With the immediate health crisis
largely behind us, New Zealanders are now being encouraged
to unite for the recovery.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic
struck, we’ve heard a lot about resetting the economy and
the need to focus on sunrise, not sunset, industries. At the
same time, during the Alert Level Four lockdown in April,
the Ministry of Health pushed play on New Zealand’s
Medicinal Cannabis Scheme.
The regulations are now in
effect, enabling local commercial cultivation of cannabis
and the manufacturing of THC and CBD products. New Zealand
GPs can now apply their professional discretion to prescribe
Despite years of advocacy, and
Parliament passing the legislation with wide celebration in
2018, the Scheme’s arrival was met with little fanfare.
This was not surprising given the country’s attention was
squarely elsewhere, and at any rate getting locally
manufactured products into the hands of Kiwi patients is
still months away.
However, with debate over New
Zealand’s economic future gathering momentum, the success
of our newest industry is more important than ever, and of
course we’re not alone.
Estimated to reach $55
billion by 2025, medicinal cannabis is one of the fastest
growing industries in the world.
Here in New Zealand,
MBIE forecasts a strong market opportunity in the next 10
years. The pharmaceutical cannabis segment is expected to
reach $320 million – $50m from within New Zealand and $250m
in export sales. While the broader cannabis health product
segment could represent a $1 billion market opportunity per
Medicinal cannabis reforms took effect in
Australia back in 2016, with its success relatively slow,
hindered by higher hurdles for patient access. However, in
recent months, their government has awoken to the potential
of medicinal cannabis to lift GDP and aid in Australia’s
This month the Federal Government
pushed through legislation that would cut red tape and make
it easier to export medicinal cannabis and hemp products,
with the aim to grow those important new
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud
told Parliament: “For the Australian economy, it means
more jobs, more exports, and higher incomes… For
Australians, it means stronger regional communities and a
more prosperous and productive Australia.”
Here in New
Zealand, our Government’s commentary on the medicinal
cannabis sector has largely been assigned to the Heath
Minister and Ministry. That needs to change.
country, with its team of five million, has the potential to
become a global centre of excellence for medicinal cannabis
innovation, but we now need to harness that opportunity with
broader oversight required.
The primary motivation to
ensure medicinal cannabis is more accessible and affordable
for thousands of suffering Kiwi patients remains. However,
with growth going backwards and unemployment forecast to
increase by 120,000 people, medicinal cannabis needs to also
be viewed through an economic lens.
industry already possesses all the hallmarks needed to
contribute to our export-led country’s post Covid-19
It involves jobs for horticulturists to
PhDs, and everyone in between. It will create jobs in the
regions, utilise our famously innovative agribusiness
sector, and deliver value-added exports. If we’re looking
at exciting sunrise industries for New Zealand, this is
With legalised medicinal markets
including 30 countries in Europe, and burgeoning
opportunities in Asia, the export opportunities for
high-quality certified New Zealand Grown cannabis are
Our Scheme allows exporting from the get-go.
What’s more, the country’s quality standards for
medicinal cannabis are the highest in the world, helping
ensure global confidence in our products from the outset –
already enhanced by New Zealand’s clean, green
BioTechNZ firmly agrees. It believes New
Zealand is strongly placed to leverage its favourable
growing conditions, unique genetic varieties, highly
regarded research expertise and scientific collaboration,
strong clinical trials sector, and respected regulatory
regime to create what it calls the ‘Sauvignon Blanc of
Subsequently, BiotechNZ is leading New
Zealand’s first medicinal cannabis summit in November at
the Aotea Centre. With over 500 delegates set to attend,
MedCan 2020 will connect medicine, science, industry, and
technology. Helping us all to unlock and maximise an array
of opportunities, the two-day event will perfectly cap off
what has been a watershed year for medicinal
It’s well established that cannabis-based
medicines have the extraordinary potential to improve an
individual’s quality of life, as well as a nation’s
overall public health.
Exports too will deliver
individually and nationally. Establishing overseas markets
will enable a few Kiwi producers to achieve real scale,
supported by a network of regional growers. That in turn
keeps prices down for local patients, increases employment
opportunities, enriches communities, and ultimately boosts
New Zealand’s overall wealth.
With the Medicinal
Cannabis Scheme now in place, our Government’s next task
is to lead the successful enablement of our new industry,
and we’ll do the rest.
If indeed we do it well,
there’s every reason medicinal cannabis will prove
extremely lucrative for our country this century.
Manning is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive of Helius
Therapeutics – the country’s largest medicinal cannabis
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