New Zealand’s agriculture minister Damien O’Connor has announced financial backing for a research and development program to help accelerate the country’s medicinal cannabis industry and boost exports.

The Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund (SFF Futures) is contributing nearly NZ$760,000 to the $1.9 million, three-year program led by project partner Greenlab, which aims to establish evidence-based medicinal cannabis cultivation practices.

New Zealand agriculture minister Damien O’Connor

O’Connor said: “New Zealand’s primary industry is built on excellence in applied science. This investment will see Greenlab’s researchers carrying out rigorous trials and lab testing… to ensure a consistently high-quality and effective pharmaceutical product.

“As medicinal cannabis has only been legal in New Zealand since 2020, there is a lack of available scientific information about how to best cultivate therapeutically active compounds.”

Greenlab aims to generate standard cultivation protocols for a range of New Zealand genetics with the optimised pharmaceutical compounds required by doctors and patients.

“The aim is to establish sustainable and efficient New Zealand-based medical cultivation practices — with the end goal of sharing the findings with other licensed Kiwi growers,” said O’Connor.

“This funding will ensure these growers have access to essential industry knowledge and insights much further and faster than would have otherwise been possible.”

There are currently 37 medicinal cannabis cultivation licences issued by the Ministry of Health.

O’Connor added: “Less than 50 hectares is currently planted in medicinal cannabis and the domestic market is supplied almost completely by imports, at around 1,800 prescriptions per month.”

“A successful medicinal cannabis industry will earn significant export revenue, provide jobs, and produce locally grown pharmaceutical options for patients.”

Earlier this month, New Zealand cannabis firms called for an urgent review of its new Medicinal Cannabis Scheme as minimum quality standards started to bite.

SFF Futures is administered by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Prior to launching Cannabiz, Martin was co-founder and CEO of Asia-Pac’s leading B2B media and marketing information brand Mumbrella, overseeing its sale to Diversified Communications in 2017. A journalist...