New regulations were released in New Zealand on Wednesday enabling the local cultivation and manufacture of medicinal cannabis products.
“These regulations put in place the infrastructure that allows us to locally grow, manufacture and provide quality medicinal cannabis products that are intended to make a real difference to people living in pain and also those nearing the end of their lives,” said New Zealand’s Minister of Health Dr. David Clark.
The rules are to come into effect on April 1 next year, with the first medical cannabis licences expected to be issued by the middle of 2020. Currently, 20 companies have licences to grow cannabis for research and an additional 238 for growing industrial hemp. This means products should be available sooner than in some other countries after legislation has been enacted.
The rules allow for dried products and a variety of tablets and liquids – but smokable products are off the table.
In a move that has been widely welcomed, any general practitioner will be able to prescribe cannabis medicines for any condition. This is a big change from a previously proposed requirement that a specialist sign off.
“Clearly the Ministry heard concerns around equity of access and arguments from professional bodies around the lack of specialists, we applaud them for taking our concerns onboard and amending the proposed regulations,” said Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand (MCANZ).
Patients will be able to source products directly from a GP or a pharmacy. But they won’t be cheap and MCANZ says medicines will remain out of reach of many who could benefit from them; although it acknowledges prices have decreased in recent times and may continue to drop.
“”It will be bittersweet for patients knowing that prescribing is as easy as we could have possibly hoped for, only for costs to still pose an insurmountable barrier for many,” states MCANZ.
A variety of restrictions will be in place that will see appropriate security for cannabis operations and extensive testing is to be carried out on all products to ensure they are contaminant-free and have appropriate levels of cannabinoids.
Medical cannabis company Helius Therapeutics was particularly enthusiastic about the regulations.
““The many people who have fought over the years for patients to have access to high quality Kiwi-produced medicinal cannabis products, can take a bow. This scheme will help restore quality of life to thousands of New Zealanders,” stated the firm.
NZ’s Medical Cannabis Scheme Regulations can be found here.