Regional | Health

Matakana Island joins the medicinal cannabis industry

Matakana Island could become the hub of the Aotearoa medicinal cannabis industry.

A whānau based on the Bay of Plenty isle of Tauranga is partnering with Medical company Equalis New Zealand, with the vision to provide medicinal cannabis products.

The partnership is aptly named Mahana Island Therapies.

Local kaumātua Hauata Paama says, “It's a new venture, a new industry to look into and new avenue that could be beneficial for all our people. It's an opportunity for us to show the world the medicinal properties of both Māori and Pākehā. This is why those of us from here have a vested interest.”

Mahana Island therapies is the idea of local resident Jason Murray and his partner Aimee Armstrong. Their unique business model not only includes medicinal cannabis but also rongoā Māori.

Manager Jason Murray says, “For us, it's about creating job diversity over here, that's really important. I mean we have created industries with blueberries and the honey side of things. We have a native nursery growing a whole raft of native plants and medical cannabis is part of that picture.”

Murray’s partner and lead grower Aimee Armstrong said, “The key to good health is reconnecting people with nature. It can only be good for our inner health and spiritual health. I guess we're unique because we're growing the plants outdoors so it's not in a test tube.”

However, there is pressure to breaking down stereotypes when it comes to medicinal cannabis.

“We understand some support this decision and some don't, but that's ok. The stigma around cannabis has changed, as there are so many opportunities now,” Paama says.

At the moment Mahana Island Therapies has a research license to grow medicinal marijuana. In autumn they may be granted a commercial license so that they can start planting.

“I've grown up at the marae. Doing what we do, and we bury a lot of our people at the marae who come through with all these diseases.

“I think a lot of these lives are cut short. In our minds if we had the ability to control our own medication over here than pharmaceutical drugs we think it provides longer life,” Murray concludes.

The medical side of the business is still developing and whilst they continue to build their infrastructure they hope to have their rongoā online in the next two years.