive government certification that the goods are of a suitable quality and standard to satisfy importing country authorities. 

This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2020.