Queenstown could become a heartland for the budding medicinal cannabis industry.
Mountain Scene can reveal two companies, MediGrowth NZ and Central Otago Cannabis Ltd, have been registered with the Companies Office in recent months to Queenstown addresses.
The sole director behind the latter spoke to Scene on the condition of anonymity, saying he’s worried about the “stigma” and lack of education around medicinal cannabis.
The local man says Queenstown and Central Otago’s conditions are perfect for growing.
“There’s so much potential for it,” he says.
“New Zealand could be a bloody world leader in growing that stuff.”
The region’s been wine country for more than three decades but cannabis could be the next cash crop, if medicinal cannabis is made fully legal.
A new medicinal cannabis Bill was passed by the Government last December, sparking a raft of newly registered medicinal cannabis companies.
The Bill gives the terminally ill a defence for the use of illicit cannabis products, and requires the Government to write a regulatory framework for the medicinal cannabis industry within a year.
And yesterday, the Health Research Council of New Zealand revealed it’s opening its wallet for medicinal cannabis research.
Massey University’s Dr Marta Rychert has been awarded almost $250,000 to explore medicinal cannabis use in New Zealand.
The director of Central Otago Cannabis Ltd came up with the idea after spending time in California a few years back, where he saw “the amount of money being made, and the jobs it was creating”.
Both medicinal and recreational cannabis is legal in California. He reckons Queenstown could become a medicinal cannabis hub.
While he says there is the possibility to expand into recreational cannabis if it’s legalised, he’s more interested in the medicinal side of the industry.
“It helps people a lot more.”
He says he’s waiting for the results of next year’s cannabis referendum before starting to pour money into the venture.
“There’s so much red tape you’re running into, at the moment.”
But, all going to plan, he’s keen to build up a sizeable operation and start exporting overseas.
“You start small and see how it goes, but if it goes well, there’s the potential to go massive, as big as some of the orchards you see.”
Meanwhile, MediGrowth NZ has been registered to a Glenda Drive address.
One of its directors is local luxury property manager Aaron Murphy.
Murphy tells too early to talk details, but confirms its a local company “focused on research and development around medicinal cannabis”, and its application for New Zealand patients.
The other directors are Aussies Adam Guskich and Todd McClellan.
They’re the men behind MediGrowth Australia, a Melbourne-based medicinal cannabis company.
According to its website, MediGrowth Australia has “positioned itself within the emerging and rapidly growing medicinal cannabis market”.
“We take pride in every aspect of our business and within our vertically integrated ‘seed to solution’ charter we endeavour to join the ranks of the world’s leading cannabis producers to become a pre-eminent figure in cultivation, production, research, import and export of the highest quality cannabis and manufacture of related therapeutic products.”
Rychert says New Zealanders have been using cannabis, both legally and illegally, for medicinal purposes for many decades, but little is known about how they use it, for what medical conditions, how they access it and what advice they receive from health professionals.
“Medicinal cannabis regimes established overseas have experienced a number of issues, including poor affordability, lack of engagement of health professionals and continued black market supply,” she says.
The study will use a survey and in-depth interviews with medicinal cannabis users, their support networks and health professionals to investigate their engagement with the new framework being developed by the government, and to provide insights to inform its further implementation.