Licensed cannabis producer calls on illegal growers to work with them on medicinal cannabis

New Zealand's largest licensed cannabis producer is calling on Kiwis growing marijuana to "step out of the shadows".

On Thursday the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill passed its second reading. A change to the Bill made it clear varieties of cannabis already being grown here will be allowed to be used in medicinal cannabis production.

Helius Therapeutics, Aotearoa's largest licensed medicinal cannabis producer and only one of three in New Zealand, applauded the move, saying people already growing cannabis should create a partnership with licensed producers.

"This amnesty for local cannabis strains presents an exciting opportunity for these breeders, who can finally step out of the shadows," said the company's executive director Paul Manning.

He said the market could be worth billions to the economy and authentic New Zealand products will be in high demand, making it a worthwhile opportunity for growers.

"People with quality genetics can gain lawful income through commercial deals with us, should they choose to contribute their seeds or plantlets. I expect there'll be a green rush to locate and commercialise these strains."

Mr Manning called local strains a potential "treasure trove" that could help New Zealand producers rival the best in the world.

"Some cultivators have been growing in the New Zealand environment for decades and have developed unique characteristics that can now be explored by scientists… we've seen a significant step towards what could become a world-class medicinal cannabis scheme."

Helius, which has set up a programme to help amateur breeders see their strains recognised and protected, has also acquired a Buy NZ Made certification, allowing it to put a NZ Made badge on its products.

Another change announced on Thursday is letting people use medicinal cannabis for palliation, rather than just the terminally ill.