Two new medicinal cannabis facilities that are being planned for Nelson and Tasman could create as many as 200 new jobs, its proponent claims.

Nelson-based company Medical Kiwi is building the first facility in the South Island to cultivate cannabis for medicinal use.

The Government legalised medicinal cannabis in December 2018, and passed regulations that enabled the scheme in December 2019.

The medicinal cannabis scheme came into effect on April 1 2020, meaning New Zealanders can legally access cannabis-based products through a prescription from a doctor.

The company, chaired by former Nelson mayor Aldo Miccio, announced last year that it had been granted a cultivation licence by the Ministry of Health, and that a site had been found for a cultivation facility in Brightwater.

Plans to break the ground on the research and cultivation facility in Brightwater for mid-2020 have been pushed back though, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, Aldo says the company has been ‘extremely productive’ throughout lockdown and has been able to ‘pivot’ effectively.

“Covid has caused a few issues in terms of planning, as well as a bit of a delay with investors,” Aldo says.

Aldo says the time in isolation was used well by the company.

“It’s enabled us to get more done.”

While the Brightwater facility announced last year will still be built, construction is more likely to begin in early 2021 rather than mid-2020.

However, the company instead plans to create a smaller, additional cultivation facility in Nelson, which could be operational by December. Plans for the location are still being finalised.

“We are looking at retrofitting an existing building to satisfy orders with clients that have already been made.”

The Brightwater facility will still be going ahead, meaning that Medical Kiwi will be operating two facilities in the Nelson and Tasman region. Aldo says that Medical Kiwi hopes to break ground on the facility by March 2021.

He says the retrofit facility will create around 60 jobs this year, with this number jumping up to around 200 once the Brightwater facility is fully operational.

Aldo says that there will be a ‘huge market’ for medicinal cannabis in New Zealand.

“As the New Zealand industry becomes more sophisticated in developing products, and as GPs become more comfortable giving out prescriptions, the industry will grow.”

It will be a slow burn, but Aldo says that the industry will grow.

“There are so many benefits for patients, even just in terms of physical pain relief. Patients ultimately will drive demand.”

Aldo says that while this year’s recreational cannabis use referendum won’t directly impact medical cultivators like Medical Kiwi, if New Zealander’s vote ‘Yes’ on the recreational referendum, it will create more education around cannabis.

“It would help speed up the education process for the general public, for sure.”

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