The Green Economy would rock

And no, I don’t mean wind turbines and solar panels, I mean hemp and cannabis.

New Zealand should grow medicinal cannabis because of its potentially good returns, a Massey University scientist says.

Dr Mike Nichols, who has also researched hemp growing, said New Zealand risked losing out on a profitable industry, in the same way it once turned down the chance to grow poppies for legal codeine and morphine.

Even though New Zealand scientist Ralph Ballinger was the world’s lead researcher into poppy growing in the 1950s, his work never resulted in an industry.

Instead, Tasmania now supplies 40 per cent of the world’s legal codeine and morphine, earning more than $200 million a year for the state.

Just why the decision was made to discontinue the work is uncertain. Nichols blames “political” forces.

“The frustrating bit is he [Ballinger] was in the same rest home as my brother and sister-in-law in Blenheim and when I used to go over to see him I never asked him the hard questions,” Nichols says.

Ballinger died last year at the age of 99.

Nichols says he does not see a lot of economic value in hemp growing, but he believes New Zealand’s horticulture innovation and technology would give it a? competitive advantage when it comes to medicinal cannabis.

And gram for gram, cannabis would outdo most exports.

It may even be better than milk as an export product. There is certainly a growing legal market for the products.


In the meantime Australia and other countries are already stealing a march on New Zealand with their work.

Wealthy Australian couple Joy and Barry Lambert recently donated $36.3 million to fund medicinal cannabis research at Sydney University.

Nichols said there were two methods of growing it: either in a totally controlled plant factory or a greenhouse.

“Factories seem to be the way things are going because you don’t want to use pesticides on it [cannabis], therefore you have to keep bugs out, and you’re more likely to do that in an enclosed system where air is filtered in.”

He is soon to visit Ontario, Canada, where producer Aphria is growing medicinal cannabis in? a greenhouse.

Nichols said Aphria’s 12 varieties sell for about $9 a gram, or half the price of illegal cannabis in New Zealand.

As with poppy growing, no research can be carried out in New Zealand on cannabis without government approval.

Under current legislation this approval is wanting.

This is why there are so few studies into cannabis in the US, and anywhere else. You can’t study that which is illegal. Almost everything introduced into this country grows really well: gorse, broom, blackberry, possums, rabbits, deer etc. Perhaps we should look at growing cannabis and exporting that….we’d quickly become world leaders.

Regarding the view that medicinal cannabis will open the door to recreational cannabis, Nichols says the same could be said about any drugs. Some people become addicted to painkillers which are freely available.

Besides ameliorating childhood epilepsy and being an effective painkiller for other ailments, cannabis is a far safer drug than alcohol, he says.

“In New Zealand the producers and purveyors of alcohol may receive knighthoods, while the equivalent cannabis suppliers may receive a prison sentence.”

Cannabis as a gateway drug is rubbish. By legitimising cannabis, and removing control of the product from gangs it would take away the money from criminals and improve the economy.


– Fairfax