Changes to the way cannabis is classified by the United Nations will open up new export opportunities, says Hikurangi Cannabis Company chief executive Manu Caddie.
While in Bangkok, Mr Caddie met with companies interested in developing health products derived from cannabis grown by Hikurangi.
A copy of a report on cannabis recommendations made by the World Health Organisation Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) was given to Hikurangi Cannabis Company.
Recommendations in the report mean controls on cannabis in international drug conventions would be less restrictive, said Caddie.
Products containing cannabidiol, but no more than 0.2 per cent of the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), would no longer be included in international drug control conventions.
Pharmaceutical preparations that contain THC, if they follow certain criteria, would be added to Schedule III of the 1961 Convention.
This would recognise the unlikelihood of abuse.
The report recommendations are exciting and have positive implications for the New Zealand cannabis industry, said Caddie.
"It is pleasing to see the WHO review the evidence for cannabis and acknowledge it never should have been classified in the same category as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines.
"Unfortunately the classification of cannabis in the 1961 UN Convention resulted in prohibition as the default policy of most countries and some will resist change
"Meanwhile, the failed war on drugs is proven to cause real harm. New Zealand and other sensible countries are moving to a well-regulated regime focused on health and based on actual evidence."
Caddie was at the UN in December when the ECDD was expected to release its report.
The Commission on Narcotic Drugs is expected to consider rescheduling cannabis in March 2019 at its annual meeting of government ministers.
The delay in receiving the ECDD recommendations might push that consideration into 2020 to provide more time for member states to review them.
What the report says
Cannabis is included in Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.
Substances in this schedule are particularly liable to abuse, produce ill-effects and have little or no therapeutic use such as fentanyl, heroin and other opioids that are considered especially dangerous.
The report says, "Use of all these substances is associated with a significant risk of death, whereas cannabis use is not associated with such risk."
The report, based on more than two years of global experts' review of all reliable research, says the evidence presented to the committee did not indicate cannabis was particularly liable to produce ill-effects similar to the effects of the other substances in Schedule IV.
"In addition, preparations of cannabis have shown therapeutic potential for treatment of pain and other medical conditions such as epilepsy and spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis.
"In line with the above, cannabis and cannabis resin should be scheduled at a level of control that will prevent harm caused by cannabis use and at the same time will not act as a barrier to access and to research and development of cannabis-related preparation for medical use."
The committee also recommended a footnote be added to Schedule I of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs to read: "Preparations containing predominantly cannabidiol and not more than 0.2 percent of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol are not under international control."
The report also recommends that controls on THC medicines are relaxed because "evidence concerning the use of these delta-9-THC containing medicines is that they are not associated with problems of abuse and dependence and they are not diverted for the purpose of non-medical use".