Medical cannabis availability issues explained

Here’s a detailed article from BuzzFeed on how recently evolving the issue of medical cannabis is in the USA (and we are further behind in New Zealand, virtually in wait-and-see mode).

This shows how it’s not just a simple matter of passing legislation to enable the use of medical cannabis. Product development and testing is in it’s early stages.

There’s a lot of conflict and debate over allowing CBD only products (without the intoxicating THC component of Cannabis) to try and make it easier to have enabling legislation but there are credible claims that THC and some resulting level of intoxicant is beneficial for some things, especially pain relief.

It’s a long article but worth reading if you have an interest in this topic.

Member’s Bill on Medical Cannabis

In Mid-October Helen Kelly admitted to have used cannabis to self-treat her cancer, NZ Herald reported MPs back calls for medicinal marijuana.

Union boss Helen Kelly’s call for better access to medicinal marijuana has been backed by MPs from both sides of the House.

Ms Kelly, who is terminally ill, has admitted to using cannabis oil for pain relief and wants Government to improve access to the drug.

It was also reported that Damien O’Connor was drafting a member’s bill in support of medical cannabis.

Labour’s West Coast MP Damien O’Connor is drafting a bill private member’s bill which would improve access to cannabidiol.

He started work on the bill after the death of a Nelson teenager Alex Renton, who had taken a hemp-derived treatment for repeated seizures.

Last week the Greymouth Star also reported on this:

MP to draft medicinal cannabis bill

West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O’Connor is drafting a private member’s bill to allow the medicinal use of cannabis.

You need a subscription to see the whole article but it was republished by the ODT:

O’Connor drafting medicinal cannabis Bill

West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O’Connor is drafting a private member’s bill to allow the medicinal use of cannabis.

He says high profile cases such as terminally ill trade union leader Helen Kelly, who is using cannabis oil for pain relief because it does not make her sick like morphine, have helped changed public attitudes.

He stressed he was not advocating the decriminalisation of cannabis.

Mr O’Connor said today he had believed in the benefits of medicinal cannabis since the 2000s, when he was on a select committee which backed its use.

He said Labour Party technical staff were now helping him draft a private member’s bill.

There has been suggestions that O’Connor may have fibbed about who he is consulting with.

Every drug had some side effects, and it was important they were minimal and not harmful. Cannabis would have to be prescribed by a GP, and GPs in turn would need to be comfortable with it. It would need to be of consistent quality.

“It’s really important no one pushes too hard, too fast,” he said, as that could derail the process.

“People like Helen Kelly and others exposing the careful use of it – people understand there’s value.”

The value of medicinal cannabis products is still up for debate as the growing number of products haven’t been comprehensively tested yet.

Drafting the private member’s bill would take some time. He was also talking to other political parties including Health Minister Jonathan Coleman.

I presume he will also talk to Peter Dunne, odd that he doesn’t mention him here. Dunne as Associate Health Minister has represented the Government on cannabis matters.

I hope O’Connor also actually consults with people in New Zealand that have useful knowledge on the use of medicinal cannabis.

As a Member’s Bill this will go in an occasional draw with 60-70 other bills, with 3 or 4 usually drawn at a time.  So the chances of progressing this through a Member’s Bill are low.

Cannabis Party versus Peter Dunne

Cannabis Party leader Julian Crawford has taken issue with things Peter Dunne said on Q & A on Sunday – in fact he claims Dunne lied.

Dunne and UIC ‘misleading the public’

The Cannabis Party is accusing Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne of misleading the public over medical cannabis.

Dunne told TVNZ’s Q+A programme that although “we talk about medicinal cannabis, actually there’s no such thing”.

Cannabis Party leader Julian Crawford said Dunne was lying when he claimed that raw cannabis was not medicinal unless it was packaged into a pharmaceutical product.

“In 23 States of the US they have legalised medical cannabis in its raw form, without the need for any involvement from the pharmaceutical industry. The pharmaceutical industry has a vested interest in keeping medical cannabis illegal,” Crawford said.

“Peter Dunne has deliberately deceived the New Zealand public when he claimed that raw cannabis was not medicinal. In reality around 40% of New Zealand’s cannabis users are using it for medical reasons. Even when smoked it has medicinal benefits.”

The Cannabis Party are calling for patients and their caregivers to be able to form non-profit organisations to grow and dispense medical cannabis in New Zealand, without all the delays and costs involved with clinical trials.

