What's New

Takapuna leads the way in cannabis trade

Flagstaff Team

Forging ahead… Cannabis Clinic founder Dr Waseem Alzaher

Tale of a trailblazer

Iraq-born and of Kurdish and Persian heritage, Waseem Alzaher came to New Zealand with his family as a seven year- old, and was educated at Auckland Grammar School and the University of Auckland.

He trained as a doctor in Dunedin and worked in hospitals before making a switch into the early medicinal-cannabis field.

“It was all a bit of a gamble,” he says.

The Clinic had to negotiate uncharted territory and a complicated legal framework, working with Medsafe and other regulatory authorities.

“We are forging the way ahead for the industry.”

Now 35, he lives in Palmerston North, where his wife – also a doctor – works, travelling often to Auckland. The couple have two children, aged six and eight.

Thriving trade makes Takapuna the cannabis capital

Takapuna has been revealed as the ‘cannabis capital’ of New Zealand, due to the success of a local clinic specialising in medicinal uses of cannabis and a nearby partner pharmacy which is distributing prescriptions nationwide.

The Cannabis Clinic, headquartered in Como St, opposite Shore City in central Takapuna, has become the national market leader in the prescribing of cannabis products since medicinal use of the drug was fully legalised in 2020.

And the high volumes of cannabis products shipped in collaboration with its nearby dispensing partner, the Takapuna Pharmacy in Lake Rd, make the pharmacy by far the largest distributor in the country.

Due to continued growth, Cannabis Clinic is now looking for a larger premises in Takapuna, less than a year after moving into the Como St site – having outgrown previous premises in Tennyson Ave in less than two years. It aims to have a dedicated cannabis pharmacy attached to the clinic at its next location.

“We want to create a big centre in Takapuna,” Cannabis Clinic founder and CEO Dr Waseem Alzaher told the Observer.

Many of his original team were from the North Shore, and accessibility from the motorway, reasonable rents and access to the beach and shopping all made Takapuna an attractive location.

Takapuna’s under-the-radar central role in the rapidly burgeoning medicinal-cannabis trade was highlighted during a recent election-candidates meeting, in remarks by the Opportunities Party (TOP) North Shore candidate Abe Gray, a botanist who has been a long-time cannabis law-reform activist. Gray told the Observer Cannabis Clinic was clearly the market leader for prescribers, and Takapuna Pharmacy was “miles ahead” of other distributors.

Alzaher confirmed the clinic was the biggest in the country. He estimated that 35 per cent of all prescribed cannabis in New Zealand was being shipped from Lake Rd.

The national market for medicinal cannabis-flower products alone (excluding capsules and oil) is believed to exceed 100 kilograms a month.

The Cannabis Clinic also operates clinics in Nelson and Hastings, and has people working in other parts of the country. Of more than 60 staff nationwide, 27 are doctors and nine are nurses. The company has 25 staff in Auckland, and is recruiting.

Alzaher said the clinic wanted to “put ourselves out there” to help break down a stigma that lingers for some people despite medicinal cannabis being lawful.

A shop-front cannabis pharmacy would give the public the opportunity to learn more about cannabis.
Since opening, the clinic had seen more than 30,000 patients, who were commonly seeking help with pain, sleep or anxiety.

Most were aged between 35 and 55, and were “everyday people” including lawyers, teachers and health professionals. Some previously bought cannabis from illegal sources.

Patients were mostly seen in video appointments, but in-person consultations were also offered.

Alzaher said he had linked with Takapuna Pharmacy when establishing the business locally. The pharmacy had brought on more pharmacists and technicians to cope with the rapid growth. By coordination of prescribing rates and deliveries from suppliers, little product had to be stored locally.

He said his business had relied heavily on strong technology to provide a good service for patients.

Product prices had fallen sharply – by more than half – since the early days of legalised prescribing, he said.

Since local manufacturers won approval last year, the locally-grown market share has risen to 30 per cent and is expected to increase further.

Gray believed the volume of cannabis dispensed through Takapuna was greater than the quantity supplied by any illegal dealer. “They dwarf the black-market operations.”

Because of the local medicinal-cannabis “infrastructure”, Gray said he would like to find premises in the area for the cannabis museum he has previously operated in Dunedin and Christchurch.

• The Esmonde Rd motorway off-ramp to Takapuna is Exit 420, a number used in popular culture as a reference to cannabis use. Alzaher said that played no part in the decision to locate Cannabis Clinic in the area.

Please consider supporting The Rangitoto Observer by clicking here: