You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
Medicinal cannabis companies are eyeing Queenstown and Central Otago as a growing hot spot.
Two companies, MediGrowth NZ and Central Otago Cannabis Ltd, have been registered with the Companies Office to Queenstown addresses.
The sole director behind the latter, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he was worried about the ''stigma'' and lack of education about medicinal cannabis.
The Queenstown man said Central Otago's conditions were perfect for growing.
''There's so much potential for it,'' he said.
''New Zealand could be a bloody world leader in growing that stuff.''
The region has been wine country for more than three decades but cannabis could be the next cash crop, if medicinal cannabis was made fully legal.
A medicinal cannabis Bill was passed by the Government last December, sparking a raft of newly registered medicinal cannabis companies.
The Bill gives the terminally ill a defence for the use of illicit cannabis products, and requires the Government to write a regulatory framework for the medicinal cannabis industry within a year.
And yesterday, the Health Research Council of New Zealand revealed it was opening its wallet for medicinal cannabis research.
Massey University's Dr Marta Rychert has been awarded almost $250,000 to explore medicinal cannabis use in New Zealand.
The director of Central Otago Cannabis Ltd came up with the idea after spending time in California a few years ago, where he saw ''the amount of money being made, and the jobs it was creating''.
Both medicinal and recreational cannabis is legal in California. He believed Queenstown could become a medicinal cannabis hub.
While he said there was the possibility to expand into recreational cannabis if it was legalised, he was more interested in the medicinal side.
''It helps people a lot more.''
He said he was waiting for the results of next year's cannabis referendum before pouring money into the venture.
But, all going to plan, he was keen to build up a sizeable operation and start exporting.
''You start small and see how it goes, but if it goes well, there's the potential to go massive, as big as some of the orchards you see.''
Meanwhile, MediGrowth NZ has been registered to a Glenda Dr address.
One of its directors is local luxury property manager Aaron Murphy.
Mr Murphy said it was too early to talk details, but confirmed it was a Queenstown company ''focused on research and development around medicinal cannabis'', and its application for New Zealand patients.
The other directors are Australians Adam Guskich and Todd McClellan.
Mr Guskich and Mr McClellan are the men behind MediGrowth Australia, a Melbourne-based medicinal cannabis company.
According to its website, MediGrowth Australia has ''positioned itself within the emerging and rapidly growing medicinal cannabis market''.
Dr Rychert said New Zealanders have been using cannabis, both legally and illegally, for medicinal purposes for many decades, but little is known about how they use it, for what medical conditions, how they access it and what advice they receive from health professionals.
''There is this huge gap in our understanding of how people use cannabis for medical reasons,'' she said.
Given the Government is working on a framework, she believed it was ''critical'' to get the knowledge.
''Medicinal cannabis regimes established overseas have experienced a number of issues, including poor affordability, lack of engagement of health professionals and continued black market supply,'' she said.
She said the key issue the Government needed to look at was ensuring a balance between making medicinal cannabis accessible and affordable for those who needed it, and imposing appropriate safeguards.