“Dunne is simply a glove puppet of the pharmaceutical lobby, he has not softened his stance one bit regarding the medical use of cannabis in its natural form,” Crawford said.

The Cannabis Party has denied that it wants to use the medical cannabis issue as a backdoor for recreational use.

“The party wants medical cannabis in its natural form available now so that thousands of patients with hundreds of illnesses can find some relief,” Crawford said.

“Dunne and United in Compassion have muddied the waters with misinformation that is preventing meaningful dialogue around the medical cannabis laws.”

TVNZ press release of the interview with Dunne:

Health Minister open to medicinal marijuana

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne told TVOne’s Q+A programme that he’s open to the possibilities cannabis based medicines offer.

“I think it would be a really good thing if we could get clinical trials in New Zealand, because that way we can work through exactly what the formulations might be, what the product should look like and who the patients who it will benefit could be, because at the moment we’ve got very general talk. We talk about medicinal cannabis. Actually, there’s no such thing. There’s medicinal cannabis products. And I think it would be very, very good to get some much more specific and scientific evidence about the efficacy before we can make decisions,” said Mr Dunne.

Both Mr Dunne and campaigner Toni-Marie Matich said there was still a stigma attached to cannabis based products:

Absolutely. We’ve written to and approached 300 organisations this year to have really logical, responsible discussion for their patients said Toni-Marie Matich. Look, it took six months and three banks to get a bank account she said.

Video of interview: Dunne open to Medicinal marijuana (13:19)

Massive poll support for medical cannabis

This is in Australia but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar result here – a Roy Morgan poll finds A massive majority of Australians support the legalisation of medicinal marijuana.

The poll asked:  ‘In your opinion should the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes be made legal or remain illegal?’

  • Yes 91%
  • No 7%
  • Can’t say 2%

That’s a significant result.

Some breakdowns on who voted yes:

  • Men 90%
  • Women 92%
  • Age 50-64 94%
  • Age 65 and older 94%
  • Age 14-25 85%

Older people are probably more concerned about the availability of medicines.

By State:

  • West Australia 97%
  • New South Wales, Victoria 92%
  • Queensland, South Australia 89%

Whichever way you look at it this is a huge majority support for medical cannabis.

The poll was taken over three nights on 22-24 October 2015 and asked 644 Australians.

Testament on recreational and medicinal use of cannabis

A Guest post from ‘Robby’.

Greetings all. Having just watched ‘Dinosaur Dunne’ give his opinion on Q&A, I thought maybe I should give mine. I have nearly forty years of life experience to date, and have used cannabis both recreationally, and medicinally within this time. So here is my testament.

As a teenager, I sat through the usual drug ‘education’ sessions, that are part of the ‘life skills’ curriculum at any high school in NZ. These involved some ex ‘user’, who was politely referred to as a ‘drug educator’, telling us how bad all drugs were, and how we should ‘moderate’ our alcohol consumption. He showed us a scary video or two warning of the dangers of using pot also. The consensus amongst everyone present was that he was ‘full of shit’.

I can remember clearly the first time myself and three of my friends smoked pot. We went out of our way to score some. As they say ,“Forbidden fruit always tastes sweeter”. Anyone who says marijuana is an antisocial drug has obviously never tried it. We spent the afternoon laughing our arses off at nothing in particular. It was great fun, & two weeks later none of us had grown milk producing nipples, which reinforced our earlier opinion of the ‘drug educator’.

It is often said that marijuana is a ‘gateway drug’, and I agree completely with this. The reason this is true, is because ‘drug educators’ tell lies to scare teenagers. “If he lied about pot, he must have lied about meth too…..”. I was fortunate enough not to fall into this trap, but one of my three friends wasn’t. Rest in peace Davo…..

For the next 6 years, I was ‘blazed’ pretty much every day. In spite of my ‘addiction’, I managed to complete an apprenticeship, find a wonderful girlfriend (who is now my wife of 15 years), and purchase a house. When she fell pregnant, I gave up the weed cold turkey. Time to grow up Robby, you’ll be a father soon. And despite what the ‘experts’ might tell you, it was ridiculously easy. I have seen footage of junkies ‘coming down’, and it was nothing like that for me.

Around nine years after the birth of my eldest son, I had an accident that split the cartilage inside one of my knees almost in half. It felt pretty unpleasant, to put it mildly. Imagine someone driving a wedge into the side of your knee with a sledgehammer, and you’d be coming close to how it felt. If you were to remove the repeated hits from the hammer, and make the pain constant, you’d be even closer. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. It makes me nauseous even thinking about it.

