Otago Daily Times

Cannabis firms split on vote out­come

- JEAN BELL Business · Marijuana · Marijuana Legalization · Narcotic Drugs · Society · Greater Auckland · New Zealand · Auckland Region · Christchurch · Ruapuke

AUCK­LAND: A medic­i­nal cannabis com­pany is re­lieved the ref­er­en­dum went up in smoke, say­ing more re­search into the drug is needed.

Mean­while, other com­pa­nies are dis­ap­pointed in the re­sult but they say the re­sult will not shake their busi­ness too much.

The cannabis ref­er­en­dum re­cently failed by a slim mar­gin — 50.7% of New Zealan­ders said no, but 48.4% sup­ported the le­gal­i­sa­tion of recre­ational cannabis.

Doc­tors can al­ready pre­scribe medic­i­nal cannabis, but New Zealand com­pa­nies are still de­vel­op­ing prod­ucts for use.

The first MedCan sum­mit took place on Tuesday, draw­ing dozens of in­dus­try mem­bers to Auck­land’s Aotea Cen­tre.

Among those at­tend­ing the sum­mit was Green­lab di­rec­tor Par­mjit Rand­hawa.

Green­lab, a Christchur­ch medic­i­nal cannabis com­pany, is aim­ing to make its mar­ket de­but next year.

Mr Rand­hawa was glad that the ref­er­en­dum failed to pass, as he did not think there was enough re­search on the ac­tive com­pounds in cannabis, or con­sis­tent re­sults from clin­i­cal tri­als.

‘‘Be­fore we start run­ning, we should start walk­ing.’’

Re­search and de­vel­op­ment into medic­i­nal cannabis, along with grow­ing the plant in a fully con­trolled en­vi­ron­ment, was costly — mean­ing the the prod­uct would also be ex­pen­sive at first, he said.

‘‘You can’t grow it like a nor­mal agri­cul­ture crop. You can’t use any pes­ti­cides — it’s a medicine, it’s go­ing to im­muno­com­pro­mised pa­tients . . . it will be ex­pen­sive at the start but you are ba­si­cally get­ting a medicine.’’

Helius Ther­a­peu­tics chief ex­ec­u­tive Paul Man­ning was dis­ap­pointed by the ref­er­en­dum re­sult, but said it would not pull the rug out from be­neath his busi­ness.

‘‘We looked at the ref­er­en­dum, if it passed, as a won­der­ful bonus for our in­dus­try. It would have made ac­cess to these prod­ucts much eas­ier and it would have low­ered the cost and other bar­ri­ers to ac­cess for pa­tients,’’ Mr Man­ning said.

‘‘We saw it as an add­on to what we’d al­ready built . . . as a busi­ness, as op­posed to some­thing that was fun­da­men­tal to our suc­cess.’’

Can­na­south chief ex­ec­u­tive Mark Lu­cas said it would largely be busi­ness as usual for the medic­i­nal cannabis com­pany.

‘‘Ob­vi­ously a ‘yes’ vote would have had some im­pact on the in­dus­try, but when you’re build­ing any busi­ness you just re­ally need cer­tainty of the en­vi­ron­ment you’re op­er­at­ing in.

‘‘We’ve just got to get on and build the busi­ness.’’

The fu­ture was bright for both the in­dus­try and the con­sumers set to ben­e­fit from the prod­ucts, he said.

‘‘We’re go­ing to see, in the fu­ture, ad­vance for­mu­la­tions of dif­fer­ent cannabi­noids tar­get­ing dif­fer­ent spe­cific con­di­tions.

‘‘They will be a nor­mal tool that pre­scribers are used to in time. The stigma and dogma around cannabis will slowly sub­side as we de­velop higher grade prod­ucts and de­liver bet­ter ther­a­peu­tic af­fects as more clinic data is pro­duced.

‘‘There’s a lit­tle bit of pa­tience re­quired, but this is the long game.’’

NZTech chief ex­ec­u­tive Graeme Muller said the re­sult would not stop the de­vel­op­ment of medic­i­nal prod­ucts in New Zealand, but the stigma around us­ing the prod­ucts might im­pact use and ac­cess.

‘‘It’ll im­pact pa­tients’ de­sire to use a good medicine. It def­i­nitely im­pact doc­tor’s de­ci­sions on whether or not to pre­scribe it,’’ Mr Muller said.

‘‘Those things will mean de­cent medicines — good, sci­en­tif­i­cally thought­through prod­ucts — won’t get to the peo­ple who need them.’’

Mr Muller was op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture; he said New Zealand had an op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate a whole new ex­port in­dus­try with medic­i­nal cannabis. — RNZ

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand