A Bay of Plenty medical cannabis firm has this week received what is said to be one of the country's first commercial licences.
Eqalis Pharmaceuticals Limited secured two Medsafe licences to grow cannabis in Katikati in November last year but was given the commercial licence this week.
Under the framework managed by the newly-created Medicinal Cannabis Agency, which monitors the production and distribution of medicinal cannabis, the commercial licence will allow Eqalis Pharmaceuticals to proceed with plans to develop a range of cannabis-based medicines for the New Zealand market.
Since the legalisation of medicinal cannabis in New Zealand in March this year, Eqalis Pharmaceuticals is one of only a handful of companies to meet the stringent requirements to hold a commercial licence.
Managing director Greg Misson is pleased with their progress to date.
"The path to market for medicinal cannabis is not a short one. We're thrilled to be on track with our development in what has been an extremely challenging year for many businesses."
While the commercial licence will allow Eqalis Pharmaceuticals to grow and manufacture medicinal products, they will still need to gain Good Manufacturing Practice certification and then put their products through clinical trials before they can supply the local market's growing demand for non-opioid pain relief.
That demand is currently only able to be served by imported medicinal cannabis, an expensive solution for the one in five New Zealanders struggling with chronic pain conditions.
But Misson said Eqalis Pharmaceuticals was mindful of the need to develop local solutions for the New Zealand market.
"We want to build a strong, sustainable industry in rural New Zealand. A pharmaceutical business that provides employment and works towards improving the health and wellbeing of all Kiwis," he said.
"Post-Covid, we can see that our dependence on foreign suppliers for critical medicines leaves us vulnerable in an economic or health crisis. Eqalis Pharmaceuticals is ideally placed to manufacture and supply affordable high-quality medicinal cannabis to not only meet the needs of patients but to also provide economic stability to our local region and the country."