The Ministry of Health (MOH) has granted new licenses to allow Waikato medicinal cannabis company Cannasouth to import and cultivate a wide range of cannabis cultivars for research purposes.
These licenses are in addition to Cannasouth’s other MOH-approved license to possess controlled drugs, which allows the company to extract, process, and manufacture cannabis products for scientific research. One of the new licenses allows Cannasouth to import an approved pharmaceutical ingredient (API) from the Netherlands - dried cannabis flower - for research purposes.
The latest license approvals are another milestone for the medicinal cannabis company, which announced in October last year of its intention to list its shares on the NZX Main Board through an initial public offering (IPO) in the second quarter of 2019, the first medicinal cannabis company in New Zealand to do so.
CEO Mark Lucas says having all three licenses is a significant step forward for Cannasouth’s medicinal cannabis research and will enable the company to speed up its research programmes ahead of proposed legislation changes that will allow the manufacture and sale of medicinal cannabis in New Zealand.
“By importing a wide variety of cultivars, along with the dried flower from the Netherlands, we can further investigate the potential of both high CBD and THC varieties,” says Lucas.
He says CBD and THC are the most well-known compounds in medicinal cannabis, with both shown to relieve suffering from a wide range of medical conditions.
“What is less known, is how both compounds can work together in different compositions to alleviate suffering, and how other rarer compounds present in medicinal cannabis can also be used in treating medical conditions.
“We’re now in a position where we can use the imported dried flower to get going with our research programmes while we wait for our own flower production to come through from our research cultivation facility.”
Lucas, alongside co-founder Nic Foreman, has been involved in the cultivation and research of industrial hemp, and now medicinal cannabis, since 2002 when they were granted one of New Zealand’s first cultivation licenses. In 2016 they received funding from AGMARDT and Callaghan Innovation to undertake research projects with the University of Waikato.
Cannasouth completed two rounds of capital investment raising in 2018 which was used to hire key staff and complete construction of cultivation and research facilities. Planning is now underway to establish GMP (good manufacturing practices) production facilities, in anticipation of legal sales of locally produced cannabis medicines in 2020.
Lucas says alongside an expanded team in-house, they have also added two new members to their advisory board - University of Waikato neuroscience researcher Associate Professor Brett Langley and Colorado, US-based medicinal cannabis company expert Zach Sufrin. They join an experienced business and science advisory board that includes Australia-based director and chair Tony Ho, former Federated Farmers CEO Conor English, and University of Waikato scientist Emeritus Professor Alistair Wilkins.
“We’re very excited to have Brett and Zach join our advisory board, both of whom have a wealth of experience and kudos in their fields of expertise, and we’re looking forward to working alongside them as we progress our research.”
Tim Preston of CM Partners, one of the seed funders of Cannasouth and NZX sponsor for its planned IPO, says Cannasouth’s new licenses and the completion of its cultivation and research facilities further positions the company as one of the industry leaders in medicinal cannabis research in New Zealand.
“Cannasouth is on track with its IPO plans, and we believe the company will be well received by investors given the transparency and rigor that accompanies a stock exchange listing,” says Preston.
“There is a lot of potential in the medicinal cannabis industry, and the IPO will be an opportunity for retail investors in New Zealand to be involved in an emerging growth sector that has a real focus on enhancing outcomes for patients suffering from a wide range of debilitating medical conditions.”
PICTURED ABOVE: Cannasouth's CEO, Mark Lucas