Video | Agriculture | Confidence | Economy | Energy | Employment | Finance | Media | Property | RBNZ | Science | SOEs | Tax | Technology | Telecoms | Tourism | Transport | Search


Medicinal Cannabis Scheme takes effect, despite Covid-19

Medicinal Cannabis Scheme takes effect, despite Covid-19

By Paul Manning

Paul Manning

Given the extraordinary circumstances that Covid-19 presents, it admirable the Ministry of Health has forged ahead with the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme, which came into effect as planned on 1 April.

Since the final regulations were announced late last year, the Ministry has been working closely with the country’s newest industry. Officials have been keen to ensure research and development licence-holders are well equipped to take the next steps. These include applying for the likes of commercial cultivation and manufacturing licences, so Kiwi companies like Helius can shift into production.

Despite the impacts of Covid-19, the Medicinal Cannabis Agency has delivered the Scheme’s guidance and licensing material. Applications are now underway and expected to attract plenty of interest from businesses big and small.

The new agency expects it will take a minimum of three months, possibly longer, for them to assess, inspect, and grant applications.

Covid-19 has disrupted the country’s first medicinal cannabis conference, MedCan Summit 2020, although we’re optimistic it will take place later this year. The two-day SkyCity event was almost a complete sell-out, but it had to be postponed last month. As foundation sponsor, we’ve since committed further funding to ensure BiotechNZ can still host the summit, with a new date soon to be announced.

After years of anticipation, the Scheme’s 1 April commencement kicked off rather quietly. Nonetheless, it marks a significant new dawn for medicinal cannabis in New Zealand. A staggering number of suffering Kiwis, including 740,000 living with chronic pain, will potentially benefit from greater access to more affordable medicinal cannabis products.

As well as legalising local cultivation and manufacturing to increase supply and continuity of products, the Scheme will enable significant economic and exporting opportunities, with new GDP-adding industries like ours more important than ever before.

The scheme also imposes GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) standards which will ensure quality and consistency of cannabinoid-based medicines, giving more medical practitioners the confidence to prescribe and only further enhancing patient access.

Just on that, the Ministry of Health deserves to be commended for its work on finetuning its draft regulations last year. One key aspect Helius strongly advocated for was giving all GPs the professional discretion to prescribe medicinal cannabis, without specialist sign-off. In the end the Ministry agreed, and that’s great news for patients.

Currently, only CBD products and Sativex may be prescribed to patients without approval from the Minister of Health. The range of medicinal cannabis products available for patients will increase over time, including options with THC, as local medicinal cannabis producers, like Helius, enter the market. New products must be assessed by the agency and meet quality standards.

With building disruptions across the industry, new locally-made cannabis products are unlikely to appear in 2020. For Helius, it's a marathon not a sprint, with our strategy focused on developing novel medicinal cannabis preparations and taking products through clinical trials.

In the meantime, foreign medicinal cannabis products will increasingly be imported, with overseas brands already claiming first-mover advantage in New Zealand. In fact, there are several products now available here – none of them local.

International players will continue to benefit in the short-term over local manufacturers. While we can expect more to apply to sell their products here, few are capable of meeting New Zealand’s quality standards. Another reality is that in recent months the world’s largest cannabis firms have had to endure a significant market correction, forcing many to retrench.

The delays associated with Covid-19 will undoubtedly dampen FY20/21 financial results from the nascent industry, but as New Zealand’s largest medicinal cannabis company we’re uniquely positioned to weather the storm. Late last year, we raised a further $20 million in capital taking our market capitalisation to $105 million. All our investors are Kiwis and share our vision of unlocking the extraordinary potential of cannabis to improve quality of life.

Despite any challenges or frustrations for New Zealand’s medicinal cannabis industry, we’re not losing sight of our fundamental belief that every New Zealander deserves the right to a pain-free existence.

It is the needless suffering of thousands of Kiwis that saw the public and our Parliament support greater access to medicinal cannabis in 2018. Those same patients, and their families, continue to motivate us to deliver world-class New Zealand-made cannabis medicines, as soon as we possibly can.

Paul Manning is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive of Helius Therapeutics.

© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


Motor Industry Association: 2020 New Vehicle Registrations Suffer From Covid-19

Chief Executive David Crawford says that like some other sectors of the New Zealand economy, the new vehicle sector suffered from a case of Covid-19. Confirmed figures for December 2020 show registrations of 8,383 were 25% ... More>>

CTU 2021 Work Life Survey: COVID And Bullying Hit Workplaces Hard, Huge Support For Increased Sick Leave

New data from the CTU’s annual work life survey shows a snapshot of working people’s experiences and outlook heading out of 2020 and into the new year. Concerningly 42% of respondents cite workplace bullying as an issue in their workplace - a number ... More>>

Smelter: Tiwai Deal Gives Time For Managed Transition

Today’s deal between Meridian and Rio Tinto for the Tiwai smelter to remain open another four years provides time for a managed transition for Southland. “The deal provides welcome certainty to the Southland community by protecting jobs and incomes as the region plans for the future. The Government is committed to working on a managed transition with the local community,” Grant Robertson said. More>>


OECD: Area Employment Rate Rose By 1.9 Percentage Points In The Third Quarter Of 2020

OECD area employment rate rose by 1.9 percentage points in the third quarter of 2020, but remained 2.5 percentage points below its pre-pandemic level The OECD area [1] employment rate – the share of the working-age population with jobs – rose ... More>>

Economy: Strong Job Ad Performance In Quarter Four

SEEK Quarterly Employment Report data shows a positive q/q performance with a 19% national growth in jobs advertised during Q4 2020, which includes October, November and December. Comparing quarter 4, 2020, with the same quarter in 2019 shows that job ad volumes are 7% lower...More>>

NIWA: 2020 - NZ’s 7th-warmest Year On Record

The nationwide average temperature for 2020, calculated using stations in NIWA’s seven-station temperature series which began in 1909, was 13.24°C (0.63°C above the 1981–2010 annual average). New Zealand’s hottest year on record remains 2016, when... More>>

Quotable Value New Zealand: Property Market Set To Cool From Sizzling To Warm In 2021

Nostradamus himself could not have predicted the strange series of events that befell our world in 2020 – nor the wild trajectory of New Zealand’s property market, which has gone from “doom and gloom” to “boom and Zoom” in record time. Even ... More>>