1 Nov 2018

Auckland company awarded country's largest medicinal cannabis licence

6:16 am on 1 November 2018

A company has been awarded the largest licence in the country to cultivate thousands of cannabis plants for medical research.

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Photo: 123rf.com

The Ministry of Health has given the go-ahead to Helius Therapeutics to research and develop cannabis products at their site in East Tamaki, in Auckland,

It's the third license awarded. The others have gone to a university and a Ruatoria-based company Hikurangi.

It's a major milestone for the burgeoning industry, Helius co-founder and chief executive Paul Manning said.

As well as research, the licence will allow the company to design a local strain of cannabis.

The goal was to treat health problems such as sleep disorders, arthritis and chronic pain.

"We hold the key to improving quality of life for a number of patients who are stuck with pharmaceutical alternatives," Mr Manning said.

"This is a win for the patients as much as a win for business."

The company will use its one hectare facility in East Tamaki and a new site in Kumeu.

Mr Manning said there was a degree of collaboration with other companies looking to enter the industry.

"We're standing at the precipice of the creation of a new industry," he said.

The companies were not competing so much with each other but with external forces.

"We're competing with bad policy, poor perception associated with the plant from its illicit past and with the black market."

Mr Manning said the industry was going to be stronger together.

The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill is going through Parliament meaning the industry's future is still uncertain.

But Mr Manning full confidence that developments to the law will go ahead.

"The risk we'll be managed is related to the conditions that exist in that bill."

It's critical that chronic pain and other health problems are included, Mr Manning said.

The company's products will be priced at 15 cents per milligram, making it substantially cheaper than imported goods at 75 cents per milligram.

Affordability for the local market was key, he said, but New Zealand was also well-placed to create premium products to sell on the rapidly-growing international market.

"New Zealand has all the right components - a wonderful scientific community, innovative horticulture and great access to agricultural technology."

He said the New Zealand brand also commanded a premium overseas.

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