Medicinal cannabis entrepreneurs discuss how industry should roll out

Cannabis bought online and delivered to doorsteps in unmarked packaging by a security guard - that's what the purchase of medicinal cannabis in New Zealand could look like. 



To follow is an excerpt from a story in the Sunday Star Times by Madison Reidy.

You can read the original article here.


Parliament's Health Committee has received at least 6 submissions from organisations arguing how they would like the production, sale and use of cannabis as medicine to be regulated. 


Companies that want to be the first producers and sellers of medicinal cannabis have started making noise, mounting commercial pressure on Parliament to enact the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill.

The creation of a new industry puts companies in a prime position to twist lawmakers' arms. How a domestic medicinal cannabis industry would legally operate is largely untouched in the bill and will be debated by the committee before it is read in Parliament for a second time.


Two companies have publicised their intent to grow medicinal cannabis commercially, but, they are at odds over some issues. 

Hikurangi Hemp, subsidiary of health company Hikurangi Group, grows and processes low-THC cannabis on private land near Gisborne. 


It was the first company to say it wanted to sell its products to terminally ill patients if the Government legalised it. 

Hikurangi is no longer a monopoly.

Helius Therapeutics, an Auckland company started quietly last year by two former executives and a United States cannabis industry businessman, made its intentions to produce medicinal cannabis public this month. 


Helius director Paul Manning said the company had intentionally kept a low profile but it was about to finalise investment deals totalling $15m.

One third of that money would go toward fitting-out a high-security production facility, he said. 


Helius will specialise in manufacturing and researching medicinal cannabis. It's facility is still under construction.


Staff


Helius and Hikurangi disagree most on hiring employees with criminal records. 

Some of Hikurangi's staff already cultivating cannabis in Ruatoria, near Gisborne, have drug-related convictions for growing, selling and using marijuana.


MPs urged to widen access to medicinal cannabis


Parliament's health select committee has begun hearing submissions on contentious legislation proposing cannabis be legalised for more people, not just the terminally ill.

Hikurangi managing director Manu Caddie said those staff had the best experience for the job and it would be a shame to exclude them from the industry. It fought to keep them as employees in its submission. 


Manning said Helius would not recruit staff with a conviction. Doing so would tarnish the industry's reputation, he said. "A lot of the practices associated with the current black market recreational cannabis cultivation industry, are diametrically opposed the standards we are looking to create."


Products


Unprocessed cannabis, a dried plant to be smoked, may not be allowed to be sold as a medicinal product. 


The New Zealand Medical Association argued against the idea in its submission. 

However, Hikurangi and Helius are both advocating for it. They want cannabis 'flowers' to be included in their product ranges. 


The rest of their products are more likely to resemble medicine in the form of injections, capsules or topical creams of varying potency levels and ratios of the cannibinoids tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannibiniod (CBD).


Helius and Hikurangi both want to sell CBD oil. Helius' in the form of capsules or drops; Hikurangi's in a syringe.


Buying medicinal cannabis 


New Zealand is not set to get stores selling different flavours of marijuana like the "pot shops" in some United States states and Canada. 


According to the bill, it will be presciption-only here, meaning medical practitioners will make the call on who can use medicinal cannabis.


Practitioners could only prescribe it to the terminally ill, defined as a person with less than 12 months left to live. Numerous submissions argued for the scope to include non-terminal, severely ill people.


Whether those prescribed it would be administered it by a doctor or nurse, pick it up from a nearby pharmacy, or directly from a producer, is yet to be decided, or even debated. 

Helius and Hikurangi want a seed-to-sale industry where they grow it, process it and sell it. That approach would cut pharmacies out completely.


Helius could sell its products online, and deliver it to patients homes directly via a secure courier. An online shop would create a database where "it is possible to track every single seed, all the way through to patient consumption", Helius' submission said.

Authorities would have access to Helius' database. 


Exports 


As the bill stands, it does not allow producers to export. In fact, it does not menton it. 

Hikurangi want the Government to add that to the bill.


"These would be some of the highest value primary products ever exported from New Zealand," Hikurangi's submission said. Caddie said if Hikurangi could sell its products to the world, it would turnover $1 billion within three years. 


Manning said exporting would benefit the industry financially, but it was not Helius' priority. 

Helius would export products "down the track, should the opportunity be provided to us by the Government, but our business is not contingent on export" he said.

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