PROPOSAL 1 – Registration via a cooperative or trust set up by/for breeders
The aim of the first proposal is to:
- Provide legal protection for breeders and their IP
- Allow illicit breeders to be involved in the medicinal cannabis scheme
- Provide a mechanism for licensed medicinal cannabis cultivators to access local genetics
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- Establish independent entity ‘Aotearoa Cannabis Breeders Cooperative’ (ACBC)
- The ACBC could be run by breeders themselves, or more likely to protect breeders’ identities, guided by individual/s independent of commercial interests and trusted by breeders who are appointed as Trustees or Cannabis Commissioners (for example people like Nándor Tánczos and Annette Sykes).
- Raise awareness amongst breeders of commercial options and opportunities
- Offer breeders (with free, prior and informed consent) the opportunity to have their genotyped plants catalogued and made available (based on their consent) to a licensing and/or royalty arrangement that recognises and monetises their IP.
- Register genotypes of cannabis currently grown illicitly (Note: Plant Variety Rights do not protect a ‘genotype’).
- With IP owner (breeder) permission New Zealand registered and licensed companies, universities and/or research organisations could access a registered genotype under strict licensing conditions.
- Entities can only access the genotypes for research and development, including breeding for optimisation. If a genotype is developed through to being ready for use in commercial production then a licencing/royalty agreement is entered with the IP owner. The ‘royalty’ rate is to be either pre-set or determined by agreement and in the absence of agreement by an independent commissioner appointed by the ACBC.
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- Should registration be time critical – so if Breeder A registers a genotype before Breeder B then should Breeder A have priority of any IP that is commercialised, unless the genotype is already registered to other owners in NZ (or overseas)? There are pros and cons to this option – having first in, first served will incentivise submission of genetics and there could be a window of opportunity of say one month where everyone who has submitted essentially the same genotype in that period has an equal share in the commercialisation of it, this means people with rare genetics that get commercialised will perhaps benefit more than those with common genetics. There may also be legal issues with registering and commercialising genotypes that already have legal protections in overseas jurisdictions.
- Should commercialisation be managed by the cooperative/trust rather than in confidential agreements between breeders and licensed companies? We don’t have a firm view on this question. Standardised commercialisation terms would provide transparency and consistency but some genotypes and knowledge will be more valuable to some companies than to others, so there would need to be flexibility and perhaps the independent Trustees/Commissioners can act as advocates for breeders in otherwise confidential negotiations to ensure they get a fair deal.
- Should licensed commercial producers be prohibited from sourcing unregistered genotypes – this would remove likely informal, unregulated trading platforms that would encourage continued illicit importing, growing and trading? We think something like this should be the only avenue for commercial producers to access local genetics as the way to best protect breeders rights and interests, it could be mandated by government in regulations and/or cultivation license conditions.
- Should there be a time limit for breeders to register their genotypes? We think not, it should be an ongoing opportunity unless something like Option 2 is in place.
PROPOSAL 2 – Breeding Licenses
The aim of the second proposal is to licence breeders similar to the Micro-License system in Canada and the Research and Breeding Licenses the NZ Ministry of Health already issue.
This process would be more complex and involves time, cost and skills that some breeders may not have. It is suggested that the new Medicinal Cannabis agency within MOH develop a dedicated team to assist with cannabis breeding licences. The process must easily transition illicit breeders into the legal market and be more streamlined than the current licensing processes that are slow, inconsistent and carry significant risk for applicants.
We welcome feedback on the suggestions above. Please comment below or send your comments via the Contact page.