Exclusive Interview With Health House International Founder Paul Mavor

Paul Mavor, founder of Health House International sat down with The Green Fund CEO to discuss his journey through the cannabis industry.

Health House International was granted the first medicinal cannabis import license in Australia and has since become one of the country's leading distributors of medicinal cannabis. In recent years the company has expanded, reaching international markets with the establishment of Health House International PTY Ltd as well as their recent acquisition of UK based pharmaceutical wholesaler P&D Pharmaceuticals.

As part of our inaugural list, the 'Top 5 Cannabis Thought leaders in Australia', we decided to sit down with the founder of Health House International, Paul Mavor, to discuss the ins and outs of navigating the medicinal cannabis world.

Paul is a practising pharmacist of thirty years and is also the founder and former director of Medical Cannabis Research Australia, with hands-on research experience in the U.S., Canada, and Israel.

Paul sat down for an exclusive interview with Green Fund CEO, Mark Bernberg, in which he covered his iconic journey within the cannabis industry, what lead to founding his company Health House, and what the future holds for the cannabis industry.

5 Australian Cannabis Thought Leaders

Starting out in the cannabis industry

Paul states that he "stumbled" across the medicinal cannabis field around 4 years ago after having his attention drawn by some bemusing statistics comparing the death toll from pharmaceutical opioids and cannabis. To his surprise, the statistics for the cannabis were significantly low.

"I thought at first they were wrong. And I set out to disprove them."

As Paul continued to dig into the medicinal cannabis, he quickly found multiple uses for cannabis to treat conditions with limited other options, which showed him just how much potential this industry had in the coming years.

Soon after, Paul and his wife Sharlene, a medical scientist, jumped at the opportunity to do research in the industry and began heading to science conferences, most notably the Cannabis Science Conference in the U.S. and Canada to obtain as much information as possible. Paul stated the importance of these conferences, highlighting that they were useful in a business sense as they focussed on specific market research.

"I found a lot of scientists looking at the science behind cannabis, and it really opened my eyes. There was a lot more evidence than we thought to back this up."

According to Paul, the real juice of the fruit was the scientific side of the research. The testing equipment showcased in these events was what really caught his eye at the time, allowing him to identify the right products, the correct process of replication as well as the correct process of eliminating any contaminants.

"At the end of the day, you really do need to test the products and all the cannabinoids, and you need to be able to reproduce it," Paul said.

Legalisation of Cannabis in Australia

After years of research and getting to know the ins and outs of the industry, Paul recognized that manufacturing on a large scale was not something he wanted to pursue. Paul and Sharlene started out by handling other people's products and importing them into the market. They started by successfully importing the first legal shipment of medicinal cannabis into Australia- a day customs will never forget.

"We had a lot of support from the Australian government who were desperate to get the medication in the hands of patients and prove the system worked. I think I did something like 20 media interviews over the next 48 hours"

"We started shipping medication out to customers starting with small levels to begin with. We've been ramping up exponentially ever since."

Then, in 2016, Paul and Sharlene co-founded Medical Cannabis Research Australia, a charity that seeks to educate health professionals and the general public on the uses of cannabis. The charity is now going into its sixth round of seminars around Australia, educating its audiences on cannabis-related topics, such as the importance of meeting high standards in the cannabis community.

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Through their constant visibility and engagement with the cannabis space, Paul and Sharlene built a reputation and connections, helping to develop Health House International into the company it is today. Health House has attracted shareholders from notable ASX-listed companies such as AusCann Group, Zelda Therapeutics and CannPal Animal Therapeutics.

Now, Health House International distributes cannabinoid products across Australia, the UK and Europe.r

Though operating across borders, Paul mentions the necessity for thorough regulation and quality control. "The product that's coming to market needs to be thoroughly tested," Paul said.

It's very easy to grow cannabis, to have one or two plants in a cupboard. But to grow it at scale, and to effectively produce GMP medicine for chronically ill patients, you need to tick quite a few boxes.Paul Mavor, Founder of Health House International

However, it's clear that Paul has indeed been working with quality products, as Health House continues to flourish alongside Australia's exponential patient growth.

