First commercial cannabis cultivator granted research license in rural New Zealand

By Maggie McCutcheon

IG: @redondo.bleach

New Zealand is finally getting on board with medical marijuana (MMJ) as legislation is in the process of shifting. On August 25, Hikurangi Hemp became the first commercial cultivator to be issued a marijuana grow license ahead of regulation for research purposes. Previously, only one university had been granted anything similar.

“We are excited to be able to base this new industry in our community, a rural region that desperately needs new economic development opportunities,” co-founder and interim chief executive Manu Caddie said in a statement.

Located in Ruatoria, a small town on the coast south-east of Auckland, the company has started construction on a 10,000 square metre (more than 100,000 sq ft) high-tech greenhouse and processing complex, expecting to create some 120 jobs. Projections suggest this operation could double household incomes in the area, with many local families investing in the company ahead of time.

The company has already established a three-year conditional agreement with US-based Rhizo Science, with the hope of releasing products into the market by next year. Caddie explained the first products the company is likely to produce will be oils and topical treatments.

Hikurangi Hemp may be among the first to be allowed to grow but this marks what will hopefully be a pivot point for NZ. The rest of the world — with countries like Spain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Uruguay, the Netherlands, and Israel already leading MMJ research — is starting to make advances and soon countries late to join will be unable to rise to the competition.

Caddie is confident, however, stating, “If we can quickly build brand and intellectual property around the clinical trials, then there’s an opportunity to retain the value long-term and to keep that value in the regions.”

With a climate perfectly suited to cultivating cannabis and a lot of pressure from people who need access to new medical options, it comes as little surprise the New Zealand government is in the process of working on a bill to legalize and regulate medical cannabis products. The Ministry of Health will hopefully finalize laws and regulation for personal use by 2020.