Medicinal cannabis scheme open to public feedback

By Talisa Kupenga

Hikurangi Cannabis Director Manu Caddie says patients might be disappointed that the government’s medicinal cannabis regulatory scheme falls short.

"There's a range of options that have been presented and I think there will be something in there for everybody, there will also be some disappointment from, particularly, patients that perhaps things haven't gone far enough."

The scheme looks at setting quality standards for cultivation, manufacturing and finished products, licensing, distribution and prescribing, monitoring and controls on products, (including collection and sharing of information) as well as fees and charges.

The public have four weeks to have a say.

Drug Foundation Executive Director Ross Bell says, "Patients need to have a really strong voice in this process and I'm worried that the medical profession are getting a greater say here."

CBD or Canibidinol-only medicinal cannabis products can be prescribed by a doctor, and if Ministry of Health Approved, also by a nurse practitioner.

Doctors can also prescribe products containing THC - the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis - if they are Ministry of Health approved. If not, they will need sign off from a specialist.

Unapproved products that do not meet the minimum quality standards would need to Ministry of Health approval and sign-off from a specialist.

These proposals alongside pharmaceutical manufacturing standards in the scheme, could mean more costs and wait times for consumers.

Caddie says, “For some people it’s really hard to find a specialist, particularly if they’re in rural areas … let alone [finding] a specialist who will support the use of medicinal cannabis for products that haven’t been through clinical trials and safety or so on.  Potentially it could exacerbate those inequalities for whānau Māori because the price is likely to remain fairly high.”

Possible products include vaping, dried cannabis, oil, creams, pills and patches but won’t include smoking products, synthetic cannabinoids or edibles.

Bell says, "If there are too many barriers the place patients will continue to get access from will be the criminal black market."

The document proposes no restrictions around who can work in the industry, keeping the door open to those who may have criminal convictions.

The scheme will be finalised December and is expected to be operational by March next year.