Topic: Health

Ruatoria could be first to grow medicinal cannabis in NZ

By Talisa Kupenga
  • North Island: East Coast

Ruatoria is gearing up for its second season of hemp production, with the aim of finding a mother plant with specific medicinal characteristics. If the hard work pays off Hikurangi Enterprises could be granted the first license in New Zealand to grow cannabis for medicine.

Of 5000 plants, only one will make the cut.

Manu Caddie from Hikurangi Enterprises says, "We've got 15 growers working on the crop here and that's about 300 years combined growing experience between them.
"And we're hoping to find the one that's got the best profile."

A profile that could potentially lead to Ruatoria becoming the country's medicinal cannabis capital.

"Tairawhiti is well placed to be leading the medical cannabis industry in New Zealand. We're well advanced with our discussions with the Government and the Ministry of Health. Things are looking very positive for us being the first crop of medical cannabis in the country and getting the necessary licenses and going through the regulations," says Caddie.

Being granted a license is subject to the company first meeting strict government requirements for manufacturing medicines based on international standards.

"Eventually we will be growing indoors but at this stage, we are allowed to grow outdoors for medicines but for international and export markets we will probably have to grow in glass houses and controlled environments. We're hoping that individual whānau will be able to have their own glass house and grow their own crop which they supply to Hikurangi for putting into bottles and selling as a medicine."

As well as employment opportunities for whānau, Hikurangi Enterprises has teamed up with EIT Tairawhiti to provide a hemp growing course which already has 15 students.

Caddie says, "They're learning not just about the growing part of it but the business behind the industry that we're needing to develop."

Planting starts this weekend and local public investment opportunities will be open come the new year.