"Put in perspective, a lot of people thought that it was pretty slow to begin with, which it was, but over time some of the barriers have come down."

"If you look at the Canadian model, they had 150 patients in their very first year back in 2001. Our first year we had 300, which is double that, and it's grown from 300 in the first year to 2000 in the second. And coming into our third year, we're on track to have 20,000 patient approvals. I dare say in a couple of years we're looking at 100,000 patient approvals. So it's certainly growing exponentially. It's quite exciting"

The Australian Cannabis Market

With the continuous growth of the cannabis market and the surfacing of new products, Paul defines the market as "evolving."

"We're seeing some more interesting dosage forms come to market. There have been very few patients who have accessed medicinal cannabis in Australia in a flower form. Instead, it's mostly been the concentrates like the oils, capsules, and sublingual sprays. I think in the future we'll see a lot more what I call pharmaceutically-elegant dosage forms, like metered-dose inhalers."

The growth and impact of medicinal cannabis in Australia have solidified Paul's perception of the plant, confirming that there are many benefits to its use, which Paul hopes to see adopted by more medical practitioners.

"I really hate how some people refer to it as alternative medicine. I really see it as a mainstream type of medicine that fits in very nicely into our system. I think eventually all GPs in Australia will be able to prescribe it." Says Paul.

"The barriers are coming down. In some states, GPs can prescribe cannabis. In other states, they may have to go through a medical specialist. Though this will likely change as some of the regulators pull back and allow GPs to prescribe medicines."

Paul goes on to mention that not only is Australia's medicinal cannabis industry growing rapidly, but the country is also one of the beacons of cannabis research globally.

"In the U.S., cannabis is federally illegal, so all they can do is quite a robust survey on cannabis use. They can't do any decent research," Paul explained.

"In Australia, however, our government does promote research, and we've got something like 35 different medicinal cannabis studies underway or in process of varying levels from your preclinical work in test tubes to rat trials to actually open-label human trials and gold-level double-blind with placebo in clinical trials."

Paul voiced that given the current momentum of medicinal cannabis and its powerful medicinal uses, there will eventually be a move that will allow farmers in Tasmania to grow medicinal cannabis and replace the poppy farmers that grow for pharmaceutical opioids.

"We're already seeing it. The prices plummeted for pharmaceutical opioids. There's a lot of interest for the Tasmanian farmers to cultivate medicinal cannabis crops"

"I think in the latest figures, there's something like 27 cultivation licenses that have been released or issued in Australia," says Paul.

"And Australia's well-placed, particularly for the Asian markets, that historically have been using cannabis for several thousand years – places such as India and China, who, like us, have an ageing population, which amounts to some of the biggest uptakes of cannabis as a medicine".

Source: Freshleaf Analytics

"Particularly with the way they've been depleting our pharmacy shelves of vitamins and baby formula. I think it's going to be the same with medicinal cannabis. Our product is seen as a reputable one, and we've got a good history of making clean products."

Paul then shared his views on the upcoming referendum on adult-use cannabis in New Zealand in 2020, stating that "they'll probably be successful or come close." Pauls adds that regardless of the results of the referendum, "it's going to spur the conversation on in Australia, as we're already seeing ACT make moves to make it easier for people to grow at home".

However, Paul explains how this might not necessarily be a good thing for the medical industry. "I think it might blur the lines for some medical professionals who are looking at prescribing, but hopefully the medical model is maintained.

I think Australia has got a good future as far as manufacturing cannabis due to our clean food chain and reputability of some of our pharmaceutical products.Paul Mavor

Paul is a licensed pharmacist in both Australia and the UK, and with the recent legalisation of medicinal cannabis in the UK, his company is looking at some large business moves over there. "It's a really big market. It's slow to start off, but everyone's talking".

"Our company's looking at IPO-ing on the UK stock market over the next few months. We've just taken over a UK pharmaceutical wholesaler, wholesales general medicines, and we're looking at backfilling cannabis into that particular model".

The future for medicinal cannabis is getting brighter both in the UK and Australia, as pioneers like Paul Mavor continue their ground-breaking work wherever they go.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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