East coast company looks to hold clinical trial for medicinal cannabis

A North Island hemp grower says he's a step closer to the clinical trials of homegrown medical cannabis after meeting health officials today.

Manu Caddie hopes his trial will result in products that are much cheaper than those currently on the market.

Mr Caddie told the Ministry of Health his company Hikurangi Hemp can provide safe, local and cheap medical cannabis, and wants to undertake a clinical trial.

"This will be the first time a products been grown in New Zealand, and taken to clinical trial in NZ for manufacturing and licensing as a NZ medicine and potentially for export," said Mr Caddie

Hikurangi was last year granted a licence by the Ministry of Health to grow a trial crop of industrial hemp and now has 5-thousand plants. 

"Initially it was to create jobs on the east coast. We saw the highest value products from the hemp in the therapeutic end of things," he said.

The first stage of the trial is intended to prove the product's safety, then, he says, they'll look at its effectiveness in treating a range of health conditions.

"Everything from epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, sleep issues, bronchial respiratory issues," he said.

The imported product Sativex, costs up to 14-hundred dollars a bottle.  Mr Caddie hopes his 150-dollar hemp-sourced equivalent will be on the market in 2019.

Shane Le Brun from Medical Cannabis Awareness says New Zealand needs to look to countries like Canada where cannabis is often used ahead of opiates.

"It's been a long issue for nz in that we've been allowed to do clinical trials but no one has shown the gumption to get up and do it so this would be an NZ first," he said.

The Ministry of Health told Newshub it now wants a written proposal from Mr Caddie's company and the current law only allows cannabis to be grown for research and not to sell.

Labour pledged, in its first hundred days, to introduce legislation making medicinal cannabis available for people with terminal illnesses or chronic pain, but had no comment today on clinical trials.