As New Zealand prepares to legalize the production of medicinal cannabis, companies are racing to secure the first and biggest slices of a market that has proved lucrative in the United States and Canada.
One of those companies is also racing to save the town of Ruatoria, population 750 and falling.
“You’ve got whole entire families leaving because there’s no work and it’s a struggle to live,” said Donette Kupenga, owner of Ruatoria’s only cafe, Hati Nati. “Employment would make a huge difference.”
And so Ms. Kupenga, like hundreds of other residents of Ruatoria and nearby towns, became a shareholder in Hikurangi Cannabis, a start-up founded by two local men, Manu Caddie and Panapa Ehau. They say they want to bring more than 100 jobs to the area in the next two years.