Another Bay of Plenty company has been given the green light to grow medicinal cannabis in the region - this time on Matakana Island. Zoe Hunter reports.
Medicinal cannabis can now be legally grown on Matakana Island.
Jason Murray and Aimee Armstrong of Mahana Island Therapies have received a licence to grow medicinal cannabis on the island for research purposes.
The news comes after Katikati-based firm Eqalis Research secured what were believed to be the first two Medsafe licences granted to grow cannabis in the Bay of Plenty last month.
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Mahana Island Therapies will work in partnership with Eqalis with the aim of developing a business model largely centred on tikanga Māori values.
Murray and Armstrong intend to grow and manufacture premium healing products using Rongoā (traditional Māori medicine) concepts to help Kiwis suffering from chronic illness and pain.
"We see this as our chance to achieve real gains for our people, a way to use our ancestral land effectively to provide meaningful employment opportunities for our rangatahi and grow the health of our island community," Murray said.
The pair has previously worked with island whānau Ngā Whenua Rahui, the Department of Conservation and local councils to develop a native plant nursery on Matakana and have replanted large areas of wetlands and swamps.
Murray has a background in biochemistry and marine biology, while Armstrong has a degree in Māori development and geography.
"Our products are the perfect mix of our past, present and future," said Murray.
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"By combining our matauranga [knowledge] along with high-level science, we are creating a new pathway for our people, sharing the knowledge with future generations and fulfilling our role as kaitiaki of our land."
Murray said information on how big the growing operation would be was commercially sensitive but said both CBD and THC-based varieties for medical use would be grown.
Four tonnes of dried flower was hoped to be grown on a yearly basis, he said.
Eqalis managing director Greg Misson said the partnership was a natural fit after recognising the importance of working with people whose values, goals and motivations aligned with theirs.
"Both Eqalis and Mahana Island Therapies are positioned to bring a comprehensive range of high-quality plant-based healing products to the huge numbers of Kiwis currently struggling with pain in our communities," he said.
Ngai Te Rangi chief executive Paora Stanley said the licence to grow medicinal cannabis on Matakana Island was "a good thing".
"Anything that brings employment to a place that doesn't have a lot of employment is good as long as it is a legal business doing all the right things," he said.
"It is [also] teaching people a different type of skill."
Stanley applauded Murray and Armstrong's tikanga Māori business model.
"Some of the best growers have been people who have come from organic growing industries. They are people who care about the environment," he said.
Tauranga Moana iwi leader Buddy Mikaere said there was a growing interest among Māori in the horticulture sector in general.
"This is another horticulture venture they [Maori] are trying as a beneficial way of using their land," he said.
The Government is currently drafting regulations for the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme, with regulations expected to be in place today.
The Scheme, which will become operational in the first quarter of 2020, will include a licensing regime for the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal use, the manufacture and supply of medicinal cannabis products, and provision for assessment of products against quality standards.
• 20 licences have been issued to cultivate cannabis for scientific or medical research purposes as of December 6, 2019.
• All licenses are generally issued for a one-year period.
• The Ministry of Health has received 102 applications as of December 6.
• 25 applications are currently being considered, while the remainder were either unable to be considered or have been declined or withdrawn.
Regarding licences to suppliers of medicinal cannabis products, the Ministry has issued:
• Licence to sell Medicines by Wholesale (for CBD products only) active: 23 licences
• Licence to Deal in Controlled drugs (for products with THC or THC/CBD) active: 17
These numbers are indicative only of active licences, not that sales are actively occurring.
Source: Medsafe - Figures obtained by the Bay of Plenty Times under the Official Information Act