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Career

Heartbreak Island host Mark Dye gets into the medicinal cannabis business

Mark believes it’s high time New Zealanders had access to affordable medicinal cannabis products.

Three years ago, Mark Dye came home from his job on talkback radio with his mind buzzing after an emotional afternoon discussing the topic of medicinal cannabis.
He'd been inundated with eye-opening calls from listeners whose loved ones had passed away or were still alive and in need of relief from a variety of illnesses.
Some were elderly folk who'd never touched illicit drugs in their lives, while some were sons or daughters whose parents were suffering in their final days of life.
"I recall a grandmother saying how horrible it was trying to access cannabis for her dying husband and how ridiculous it was she had to get it through her son, who was getting it through his friend," explains the Heartbreak Island host, 32, who has launched a new medicinal cannabis business, NUBU Pharmaceuticals.
Aside from his new business, Mark has been busy with his Fiji-based hosting duties on the second season of Heartbreak Island.
"This woman was an upstanding citizen who'd never done anything illegal in her life."
Mark says for the first time in his Newstalk ZB career, every single caller had the same opinion. They wanted medicinal cannabis to become available, affordable and legal in New Zealand.
"In talkback land, I cannot recall another day over the five years that I worked there, where everyone felt the same about a topic," says the Aucklander, who juggled filming the Fiji-based reality dating show with managing his budding business.
"Even on Christmas Day, there'd be listeners who were miserable about the holiday! But on that afternoon, everyone agreed on the same point."
Mark began to wonder if it would be a good idea to delve into the medicinal cannabis sector.
This season mark is hosting Heartbreak Island on his own.
"Obviously, some of our callers, having never used cannabis before, were nervous about needing to go out and find some in their 60s or 70s," he explains. "Who do you talk to? What would your friends say? We also talked about 'green fairies', which are people who produce and sell medicinal cannabis products illegally."
At the time, the only medicinal cannabis-based product available on our shores cost $1200 a month – despite similar formulas being available in the US and Canada for a fraction of the price.
So in 2016, while at the dinner table with his friend and now-business partner Will Douglas, Mark started discussing the early stages of a company plan.
"It's not illegal to have a medicinal cannabis business in New Zealand, but it is currently illegal to grow and manufacture products for commercial purposes," Mark says. "We're waiting for the rules and regulation to be written by government, by which we'll operate NUBU.
But the government has said that before December this year, they want those regulations to be completed."
In the meantime, the Heartbreak host is mingling with investors and working the hardest he ever has. Mark tells, "One morning while filming the show in Fiji, I got up at 4.30am to fly to Sydney, where I attended a cannabis conference and we launched the company.
Then after a long day of media and meetings with investors, I travelled back to the hotel for four hours' rest, before flying back to Fiji and straight into hosting a passion play!"
While there are plenty of medicinal cannabis companies overseas and other Kiwi businesses ready to pounce once the final government regulations come into effect, Mark believes NUBU has the edge.
"Our focus is looking at things like manuka honey and how we can use its medicinal benefits with cannabis," he explains. "We're aiming to develop products that can only come from New Zealand and then export them to the world."
While the broadcaster and blogger admits to experimenting with cannabis while travelling the world, he says this career move is strictly about the plant's medicinal benefits.
"The latest Ministry of Health data stated over 230,000 people are using cannabis for medicinal purposes. Whether you want to use medicinal cannabis or not, people should have the option. Why
would you stop somebody who is finding relief?"
After many, many late nights researching the controversial topic, Mark predicts all the hard work will be worth it – for both Kiwis in need and those involved in the business.
"A more selfish motive is that if I end up with an illness that medicinal cannabis could help, I want access to it," he concludes. "It's definitely an exciting new industry for New Zealand and something pretty special to be involved in too."

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