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Australia's first-ever medicinal marijuana company is experiencing a high demand for shares ahead of its pre-Christmas stock market flotation.

Perth-based Phytotech Medical was founded by 'Wolf of Weed Street' Ross Smith, who now has the whiff of success in his nostrils despite once being fined A$15,000 for the possession and use of cannabis in Australia back in 1989.

Phytotech aims to raise A$5 million when it lists on the Australian Securities Exchange on December 22, but such is the market buzz that the 'joint' venture's share issue is already three times over-subscribed.

Smith, 51, told the Reuters news agency of his ambition to become "the George Clooney" of medicinal cannabis - a reference to the actor's adverts for Nestle Nespresso coffee machines. And, just for good measure, he suggested to the Sydney Morning Herald that the substance had the potential to become the 'Model T Ford' of the 21st century.

Phytotech will work with farmers in the United States and Uruguay to cultivate marijuana crops which will be distributed in countries where medicinal use of the plant is legal. It will be sold as an ingredient for use in disposable vaporisers which the company will also sell to patients with conditions such as cancer.

Around 20 countries have decriminalised marijuana use, and in the United States its use for medical purposes has been legalised in more than 20 states. The worldwide industry is estimated to be worth US$100bn.

It is currently illegal to grow or use marijuana in Australia, but New South Wales and Victoria are holding clinical trials to assess its suitability as a pain reliever.

Speaking to Reuters, Smith said he was inspired to launch Phytotech after being offered medicinal grade marijuana while hiking in New Zealand last year.

"I'd broken my back previously and with a few puffs I could walk up and down mountains easily, carrying a heavy rifle and a deer or pig or whatever," he said.


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High hopes for medicinal marijuana business
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