Medicinal cannabis firm Helius Therapeutics is calling on New Zealanders secretly growing unique strains of marijuana to come out of the shadows.
The company, one of only three licensed cannabis producers in New Zealand, aims to enter into commercial deals that will see Kiwi strains of medicinal marijuana taken to the international market.
Yesterday, the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill passed its second reading and the Government announced that licensed producers will be allowed to onboard illicit cannabis strains already being grown in the country.
Helius Therapeutics executive director Paul Manning said this amnesty programme provides access to "a potential treasure trove of therapeutic compounds", which rivals the best in the world.
"With unique New Zealand strains, we will now have the opportunity to further differentiate ourselves from imported products," Manning says.
"What's more, the export market for medicinal cannabis is worth billions to the economy and we know that authentic New Zealand products will be in high demand."
Manning says Helius has developed a commercial programme that will see breeders recognised and their unique strains protected.
"Owners will receive an upfront genetics fee and the opportunity of ongoing royalties for strains that are adopted. We'll cover the costs of characterising local strains, which will be done in our analytical laboratory," says Manning.
Helius Therapeutics has set up a section of its website specifically dedicated to growers who are eager to bring forward their strains of the plant.
Yesterday's announcement from the Government comes only a week after Helius Therapeutics acquired Buy NZ Made certification, which gives the business permission to put the "NZ Made" or "NZ Grown" badge on any cannabis products derived from plants grown in New Zealand.
Manning has until now been critical of the Government for moving too slowly with legal changes, but he says this is a move in the right direction.
"We've finally seen a significant step towards what could become a world-class medicinal cannabis scheme."