Local cannabis breeders sought as Government allows unique amnesty for New Zealand strains

As the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill passed its second reading today, Government has announced that licensed producers will be allowed to onboard illicit cannabis strains – those already in the country. New Zealand’s largest licensed cannabis company, Helius, is calling for local breeders to share in the opportunity.

During the second reading of the Bill, MPs introduced a Supplementary Order Paper (SOP), making it clear that varieties of cannabis that are already in New Zealand can be used by licensed cultivators in the production of medicinal products.

Helius Therapeutics is the first cannabis company in New Zealand to carry New Zealand Growncertification through Buy NZ Made, and is the country’s largest licensed producer – one of only three in New Zealand. Helius commends the Government on this move.

Paul Manning, Executive Director, says “We applaud the Government’s decision to allow licensed producers access to local genetics. We believe local cannabis strains offer a potential treasure trove of therapeutic compounds, rivalling the best in the world. Some cultivars have been growing in the New Zealand environment for decades and have developed unique characteristics that can now be explored by scientists.”

Today’s changes to the Medicinal Cannabis Bill signal positive changes in legislation.

“New Zealand has been lagging behind the world in cannabis reform, but today we’ve seen a significant step towards what could become a world-class medicinal cannabis scheme.”

Helius believes the decision to include local cannabis genetics will further New Zealand’s competitive advantage here, and on the world-stage.

“There is enormous value in New Zealand-made health products. With unique New Zealand strains, we will now have the opportunity to further differentiate ourselves from imported products. What’s more, the export market for medicinal cannabis is worth billions to the economy and we know that authentic New Zealand products will be in high demand.”

The Government’s amnesty allows local cannabis breeders to work with licensed producers, introducing their unique strains to legally benefit patients through the country’s regulated medicinal cannabis scheme.

“This amnesty for local cannabis strains presents an exciting opportunity for these breeders, who can finally step out of the shadows. 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 a green rush to locate and commercialise these strains. But it’s incumbent on the industry to ensure New Zealand breeders are well-compensated for coming forward with their work".

Helius is calling on local breeders to contact the company. “We want to hear from New Zealand’s breeders – we want you to know that you can reach out to us in confidence. We’ve developed a commercial program to ensure breeders are recognised and their strains are protected. This amnesty will only provide a brief window for breeders to come forward, maybe a few weeks, so we encourage them to register with us now.”

“Owners will receive an upfront Genetics Fee and the opportunity of ongoing royalties for strains that are adopted. We’ll cover the costs of characterising local strains, which will be done in our analytical laboratory”, says Manning.

Helius has set up a webpage for local breeders who want to make secure contact with the company. It can be found at www.helius.co.nz/genetics

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