Otago Daily Times

Cannabis firms split on vote outcome


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

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