Medicinal cannabis cultivation licence issued to East Coast business for first time

Medicinal cannabis can now legally be grown by an East Coast business after the Hikurangi Cannabis Company was issued a licence.

The Ruatoria business was the first of its kind to get the go-ahead from the Ministry of Health - second to a university, which was given a licence to aid the manufacture of medicinal cannabis products for specific clinical trials.

It was a community effort with "no help from the Government" to get to this stage, co-founder of the Hikurangi Cannabis Company Manu Caddie told Newshub. 

"We've been a bunch of farmers from the East Coast who have got organised," he said.

"[We saw] an opportunity and had some good support along the way."

Mr Caddie applied for the licence in April and four months later, on 24 August, it was issued.

It allowed them to breed cannabis strains that could be used in medicines, he said.

Hikurangi Cannabis Company co-founder Manu Caddie.
Hikurangi Cannabis Company co-founder Manu Caddie. Photo credit: Newshub.

"We've got a pharmacist on our team, we've got medical researchers all lined up ready to do the trials."

They were initially looking at two products, Caddie said.

"One's an oral syringe so you squirt the oil in your mouth," he said.

"We're also looking at a topical application for things like arthritis and pain that can be rubbed on the skin."

Mr Caddie said once it was underway, he was expecting interest from overseas - but the company's priority was to local users.

"The offshore export orders help to subsidy and fund the infrastructure basically and allow us to produce that affordable medicine for New Zealanders."

Some Kiwis already use imported products like Sativex, but with a price tag of about $1000 per month, it was too expensive for most, Medicinal Cannabis Awareness New Zealand (MCANZ) coordinator Shane Le Brun said.

"Locally grown products are likely to be significantly cheaper," he told Newshub.

It was a community effort with "no help from the Government" to get to this stage.
It was a community effort with "no help from the Government" to get to this stage. Photo credit: Newshub.

"I've been working on Canadian products and they effectively double [the price] just to get them into New Zealand."

There was also likely to be more competition with other applications with the Ministry of Health, Mr Le Brun said.

"Everyone's trying to get in and get some research underway so they can get set up in advance of the law." 

The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill will have its second reading in Parliament next month.

But Mr Caddie said now they would be seeking resource consent from local council.

"That's building glasshouses to grow the plants in and processing facilities to extract the cannabinoids and start manufacturing them into the medicines." 

Each step required further licences, he said.

Mr Caddie predicted all things going well, the Hikurangi Cannabis Company would be able to take product to the Kiwi market next year.