East Coast company gets green light to grow high-THC cannabis

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Section
Audio,
Publish Date
Monday, 21 January 2019, 5:25p.m.
Hikurangi Cannabis is the first company given permission to grow the psychoactive substance. (Photo / Supplied)

With the cannabis referendum around the corner, the Government is starting to prepare.

The Ministry of Health has just given Hikurangi Cannabis the green light to grow cannabis with high levels of THC.

Until now, medicinal cannabis produced in New Zealand has had very low levels of the psychoactive compound.

Company Managing Director Manu Caddie told Mike Yardley high THC plants are better economically, as well as more effective.

"If we have a four per cent THC plant compared to a two per cent, we only have to grow half as many plants, so it's a business efficiency equation.

"But it's also proven to be very useful in things like pain relief and nausea prevention, some of those conditions."

He says that it will be difficult for people who enjoy smoking cannabis recreationally to get their hands on these plants.

Caddie says that to get approval, it required a change of policy after talking with the Ministries of Health and Primary Industries.

“As the industry starts to get established, they need to look at the rules.”

He believes they are the only company who currently has approval to bring in these strains.

Caddie says that MPI is happy with the level of security they have to keep the high-THC plants away from the hands of cannabis enthusiasts.

Hikurangi Cannabis has been on a public awareness campaign over the past couple of years. In early 2017 the company held a public "smell, taste and touch" day for its first trial hemp harvest.

Last year the company crowd-funded $2.4 million, which crashed the PledgeMe website. It gave preferential shares in its company to locals, with many signing up during a regional road-show.

Since then the company has raised several million more from various investors. The ultimate aim is to have a collective of growers around the region utilising whānau land and contributing to a cannabis co-op.

For Caddie, creating legal employment opportunities in a region that is about 95 per cent Māori is about equity.

"Marijuana has been a bit of a commodity, income and/or benefit supplement in the region for a long time, and Māori have certainly been disproportionately negatively affected by prohibition, from police raids to incarceration," Caddie told the Herald. .

"Cannabis is one of the few opportunities in the last 100 years Māori have had to lead in a new industry. Now there are legitimate business opportunities, and there are lots of skills from that black market, and we are hoping to be able to support them into legitimate business.

"Internationally we are seeing investment bankers and people already with a lot of money getting into the industry early on and dominating it, so we are keen to offer an alternative for consumers and producers."

With an iwi population of 70,000 in New Zealand, and a further estimated 30,000 living overseas (mostly in Australia), if the right opportunities arise it can prove a real boon for the region.

"The aim is to be able to create more high-value income on the flats, such as cannabis, which could mean the hills could be left to revert to natives, such as mānuka, and in turn assist the mānuka honey business," Caddie says.

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