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'Intensive planting' expected as NZ's first medical cannabis company gets approval

The interim chief executive of Hikurangi Cannabis, which just became the first business in New Zealand granted a licence to cultivate the plant for medicinal purposes, predicts an economic boon is on the horizon for Ruatoria and other rural areas throughout the nation.

The Ruatoria company has just become the first business in New Zealand granted a licence to cultivate the plants. Source: Breakfast

The company expects to create 120 jobs in the small East Coast town as it sets up a 10,000-square-metre greenhouse facility.

“The income from that would more than double the household income in the district, so it’s pretty significant,” Manu Caddie told TVNZ 1’s Breakfast this morning. “And it’s not just Ruatoria. It’s an opportunity for all of New Zealand in other rural communities. It’s a high value product that people can grow anywhere in the country.”

New Zealand’s medicinal cannabis bill is still awaiting its second reading in Parliament. After that, the Ministry of Health has predicted having regulations finalised and enacted by 2020, Caddie said.

The Acting Prime Minister said appropriate changes can still be made to the Government’s medicinal cannabis bill. Source: Q+A

“We want to see that happen within six months of the law passing, so we’ll be keeping the pressure on and helping the ministry along with that,” he said.

Hikurangi Cannabis is on track to have its first crop ready to submit for approval by the middle of next year.

“The next couple months we’ll be doing some intensive planting,” Caddie said, explaining that the first products the company will produce will likely by cannabis oils taken orally through a syringe or via spray. “Also (there will be) some topical applications. We’re looking at arthritis and pain relief that you can just rub on as a balm.”

While the company will have to wait on the legislative process, Caddie said there is already immense pressure from people who hope to purchase the product.

A cancer patient Fair Go talked to would be happy to be able to grow just one plant in his new kitset greenhouse. Source: Fair Go

“We get contacted every day by parents of children with really significant health conditions, severely disabled and epileptic,” he said. “So we’re working as hard and as fast as we can to get something to them, and that’s why this legislation is going to be good for improving access.

“We know that importing the product doubles the cost, so we’re very confident that we can get something much more affordable to patients as quickly as possible.”