Bay of Plenty's favourable environment and climate are part of the reasons why a joint Australasian venture is investigating whether Tauranga could be the prime location for its next big thing. Reporter Kiri Gillespie investigates how such a project could impact the life of a woman living in chronic pain and whether experts consider medicinal cannabis the new wonder drug.
Aimee Harborne knows what chronic pain can be like.
The Ōtūmoetai solo mother lives with has Crohn's disease - a chronic inflammation of the bowel, which can cause diarrhoea, bleeding and excruciating abdominal pain.
Harborne was encouraged by Monday's announcement that an Australasian venture may base a cannabis research facility in Tauranga.
READ MORE: Medicinal cannabis venture eyes up Tauranga
Harborne said medicinal cannabis had the potential to help change her life.
"I'm on quite a few international support groups for Crohn's and in most countries, they do it as that - as medicine to help."
Medicinal cannabis is said to not just help relieve pain, but also aid anxiety, reduce inflammation and help sleep.
"I've got some pretty strong pain relief which has the same possible side effects, so what's the difference? It's natural, and it can help with more things. I'd take the tiniest amount of medicinal cannabis, compared to 20 pills."
Harborne said a research facility was the answer.
"If there's a chance it's going to benefit people like me or others, who have an illness, then why not?"
Dr Shaun Holt, a medical doctor and adjunct professor at Victoria University of Wellington, has spent years exploring the benefits and downfalls of medicinal cannabis. This year, Holt release a book titled Medical Cannabis: A Brief Guide for New Zealanders, where he spoke with people illegally using cannabis for ailments such as cancer and anxiety.
The Tauranga doctor said creating better access to medicinal cannabis was a good thing as there were already many using it illegally.
"They don't want to be [using illegally]. As well as the risk of prosecution, you don't know what you are getting. It's potentially harmful for a lot of people.
"I think where some people are uncomfortable with this is that it's very much trial and error and that doesn't fit in well with medical priorities."
British neurologist and Europe's pre-eminent medicinal cannabis expert, Professor Mike Barnes, said while there were benefits, the drug was not a cure-all.
Barnes visited New Zealand earlier this year to speak on the subject.
He told Newstalk ZB the issue had been polarised in the United Kingdom.
"Many doctors now are saying that every clinic I get to, there's people queuing up at the door waiting for cannabis. And it has been hyped up, and it's not a magic sort of potion."
Barnes said British doctors had been reluctant to prescribe medicinal cannabis because there were still many uncertainties around it.
"And the problem we've got is getting doctors actually to prescribe now within the law, and they're a bit reluctant, they don't know about cannabis, they don't know what to prescribe, what dose to give."
New medicinal cannabis facility touted for Tauranga
- A joint venture between Australian medicinal cannabis company Greenfield MC and Tauranga-based firm Wepiha Health.
- looks to hire 15 to 20 people, with potential for up to 250 jobs if legislation changes.
- looking to set up in Tauranga but is considering other locations.
- Tauranga's Dr Anna Rolleston is helping head the project as director of research.
- planning to be operational by September 2020.