A medical cannabis company has secured two sites in Marlborough, with plans to start commercial cultivation as soon as the “law allows”.
Puro director Sank Macfarlane said the company intended to grow medicinal cannabis in greenhouses in the Waihopai Valley and high-CBD (cannabidiol) hemp in Kekerengu, on the coast between Blenheim and Kaikōura.
The 9-hectare Waihopai Valley site, part of an existing cherry orchard, was earmarked for the company’s headquarters. The company had the option of extending this to 33ha.
Macfarlane said Puro had secured a licence from the Ministry of Health for medicinal cannabis at the Waihopai Valley site. The licence would be for research purposes only, until the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme came into effect, likely early next year, allowing for commercial cultivation.
The second site was 25 hectares in Kekerengu, across State Highway 1 from The Store, also owned by Macfarlane. The company expected its licence to grow high-CBD hemp outdoors “any day now”.
The company believed the sites had the capacity to become the country’s largest grower of medical cannabis and hemp. Macfarlane said Marlborough’s climate made it ideal for cultivation of the plant.
Expert botanists had identified the sites for their high levels of sunshine, similar to the Californian climate.
“Essentially it’s the long sunshine hours in Marlborough and the high UV ratings which make it a great place to grow it,” Macfarlane said.
“It will mean that our yields will be higher and our returns greater. We see medicinal cannabis as being the region’s next sauvignon blanc.”
A PledgeMe campaign, launched on November 6, hoped to raise $4 million towards developing and securing the research and growing facilities.
The Ministry of Health sought public consultation on the medicinal cannabis debate earlier this year, and planned to make regulations by mid-December. The Medicinal Cannabis Scheme was expected to be operational in the first quarter of 2020.
The country was also set for a cannabis referendum, for recreational use, held alongside the 2020 election.
Last month Nelson-based business Medical Kiwi signed an exclusive deal with UK distributors Liberty Herbal Technologies Ltd in preparation for a medical cannabis facility in Brightwater in late 2020.
Ahead of the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme, Puro already had interest from New Zealand and Australian pharmaceutical companies that would buy their product, Macfarlane said.
“It’s pretty exciting being at the frontier of medicine, it’s a pretty exciting place to be in,” Macfarlane said.
“There’s a lot of unknowns and uncertainties, but it’s fast becoming one of the fastest growing industries in the world.
“PledgeMe is giving New Zealand people the opportunity to partake.”
Based on their growth assumptions, investors could expect a 34 per cent return on investment in the second full year of production, he said.
Puro’s cultivation director Tom Forrest would be presenting on medicinal cannabis at Garden Marlborough on Thursday.