Medicinal cannabis experts say the emerging industry in New Zealand is still being plagued by misinformed perception and over-regulation.
At the MedCan summit held in Auckland on Tuesday, experts said the industry could be worth over $1 billion here but red tape is holding them back.
“The opportunity in the medicine side is getting swayed by people’s perception of recreational drug use, and they’re completely different,” NZTech CEO Graham Muller said.
Muller said the perception problem was clear in the recreational cannabis referendum.
He believes many people still think all cannabis contains enough THC to get them high – but medicinal cannabis doesn’t.
“It’s very evident that over half of the population think cannabis is bad, and that flows over into the medicinal side of things,” he said.
It’s been seven months since New Zealand’s Medicinal Cannabis Scheme started where it was aimed at giving GPs a wider range of products to offer patients.
But patients say they’re too expensive, and some doctors who aren’t convinced about their efficacy just aren’t offering them.
“It’s just the whole process of having to go to that doctor for that prescription when many of the cannabinoids, not THC, like CBD, are available over the counter in other jurisdictions,” AbacusBio managing director Anna Campbell said.
She said there’s red-tape at every level and too many requirements for licences.
“For an industry in New Zealand to genuinely get moving, create revenue and create impact, they have a regulatory burden others just don’t have to overcome.”
There are already a number of manufacturers developing products in New Zealand. While there aren’t any Kiwi-made products available to GPs yet, that might not be far away.
“Medicinal cannabis producer like Helius are about 12 months now from bringing products to market, maybe a little less,” Helius CEO Paul Manning said.
That’s good news for an industry looking to make strides, but still battling with people’s perhaps dated perceptions.