Cannabis is a potential export crop
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.