Startup Helius Therapeutics has become the first Auckland-based startup to be issued a cannabis cultivation licence.

The Ministry of Health informed the firm last Friday that its application was successful.

Helius joins Waikato's Cannsouth and Ruatoria-based Hikurangi Cannabis in successfully acquiring the licence to breed strains of cannabis that could be used in medicines.

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This marks another important milestone for the company, which recently secured $15 million in investment from a small investment group led by Kiwi tech billionaire Guy Haddleton.

Helius co-founder Paul Manning said gaining the licence was the result of nearly a year's work and significant investment.

"Our licence allows us to shift up a gear, move into the next phase of development and
commence cultivating thousands of plants here in Auckland."

Helius plans to cultivate the plants across two large-scale grow sites and a nursery within its Auckland property.

Further to this objective, Helius also announced the acquisition of an additional 10,000sqm hydroponic greenhouse on an 8ha site in Kumeu, Auckland.

Earlier in October, Helius also announced that it had secured a sprawling facility in East Tamaki, which would serve as the base of its activities.

"Operating two sites and two very different grow environments provides us far greater scope and will ultimately allow us to optimise cultivation to suit our product strategy," said Manning.

The cannabis industry remains risky business at this stage as a cultivation licence only allows a recipient to grow the plant for research purposes rather than produce it for sale.

Manning has long acknowledged that he's operating a start-up business in a start-up industry, but says it's important to establish the foundations of the business now.

"We're an early mover and we plan to stay ahead of this nascent industry," he says.

Manning says early product development will target sleep disorders, anxiety, arthritis and chronic pain.

"We want to bring safe and effective products to market as soon as possible," he says.

Law changes permitting, Manning says he expects to be able to make products available to for sale both locally and abroad by mid-2020.