BiotechNZ has announced New Zealand's first medicinal cannabis summit, timed to coincide with the launch of the country's regulated market next year.

Scheduled for March 19, 2020, the MedCan 2020 event will be hosted at the SkyCity Convention Centre and feature some of the biggest global names in medicinal cannabis.

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The event is being organised by non-government organisation BioTechNZ, which is working alongside government agencies, universities, research institutes and local businesses to bring it to life.


A summit advisory and event governance group has also been established which includes representatives from MBIE and Callaghan Innovation.

Executive director of BioTechNZ Dr Zahra Champion said the purpose of the event is to ensure New Zealand's medicinal cannabis industry "thrives from the outset".

"Medicinal cannabis is attracting major investment in New Zealand and will create new skills, so knowledge and collaboration are critical," Champion said.

"Cannabis-based medicines have extraordinary potential to improve people's quality of life, as well as fuel economic growth, and contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to the country's export earnings."

Champion says the convention will have a strong educational leaning, with the aim to give New Zealanders and healthcare professionals as much information as possible on the industry.

The event has already garnered support from the fledgling cannabis business community, with Helius Therapeutics putting $250,000 towards bringing it to life.

"MedCan 2020 will not only be a catalyst for New Zealand's burgeoning industry, but a truly exciting and educational event for everyone," said Helius Therapeutics chief executive officer Paul Manning.

"Globally, I believe New Zealand will become a centre of excellence for medicinal cannabis innovation. MedCan 2020 will help launch and inspire this."


The announcement of the event comes at a time when cannabis is highly topical, with journalist Paddy Gower's cannabis documentary airing this week.

Speaking to media about his film, Gower said his aim was to lift the standard of the debate and fill the vacuum currently being filled by those opposed to cannabis.

This is a common theme that has appeared with the emergence of the cannabis sector in New Zealand, with many business people in the industry saying it is important to not only educate the public but also doctors who will be prescribing the product.

Manning said he hoped this conference could play a role in not only setting a higher standard of debate as soon as the legislation came into effect, but also giving an insight into the business potential that will come from developing a thriving industry.