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NZ slow to grab slice of the lucrative global legal cannabis market

NZ will miss out on billions of dollars of exports in the fast-growing global legal cannabis industry, BiotechNZ executive director Dr Zahra Champion says.

The global legal marijuana market size is expected to reach $US 66.3 billion within six years, according to a new report by Grand View Research.

Dr Champion says there is a huge opportunity for New Zealand with exports, leveraging off the country’s plant genetic natural varieties, research expertise, New Zealand’s brand and linked to highly regarded Kiwi clinical research expertise.

“Australia is moving so quickly compared to New Zealand. The Australian federal government has announced full support for the cannabis industry and has already issued 69 licences to cultivate, produce and manufacture cannabis for the market,” she says.

“Illinois has just become the 11th US state to legalise recreational cannabis. Businesses already licensed under Illinois’s medical cannabis pilot programme have a head start.

“In New Zealand the Ministry of Health has opened public consultation on the proposals for the medicinal cannabis regulations. Public consultation ran until August 7 with the regulations to be finalised by December 18.

“Ministry officials expect the scheme to be operational by the end of March 2020, meanwhile, the global demand for cannabis, medical and recreational, is predicted to grow consistently at a growth rate of at least 17 to 23 percent a year.

“These are only estimates, as pharmaceutical cannabis production is an entirely new market in nearly every country embracing the lucrative industry.

“Medical cannabis growth rates will also be influenced by heavily regulated production processes, which are subject to changes and potentially long processing times for farming, manufacturing, selling licences,” Dr Champion says.

Once an illegal and somewhat niche product, legal cannabis is now a fast-growing market in many countries in the world. And it’s proving to be disruptive, impacting everything from beverage production to home construction.

The future of medicinal cannabis in New Zealand is a huge opportunity to create a potential new exciting sector and it can bring in investment and create new skills, she says.

“We need to cultivate and produce high quality pharmaceutical grade cannabis. However, we need to ensure that the products are not over regulated as they are botanicals and have a different safety profile to a synthetic compound.   Over regulation will unnecessarily increase costs for patients in need.

“Consumers are demanding natural safe products. People want to know that their product has what it says in it, that the dose is accurate, that it is backed by science and that they can take it in different forms as smoking cannabis is not really an acceptable method of consumption for a health product.”

For further information contact Make Lemonade editor-in-chief Kip Brook on 0275 030188

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