The island nation of New Zealand has never taken a very kind approach to marijuana, as evidenced by the military-supported drug raids New Zealand law enforcement agencies conduct every year over the country’s vast hinterlands. Under the 1975 Misuse of Drugs Act, possessing any amount of cannabis for any reason is illegal. There have been attempts to decriminalize it and even efforts to legalize medical marijuana. But all have failed to end the blanket prohibition on New Zealand weed.
With the rise to power of a progressive government coalition of Greens and the Labour Party, however, cannabis policy is beginning to change in New Zealand. The new governing coalition has vowed to move forward on a medical cannabis bill this year. And already, authorities have licensed the nation’s first medical cannabis cultivation center.
Industrial Hemp Facility To Get Medical Cannabis Makeover
In the tiny North Island town of Ruatoria in New Zealand, there’s a little-known medical cannabis research company. Hikurangi Cannabis, named after the rural settlement and formerly Hikurangi Hemp, has been operating a small industrial hemp grow to supply researchers with CBD. And now it’s getting a major makeover.
After winning a license to cultivate medical cannabis exclusively for research, Hikurangi began construction on a state-of-the-art greenhouse facility. The facility will sport high-tech grow equipment and testing labs in its 108,000 square-foot footprint. The construction and staffing could create as many as 120 jobs.
Interim chief executive Manu Caddie described the excitement of receiving the license and beginning work on what’s essentially an entirely new industry in New Zealand. “Being able to execute our business and community goal of building a pharmaceuticals industry at Ruatoria is a significant milestone for us all,” Caddie said.
Caddie hopes to have Ruatoria-grown, Hikurangi medical cannabis products on New Zealand dispensary shelves in a year. But for that to happen, the government will have to make good on its promise to legalize medical cannabis.
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Indeed, many expect the Green/Labour coalition to do exactly that. Greens were behind the attempt to legalize medical use in 2006 and they made drug policy reform a keystone of their platform in 2016. Furthermore, the government has the support of voters, and especially the rural residents of Ruatoria.
Caddie believes medical cannabis can revitalize the rural community’s struggling economy. Revenue from the industry could as much as double household incomes in the area, he said.
No wonder the Hikurangi enterprise has secured a significant amount of investment dollars from local residents. According to sources, Hikurangi Cannabis crowdfunded US$1.8 million from 1,500 local households. That kind of popular support has the power to move the needle on cannabis policy in New Zealand.
Compared to high production nations like Canada, however, the real economic potential for New Zealand likely isn’t production. But with a high-tech research facility, New Zealand could make up ground in terms of branding and intellectual property. As margins on cultivation businesses continue to shrink, those are two areas where the region could still thrive as a late-comer to the industry.