Helius Therapeutics experienced a major security breach in 2020 when oils were taken from its Auckland factory by a member of staff without permission.

1 NEWS reports 12 grams of THC oil and five grams of CBD oil were taken, eventually returned and destroyed, with neither Helius nor the Medicinal Cannabis Agency (MCA) reporting the incident to the police.

The New Zealand medicinal cannabis company’s chairman Guy Haddleton said he had not been informed of the incident until September 2020, six months after it occurred.

Helius Therapeutics chairman Guy Haddleton: stunned by news of the security breach

He added: “I was absolutely shocked, absolutely stunned, my mouth was wide open. In September of last year, the executive chairman at the time came to me and said ‘you should be aware that there was a possibility of some missing product from the business’ and I asked when it happened, and he said ‘March’.”

Haddleton said he ordered an independent investigation by barrister Richard Marchant and several former police officers which found “minimal product had been taken off the premises, it had been returned voluntarily, before the investigation, and it had been fully accounted for”.

He said Marchant’s advice was that the matter did not have to be reported to the police.

“I fully explored reporting it to the police, the legal advice and the advice of former members of police was that you can come into the police station, you can report it, but as there’s nothing missing we’re not going to do anything.”

The Misuse of Drugs [Medicinal Cannabis] Regulations 2019 state medicinal cannabis companies must notify the police immediately, and then the Director-General of Health within three days, if there is any unauthorised removal of cannabis product.

The MCA told 1 NEWS that in December 2020 it was “voluntarily advised by a company, in accordance with the company’s licence”, that a small amount of product had been taken and that it was “satisfied with the responsiveness, and timeliness, of the actions of the company”.

It added: “Any obligation to report an unauthorised removal of medicinal cannabis to the police sits with the respective company. The MCA accepts that this company did not meet this requirement, nor the requirement to notify the MCA in a timely manner.”

Health Minister Andrew Little: comfortable with how the matter was handled

Health Minister Andrew Little said he was comfortable with how the matter had been handled.

“It’s pretty clear to me both the company and the authority conducted investigations, they’ve drawn their conclusions, that’s it as far as I’m concerned.”

Haddleton said the unauthorised removal of the cannabis product was accidental, but that the person responsible no longer works for the company. He refused to say whether the incident was linked to the sudden resignation of former chief executive Paul Manning in December. Manning told 1 NEWS he was bound by confidentiality and unable to comment.

Haddleton insisted Helius has made a number of changes to its Auckland facility in the wake of its own report and following advice from the MCA, and said its security is now as good as “Fort Knox”.

Last week, Helius was issued with a GMP (good manufacturing practice) licence by MedSafe to begin manufacturing locally made cannabis medicines for Kiwi patients.