A medical cannabis patient advocacy group in New Zealand is again calling for an amnesty for compassionate providers, carers and their patients.
Auckland Patients Group (APG) says pharmaceutical cannabis products should not be the only way for patients to access cannabis, and an amnesty would offer a safer environment for them and their supporters.
APG’s request includes registered herbal practitioners to be part of the amnesty and says its call has been strongly supported by the New Zealand Association of Medical Herbalists (NZAMH).
“Given the extensive training many NZAMH members have undertaken, medical herbalists are well placed to offer individualised plant medicine prescribing,” said NZAMH spokesperson Mike Eyres. “Until patients and providers have more practical and legal options, a cannabis prescriber amnesty would make a big difference”
Mr. Eyres makes the point that many medical practitioners in New Zealand feel they don’t have the education, product knowledge and other resources to feel comfortable prescribing medical cannabis.
A survey carried out last year found more than a third of New Zealand medical professionals polled classified themselves as somewhat uninformed, poorly informed or very poorly informed about medical cannabis. 42% felt they were “somewhat informed”.
While locally made products are expected to be available for patients via prescription from next year in New Zealand, APG says the transition period could take up to two to four years – which makes an amnesty crucial. There will be ongoing issues relating to cost and access during this time.
New Zealand has already legislated compassionate exemption for palliative patients to use non-pharmaceutical cannabis.
There was some hope in the community that a non-binding referendum held on 17 October 2020 involving a vote for or against the proposed “Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill”, would get over the line. Had it, and had the NZ Government proceeded with its implementation, it would have legalised the sale, use, possession and production of non-pharmaceutical adult use cannabis. But it wasn’t to be.
APG is committed to continue its advocacy work until safe, legal, affordable access to botanical cannabis is available to all patients in New Zealand.