“Cannabis is medicine” is the message plastered on Auckland’s largest digital billboard in the first advertising campaign from a licensed New Zealand cannabis company.
The campaign launched this morning with the switching on of central Auckland’s largest digital billboard on the corner of Anzac Avenue and Beach Road, along with many other sites across the country.
New Zealand's largest licensed medicinal cannabis company, Helius Therapeutics, is a Kiwi cannabis start-up bought into by rich-lister Guy Haddleton, have launched the campaign with the intention of rebranding cannabis.
This follows legislation passing in Parliament last week.
Executive director Paul Manning told 1 NEWS the reaction so far has been overwhelmingly positive, but as expected it has caused some controversy.
“There’s a few that find the campaign very confronting, but it’s largely very positive.
“This campaign honours those New Zealanders who have been prepared to stand up for medicinal cannabis access. These people, and thousands of others, are courageous enough to share their stories."
He says the public should educate themselves more about cannabis before casting judgement.
“Medicinal cannabis is not about people getting high. It’s about people feeling healthier. And we’re hoping our campaign will be a conversation-starter over the holidays," he said.
“There is still a lot of stigma, but the reality is cannabis should be thought of as a medicine."
Under the headline 'Cannabis is medicine', the campaign features eight real Kiwis from all walks of life.
“Because it is a mainstream product for mainstream people, we wanted the campaign to reflect everyday people,” says Mr Manning.
He says Government passing the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill was a huge milestone for New Zealand.
The new Bill sets the way for the creation of a medicinal cannabis scheme that will allow New Zealand companies like Helius to manufacture medicinal cannabis products for both the local and international markets.
“This still doesn’t mean the battle is won, we still have a job to do when it comes to addressing stigma... ...the manual still needs to be written."
“Our current focus is on research and developing cannabis therapeutics. We have no products to sell right now, but it is our responsibility to use the resources we have to provide education.”
Mr Manning says this campaign is just the start - nationwide newspaper advertisements are scheduled in the New Year and he says the Kiwi cannabis start-up will also be using social media, including video content, to share people’s personal stories.
The company’s licensed ‘New Zealand Grown’ medicinal cannabis products are expected to be available to patients by 2020.
Regulations, licensing rules and quality standards will be set on expert advice within a year.