Bay of Plenty looks set to be medicinal cannabis growing hotspot

Cannabis is set to be the next crop to benefit from the Bay of Plenty's rich soils and good growing conditions.

Your playlist will load after this ad

Producers have concerns over the upcoming referendum. Source: 1 NEWS

As the number of licences to grow it for medicinal purposes increases, companies in New Zealand are firming up their plans to enter the market.

In the world of cannabis cultivation security's tight and science is breaking new ground.

Bay of Plenty business Equalis has been given the green light to grow a range of plant-based pain relief products at two locations.

One at a research facility on the outskirts of Tauranga and another on Matakana Island.

“I think that it's a noble cause basically and when you look around at the amount of opioids that people are taking and the affects that it has on them, if there's a safe viable alternative we're into that," says Managing Director Greg Misson.

Regulations allowing GPs to prescribe medicinal cannabis come into effect in April.

It's projected to be a multi-million dollar industry and already the competition is heating up.

“It comes down to what you're producing and at what cost, so if you have an efficient distribution network and the medicinals are appropriate, I don't see a problem with it becoming saturated and also with a focus on export," says Mr Mission.

The company is also trying to ease worries some Kiwis have about the benefits of its product.

"Doctors will look at the evidence, will look at the risk benefits, doctors will just treat it as they do any other medicine,” says Elizabeth Plant, Chief Medical Officer at Equalis Research.

More unsettling to Equalis - what a vote in favour of decriminalising cannabis in this year's referendum could mean for the new industry.

“I am just concerned around discussions around opening up cannabis for recreational use that we won’t have time to have developed medical cannabis to reach its full potential and that’s going to take time and its going to take time for us to get the formulations right for the various conditions,” says Ms Plant.

“It’s going to take time for doctors to prescribe and patients to get the full benefits and I do hope I get the opportunity to develop a medical cannabis industry solidly before recreational cannabis becomes mainstream,” she says.