The Latest on Medicinal Cannabis – New Zealand’s Newest Industry

The Latest on Medicinal Cannabis – New Zealand’s Newest Industry

Recent articles focusing on the legal sector's role in the implementation of the new legislation have focused the conversation on the shortfalls or the questions that still need to be answered regarding the law and the regulations that are yet to be announced.

Public consultation on the issue closed on 7 August 2019 and it is expected the regulations will be released in December 2019, becoming operational in the first quarter of 2020. The Ministry of Health anticipates that the Scheme will operate to:

  • “enable the commercial cultivation of medicinal cannabis and the manufacture of medicinal cannabis products in New Zealand; and
  • set standards for medicinal cannabis products so that medical practitioners can prescribe them with more confidence.

A regulatory system, with controls on the cultivation of cannabis and the manufacture and supply of medicinal cannabis products, is needed to support the Scheme.”

Regardless of the specifics of the regulations, it is expected there will be a number of hoops that businesses will need to jump through in order to operate legally within the new industry. This will include things such as licensing, clinical trials, medicine and medical device approvals required by Medsafe and medicine advertising requirements. It is believed that there are a handful of companies currently competing to become primary players in the lucrative market as well as foreign companies from jurisdictions where cannabis is legal, looking to expand.

Considering the amount of money it is estimated could be made from medicinal cannabis ($300 million in New Zealand alone), it's no wonder the issue has become a hot topic.  Helius Therapeutics, perhaps New Zealand's best-known medicinal cannabis company, has been drumming up support and advertising since the initial legislation came into effect at the end of 2018.

There has been some criticism levelled at the new legislation as it could cater specifically to large corporates if the government forces medicinal cannabis into a pharmaceutical model, which may leave current growers and people who have developed expertise illegally, unable to compete. 

The “green fairies” and other entities focussed on community well-being may become a victim of the legal progress they have encouraged. This has been evident overseas where the large corporate companies have acquired the smaller community focused growers, effectively creating a partial monopoly on the industry. 

It certainly will be interesting to see the direction the regulations take and the specific regulations the government chooses to impose on the industry. Turner Hopkins will be able to assist businesses navigate the new requirements and provide advice around the regulatory framework and legislation.

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