I was prescribed Oxynorm, Tramadol, and Diclofenac to alleviate the pain while I awaited surgery. The first two did alleviate the pain, but turned me into a ‘zombie’, for lack of a better word. I would wake up in agony, take two of each, then have to wait half an hour for the pain to go away. The worst side effect was being completely ‘baked’ as soon as the drugs took hold. A close second was having to put my finger up my arse to try and have a crap.

To this day I struggle to understand how either of the above drugs can be abused recreationally. As for the Diclofenac, even with the level of pain I was in, I wouldn’t touch the stuff. I had been warned it was very hard on the stomach, and I was already having ‘digestion issues’ from the other drugs.

After just over a week of taking the legal medication mentioned above (and having two rather painful shits, instead of my regular daily), a ‘guy I knew’ stopped by to see how I was. In typical stoner fashion, he told me, “Just have a spliff ya miserable bastard, that’ll sort you out!”. Well those probably weren’t his exact words, but it was something like that. He was right, I was miserable. It was around 1pm, my morning opiates were fast wearing off, the kids were at school, and my wife was out getting groceries. I had nothing to lose, so I said “Why not?!”.

Having not smoked pot for nearly a decade, and having never used it for pain relief before, I was surprised it didn’t hit me a lot harder. The relief was immediate. The pain was still there, but all of a sudden it wasn’t so overwhelming anymore. I felt a little lightheaded, but nowhere near as wasted as I would half an hour after taking two Oxynorms. I smiled again for the first time since the accident.

Needless to say, myself and ‘the guy I know’ sorted out my ‘medication’ between ourselves.

I waited another four months for my surgery, and smoked pot every day up to it. What I didn’t do was take any more of those horrible pharmaceutical grade opiates. Trying to push a pinecone out your arse is almost as bad as having a wedge driven through your knee……

Asking for medicinal cannabis

The Dominion Post had an article yesterday on The patients asking for medicinal cannabis.

Huhana Hickey has multiple sclerosis and has been in a wheelchair since 1996. She is in pain every day.

“I’m on tramadol, morphine, Paramax and codeine.”

The medicines she takes for her condition make her tired, so now she has weaned herself off most of them.

“I’ve had to come off it, but I got all the withdrawals.”

“The tramadol gets me through that bad time and then I get on with it.”

“I’ve got a headache today, I know I’m going to be exhausted tonight, and I know that I’m going to need to take some morphine just to have a break from the pain tonight.”

“I don’t like it, I don’t want to, but I have to, because there isn’t the alternative.”

The alternative, Hickey says, is cannabis.

Her doctors have told her medicinal cannabis could help.

“They are all in favour of it, my neurologist, my pain specialist, they all want it to be legal,” Hickey says.

Under current law they could ask the Ministry of Health to be able to use it.

There is now a powerful lobby seeking more widespread public access to medicinal cannabis. It includes Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills, a paediatrician, who saw a dramatic change in one patient with intractable epilepsy after she got access through her mother to cannabidiol (CBD) oil.

“The child had a 50 per cent reduction in seizures as well as a substantial improvement in quality of life,” Wills told The Dominion Post.

Patients report that cannabis and medicinal cannabis not only relieve pain and stop seizures, they can transform their quality of life.

But Wills –  and the Government – are cautious. The science of medicinal  marijuana “is still in its infancy,” says Wills.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne says the issue is about giving people “access to a high quality, pharmaceutical product that is safe, reliable and that will alleviate their ailments.”

Dunne tweeted a couple of corrections about the article.

Generally good piece on medicinal cannabis in today, but with two gating errors: my approval is not required for Sativex and 1/2

Australia has not legalised medicinal cannabis – they have merely announced they will permit clinical trials, something already ok here

There will be an interview with Dunne on Q & A this morning about medicinal cannabis, along with CEO of United in Compassion, Toni-Marie Matich

Do you think more New Zealanders should have access to medicinal marijuana?

We interview Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne and Toni-Marie Matich, a mother who has started a campaign for medical trials and better cannabis based medicines.

Watch Sunday 9am on TVOne

Matich has been working heroically for a sensible approach to enabling the use of medical cannabis in New Zealand.

Is it too much to ask for medicinal cannabis? As long as it proves to be safe enough then no. It should be a given.

A link to the interview: Dunne open to Medicinal marijuana (13:19)

Government moves to legalise growing medicinal cannabis…

…in Australia. But changes there will put further pressure on the Government in New Zealand to look at similar changes here.

