Cannabis is a po­ten­tial ex­port crop

The Orchardist - - In Focus - By Mike Ni­chols

Since 2005, the NZGrower has bravely pub­lished sev­eral ar­ti­cles by me on cannabis. The mag­a­zine ac­knowl­edged that cannabis not only had po­ten­tial as a hor­ti­cul­tural crop for medic­i­nal use, but also as a high value low vol­ume ex­port crop.

The Labour-led gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to sup­port the use of medic­i­nal cannabis for those with ter­mi­nal ill­ness, or in se­vere pain is a step in the right di­rec­tion, and not be­fore time.

There are two main forms of medic­i­nal cannabis, namely types high in cannabid­i­ole (CBD) and those high in tetrahy­dro­cannabi­nole (THC). The for­mer is ac­knowl­edged to have some value for the con­trol of epilepsy, while the lat­ter pro­vides ex­cel­lent pain re­lief.

Cur­rently the only cannabis medicines legally avail­able in New Zealand have to be im­ported and are ex­tremely ex­pen­sive. There is ab­so­lutely no rea­son why medic­i­nal cannabis should not be grown in New Zealand – af­ter all cannabis for recre­ational use has been grown in this coun­try il­le­gally for years. The key thing is to en­sure se­cu­rity of the crop.

Medic­i­nal cannabis must how­ever, be pro­duced un­der far bet­ter con­di­tions than recre­ational cannabis, but the re­wards could be high. There is great po­ten­tial for ex­ports of high qual­ity medic­i­nal cannabis into the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China, where nat­u­ral medicines are pre­ferred to fac­tory pro­duced medicines. In the 1950s New Zealand led the world in de­vel­op­ing the opium poppy, through the work of Ralph Ballinger in Blen­heim. Un­for­tu­nately those in high places got cold feet and the in­dus­try was moved to Tas­ma­nia, which now pro­duces over 50% of the world’s le­gal medic­i­nal opi­ates. Let us hope that the pow­ers that be do not let the ball drop through their fin­gers on this oc­ca­sion.

The Green party has pro­moted the need for a ref­er­en­dum on the le­gal­is­ing of cannabis for recre­ational pur­poses. This is a much more di­vi­sive propo­si­tion than the use of cannabis for medic­i­nal pur­poses. By le­gal­is­ing an­other recre­ational drug (along with al­co­hol and to­bacco) the gov­ern­ment must con­sider the dan­ger to young brains, and the risk of le­gal­i­sa­tion lead­ing to the users mov­ing on to other harder drugs. On the other hand, mak­ing cannabis more freely avail­able to those who wish to take recre­ational drugs might re­duce the risk of drug tak­ers us­ing P and other more se­ri­ous drugs.

The cur­rent prices of cannabis medicines in New Zealand are ridicu­lously high. One of the prob­lems is the near mo­nop­oly of the mar­ket, plus the cost of de­liv­ery to the user. By far the most ef­fi­cient way of ab­sorb­ing high THC cannabis medicines is by us­ing the dried flower heads in a va­por­iser. This would mean a change in the law, as va­por­is­ers (bongs) are cur­rently il­le­gal in New Zealand.

NOTE: Mike Ni­chols’ only recre­ational drug of choice is al­co­hol, and then only the oc­ca­sional beer and wine. As an oc­to­ge­nar­ian, he also uses a wide range of pre­scrip­tion medicines, but not cannabis.

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