The New Zealand businesses betting big on medical marijuana

There's another group with a big interest in marijuana - investors are betting on cannabis big time. In New Zealand, the medical cannabis market could be worth billions.

Newshub's national correspondent Patrick Gower went to meet the Kiwis who want a piece of the action.

Nestled in the east coast of the North Island, Ruatoria is well known for growing massive quantities of illegal weed. But today, it's also being grown legally.

Panapa Eha is a partner at the Hikurangi Cannabis Company, the first company in New Zealand to get a licence to cultivate medicinal cannabis plants.

His company plans to grow both outdoors and indoors plants - including in a repurposed old woolshed.

"People are just so in behind it, they want to do this. They want us to create jobs for them to work in, they want to grow the best cannabis in the world," says Hikurangi Cannabis CFO Hamish White.

"They arguably already do," Eha laughs.

Inside the woolshed.
Inside the woolshed. Photo credit: Newshub

In Auckland, Helius Therapeutics also has a licence for medicinal cannabis plants. But the people running this company come from a corporate world and the difference is clear.

They're preparing their massive warehouse for industrial-scale cultivation - and they're just months away from growing "rugby fields of weed".

"We could produce about $700 million worth of medical cannabis products from this place," director Paul Manning says.

"I see this as the dawn of a new industry. We're right at the cusp of something totally new for New Zealand."

But Kiwi rich lister Guy Haddleton, who has invested $15 million into Helius, says it's not about making money.

"The driver is every New Zealander should have the right to a pain-free existence, without being dependent on opioids," he says.

"The Ministry of Health identified 6 to 700,000 New Zealanders who suffer from chronic pain. That's just not right."

Helius Therapeutics director Paul Manning shows off his warehouse.
Helius Therapeutics director Paul Manning shows off his warehouse. Photo credit: Newshub

In Hamilton, Cannasouth is developing "next-generation medicinal cannabinoid products" - including one of New Zealand's first legal batches of cannabis oil.

At the moment it's a research company, and that's all it's allowed to do.

Its oil can't be used on patients and remains spinning round and round in the lab. It's representative of the New Zealand cannabis industry - an industry in waiting, an industry of empty buildings.

They've placed their bets, and now they're waiting to see what cards they'll be dealt and what rules are the Government is going to make.

You can watch the full documentary on ThreeNow.