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Medical cannabis market rallies in New Zealand ahead of move to allow patient access

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Special report: Proposed liberalisation of medical cannabis in New Zealand has prompted a flurry of activity among industry players wanting to take advantage of a potentially lucrative new market.

New Zealand has been inching closer towards allowing cannabis use for medical reasons.

This presents the perfect opportunity for a number of ASX-listed companies to prepare for the moment the changes take effect.

While there is a legal pathway for people to obtain cannabis on prescription from a medical practitioner, access to affordable cannabis products remains problematic for New Zealanders.

The New Zealand Government introduced the Misuse of Drugs (Medical Cannabis) Amendment Bill into New Zealand Parliament last year. If the Bill is passed, it could permit people with a terminal illness and in chronic pain to access medical cannabis.

The Bill outlines the fact that most cannabis products produced internationally don’t meet the quality and efficacy requirements of therapeutic product regulators such as Medsafe (the NZ Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority).

Under the Bill, the ability to set and require minimum quality standards for cannabis products would improve patient safety and give medical practitioners confidence about the available products on the market.

Political and public interest has soared in this evolving industry in New Zealand, and the level of knowledge and awareness around the use of medical cannabis has evolved, making the passing of the Bill a real political possibility.

Broad support in New Zealand for medical cannabis

There is increasing support for expansion of the Bill to include pain relief as a substitute for problematic opioid therapy, a recent poll by the New Zealand Drug Foundation (NZDF) shows.

The poll found 87 per cent of New Zealanders support medical cannabis use for pain relief and 89 per cent support it for terminal pain relief.

Advocates of cannabis reform for the country say the poll results prove that laws are now out of touch with public opinion.

The poll is a sign that people are ready to vote for change in the cannabis referendum due to happen on or before the 2020 election, says NZDF executive director Ross Bell.

“This sends a strong message to MPs considering the government’s medical cannabis bill, which currently does not go far enough to improve access for a large group of patients.”

“There will be widespread disappointment if Parliament fails to listen,” Mr Bell says.

MediCann is a major player in the Kiwi market, with large-scale commercial medical cannabis production under way, and the sale and distribution of approved products in the pipeline, once legislative changes are passed.

The unlisted Kiwi cannabis play has been working with major Kiwi fruit growers to grow medical cannabis after they recognised the potential of cannabis as a new intensive horticulture industry.

MediCann also has recruited a group of influential medical experts across New Zealand, who are both financially and emotionally invested in the company’s success.

Changing sentiment

The changing sentiment in New Zealand has given Jayex Healthcare (ASX: JHL) a virtual springboard as it ploughs ahead with plans to commercialise its P2U electronic prescription processing and delivery service technology, and its BluePoint remote dispensing terminals, through licensing those technologies to medical cannabis producers for use in the sale and distribution of medical cannabis on the back of expected legislative changes.

Jayex recently sealed a deal with player MediCann NZ to license its BluePoint and P2U, technologies. The deal sees MediCann NZ granted the exclusive use and application of those technologies in New Zealand in connection with their proposed sale and distribution of medical cannabis products once the New Zealand legislation is passed.

The predicted changes in the New Zealand market comes after Canada legalised recreational cannabis from October 17 this year after final regulatory approvals were passed in June this year.

The use of marijuana to treat medical conditions also got a big boost in the US, with the recognition of 11 new medical conditionsfor cannabis treatment by the State of Michigan.

Medical cannabis is now permitted in 30 US States after Oklahoma legalised medical marijuana in June this year.

New research also shows that patients in the US will spend more money on legal cannabis than recreational pot smokers within four years.

Frost & Sullivan research predicts that total cannabis revenue in the US will grow at 13 per cent a year from $US5.3 billion today to $US10 billion in 2022.

The shifting regulatory landscape is likely to have a major impact on the plans of ASX-listed cannabis stocks, which is mostly focused on medical cannabis.

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Blaise Bratter
Blaise Bratter is the Chief Contributor to CannabisIntel. Being involved in the Australian cannabis industry since legalisation in 2016, he is now Operations Manager for ASX listed company MGC Pharmaceuticals.

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