Leave the experts to debate medicinal qualities of cannabis

peter dunne

By Peter Dunne, Chair, SETEK

The MedCan Summit represents a real opportunity to make the case for medicinal cannabis and step away from the debate to legalise recreational cannabis.

The new medicinal cannabis regulations have opened the door for hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders to obtain relief from many health ailments with non-addictive cannabis-based medicines, and we are all looking to play our role in this.

However, as we draw closer to the recreational cannabis referendum, we can expect to see the therapeutic benefits of cannabis promoted as part of the ‘pro’ debate. SETEK is indifferent to the outcome of the referendum. We believe the recreational market creates a distraction from the immense opportunities presented by medicinal cannabis.

Unfortunately, it is poorly understood by the public that smoking or ingesting cannabis will consistently deliver the therapeutic benefits that can be provided by cannabis-based medicinal products from a well-regulated, quality-controlled industry.

SETEK is pleased that the government has introduced a robust regulatory regime. Delivering effective medicinal products is not a simple process, and the path to commercialisation is costly. Success requires clear focus and the ability to work with people and organisations who have the knowhow to identify promising compounds. Products then need to be developed, clinically tested and quality-controlled to the point that doctors can safely and legally recommend them to patients.

This is a far cry from the picture painted by recreational advocates, which shows sufferers being able to seek relief through growing their own at home or buying it at a shop down the road. As Patrick Gower’s TV3 documentary demonstrated, legalisation of recreational cannabis could create countless business opportunities and revenue sources. Look no further than the domestic alcohol industry to consider the possibilities of the recreational cannabis market.

Such a prospect poses important questions ranging from availability to minors through to issues as prosaic as distribution and traffic regulations. But these issues are far removed from understanding what is needed to create a vibrant domestic medicinal cannabis sector and – more to the point – risk taking the focus away from what is important to our fledgling industry.

The two debates deserve to stand apart.

Peter Dunne is Chair of Medicinal Cannabis company SETEK as well as a former Associate Minister of Health. SETEK is a gold sponsor of MedCan Summit 2020.