A former politician turned cannabis company chairman is calling on the Government to act quickly when it comes to medicinal cannabis.
Peter Dunne, who after a long political career now serves as the chair of medicinal cannabis firm Setek, wants to see the establishment of a new agency responsible for overseeing the domestic medicinal cannabis industry.
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His comments come in the lead up to the Government's announcement of the final regulations set to govern the medicinal cannabis industry in New Zealand.
These regulations will for the first time open the door to medicinal cannabis companies commercialising products that they have developed.
Under the existing licensing scheme, businesses are largely limited to research and are not permitted to sell locally or export their products.
This has left New Zealand's fledgeling cannabis companies burning through money as they wait for the new laws to come into effect. This has also seen New Zealand losing ground on international competitors.
Dunne says he expects the regulatory announcement to be made on Wednesday this week, with a view toward implementation in the first quarter of 2020.
He says that while the regulations might provide clarity on what can and can't be done, the rules will only prove effective if they can be put into practice. If not, they will simply lead to further bureaucratic delays for the businesses involved.
Dunne wants to see the Government create and appropriately fund an agency responsible for processing cannabis licences and ensuring that the highest standards are maintained in the local market. And he wants to see this done sooner rather than later.
He says that if such an agency isn't established quickly, it could delay local businesses from getting their products to market.
"We remind the government that the longer it takes to bring products to market, the longer New Zealanders will be deprived of access to naturally produced low-cost relief," Dunne said.
Dunne's firm, Setek, is working on producing cannabis-derived medicines for patients suffering from sleep-onset insomnia and chronic pain associated with arthritis.
"With a reported 230,000 Kiwis prescribed drugs for sleep disorders in 2018, and an
estimated 700,000 kiwis suffering from arthritis, there is a strong and growing demand for cannabis-based alternatives to mainstream drugs, which can be addictive and cause
unwanted side effects," he said.
SETEK recently secured a 26-hectare site in Taupo to build its horticultural research, development and manufacturing facility.
Dunne says Setek has no intention to pursue business on the recreational side and is at this stage focusing on producing pharmaceuticals.
Recreational cannabis legalisation remains a few steps behind the medicinal side and is subject to a referendum at next year's general election.
Dunne did, however, leave the door open to Setek potentially developing therapeutic products or cosmetics in the future should regulation allow for such products.