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Organic medicinal cannabis a huge opportunity for NZ

“New Zealand organically grown and manufactured medicinal cannabis products will be in huge demand internationally, taking the country’s newest industry to a whole new level in the future,” says Carmen Doran, chief executive of Helius Therapeutics.

Her comments follow the Government announcing a $32.2 million joint project with New Zealand’s largest and only organic certified medicinal cannabis grower, Puro, to accelerate the growth of the industry.

A key workstream will see New Zealand’s largest medicinal cannabis processor and manufacturer, Helius, working alongside Puro on research and development and the creation of an organic manufacturing road map.

“Our ambition is to take Puro’s organically produced high value biomass and manufacture it here in New Zealand to organic certification. Achieving both organically grown and organically manufactured will create a significant premium differentiation for Helius and other local medicinal cannabis companies as well,” says Ms Doran.

Puro and Helius will investigate the necessary steps to enable organic manufacturing in New Zealand, identifying the local cannabis industry’s requirements to meet a national organic manufacturing standard.

“We will help create a playbook for the entire industry to use. It will see Helius, and others, transition to organic manufacturing, after product certification and verification is established. We’ll also help create a roadmap on how best to get these premium products to market,” she says.

Helius and Puro’s commercial relationship is already well established. In January, the two companies signed a multi-million-dollar supply deal – New Zealand’s largest to date. Puro will supply Helius with over 10 tonnes of organic medicinal cannabis over the next five years, securing a local supply chain of premium, organic dried flower for the Auckland-based manufacturer.

“Helius is already extracting Puro’s medicinal cannabis. What’s more, following Puro’s latest harvest, a lot more South Island organic biomass will be processed in the coming months into Kiwi grown and manufactured medicines,” says Ms Doran.

While Puro is Australasia’s largest grower of medicinal cannabis and one of the world’s largest certified organic producers, Helius was New Zealand’s first medicinal cannabis business to achieve a GMP Licence for Manufacturing Medicines in July 2021 and will unleash its exporting strategy later this year.

Every New Zealand GP can now prescribe medicinal cannabis for any health condition.

"Right now, you can go to your doctor and get medicinal cannabis products that are New Zealand-made, and that's really exciting for local patients. However, delivering both organically grown and organically manufactured Kiwi products will be a gamechanger in the future - personifying New Zealand’s ‘100% Pure’ image,” says Ms Doran.

Helius strongly believes the Government’s $13m contribution towards the five-year joint project led by Puro will turbocharge the entire local industry. All parties agree that the country’s creation of a ‘Genetic Breeding and Organic Production Handbook’ will significantly add to jobs, GDP, and export receipts.

The global medicinal cannabis market is expected to grow to over NZ$60 billion by 2025.

“Medicinal cannabis has the potential to become one of the country’s largest export earners. Importantly, this latest $32.2m investment will accelerate its growth and ensure a high-value industry for New Zealand. Equally, it will help deliver the highest quality products for patients here and overseas,” says Carmen Doran.

Launching the $32m project on the South Island’s coastal Kaikoura - one of Puro’s premium grow sites: Carmen Doran (Chief Executive of Helius), Tim Aldridge (Managing Director of Puro), Hon Damien O’Connor (Minister of Agriculture), and Steve Wilson (Chair of NZ Medicinal Cannabis Council).

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