East Coast locals welcome medicinal cannabis license

By Talisa Kupenga

East Coast locals are welcoming news a Ruatorea based company has the green light to grow medicinal cannabis. Hikurangi Cannabis Co-Founder Panapa Ehau is already looking to further build the initiative.

Panapa Ehau’s green thumb can now breed cannabis strains that could be used in medicines as early as next year.

"We've got clinical trials set up so they're just waiting for those to begin and the first range of ailments that we'll be looking at will be spasm conditions like Alzheimer’s and the like."

The company will get cultivars to breed for specific characteristics. They will be grown, tested and from there medicinal samples will be made.

Ehau says, “They'll then go through to trial and then we will grow them through to crop stage and then go to market.”

Reihana Tipoki (Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau a Tūwhakairiora) says, "They've got the green thumb to grow it. It will create jobs. It will generate revenue for the iwi and local businesses. It's great."

Katerina Montague (Ngāti Porou) says, "I was against it at first but if it's to help people who are feeling a bit mamae or to help them medically, things like that then that's fine."

Ehau says company forecasts show up to 120 jobs could be created in the next two years.

"We'll look to employ those from back home who have the skills - that is skills-based first. Then look at bringing our own people home that want to come home and where we can't fill those positions we'll use the expertise that we need from wherever we can to make sure the business is successful."

But Ruatorea is a rural area with a population of around 750, accommodation could be scarce for these employees.

"We're looking to build new housing, there will be servicing jobs, so there could be anywhere from 120 to a couple of hundred jobs just to service that one company, the activities of the company,  and that's looking at doubling the income in the community itself,” says Ehau.

The company sought funding prior from the Government's Provincial Growth fund but was denied because it had no license. Now that it does it will reapply, seeking a sum of around $4-million to add to the $8-million it already has.

The government introduced a medicinal cannabis bill to Parliament in December 2017.