Government moves to legalise growing medicinal cannabis in Australia

The Federal Government has announced it will legalise the growing of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Health Minister, Sussan Ley, says the Government wants to give people suffering from debilitating illnesses access to the most effective medical treatments.

Medicinal cannabis can already be provided under a special scheme, but Ms Ley says global supplies are relatively scarce and expensive.

SUSSAN LEY: I have heard stories of patients who resorted to illegal methods of obtaining cannabis and I have felt for them because with a terminal condition the most important thing is quality of life and relief of pain and we know that many people are calling out for medicinal cannabis.

It is important therefore that we recognise those calls for help, that we put in place what we know will support a safe, legal and sustainable supply of a product.

LOUISE YAXLEY: The Government intends to amend the Narcotic Drugs Act to allow cannabis to be grown for medicine or science, and that would ensure that Australia is not in breach of international drug treaties.

SUSSAN LEY: This is not a debate about legalisation of cannabis, this is not about drugs, this is not a product you smoke, this has nothing to do with that. 

Most commonly the product is an oil or a tincture that you put on your skin.

The shadow assistant Health Minister, Stephen Jones, said Labor would have a nationally consistent scheme.

STEPHEN JONES: It’s a truly national scheme to make medicinal cannabis available and it shouldn’t be a matter of whether you live in New South Wales or Victoria or somewhere else in Australia – if you are suffering from a terminal illness or if your child has drug resistant epilepsy, suffering from life threatening fits, then you should have available to you through medical advice and appropriate channels, medicinal cannabis.

Forget Dunne, I think he’s pushing as hard as he can in a difficult situation. He’s copping all the pressure, but the thing holding up faster change here is National.

Pressure John Key and target National MPs who might look favourable and compassionately on looking at better ways of alleviating the suffering of people.

Like Zoe Jeffries , a 7 year old girl with uncontrolled epilepsy, spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy, microcephaly, cerebral visual impairment, is tube fed and who has had severe seizures since birth.

After two years her parents have got Ministry of Health approval to use the only available cannabis derived medicine in New Zealand, Sativex. At a cost to them of $250 per week. See Ministry of Health approves medicinal cannabis treatment.

For much to happen this term National need to change their intransigence substantially.

It would also help if the Greens and Labour pushed far more strongly and positively on this.

And public pressure needs to be strong but positive, a slanging match won’t change anything for the better.

Dunne on the medical cannabis situation

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has blogged this week on the current situation regarding the availability and prospects for future availability of medicinal cannabis in New Zealand.

Forget the past and facts and fiction about Dunne and his position on drugs. There are people trying to establish a better way of dealing with medicinal cannabis that are finding that Dunne is receptive to positive change as much as our current law allows and as much as the reluctance of our current Parliament may allow.

In New Zealand, medical practitioners can prescribe medicines approved and registered under the Medicines Act. Registration occurs after a rigorous clinical testing process, and PHARMAC separately decides whether to fund the product. One medicinal cannabis product, Sativex, is currently so registered, and PHARMAC is currently considering whether to subsidise it. No other medicinal cannabis products have been submitted for registration in New Zealand.

Where medicines are unregistered and therefore unapproved, there has been a procedure set out in the Medicines Act for many years now to allow the Minister to approve the prescription of such an unapproved product, upon the application of a medical practitioner or specialist.

That application has to be lodged with the Ministry of Health, stating the product, the purposes for which it is being sought, the dosage, along with general clinical assessments of its likely clinical efficacy and safety. The Ministry then makes a clinical assessment of the case, and recommends a course of action to the Minister. To date, only one application ever has been made for a medicinal cannabis product, which was the case I approved earlier this year.

I am not a clinician, so therefore, in considering any such applications, I have made it very clear that I will be strongly guided by the clinical advice which I receive. The reason for the decision in such cases being made at a Ministerial level has nothing to do with cannabis, but is simply because the applications are being made as an exception to the existing law.

This is the current law and it requires Ministerial approval, but in effect the doctors and the Ministry of health determine whether medicinal cannabis can be used or not.

So, patients seeking access to medicinal cannabis products need to consult their medical advisers in the first instance. If Sativex is not deemed suitable, then they need to discuss what other alternatives might be best for them, and whether an application under the Medicines Act is the appropriate way to proceed.

If patients or parents of patients want to obtain cannabis products for genuine medicinal purposes then they should find a doctor who is prepared to seek approval for them.

Again, there is nothing unusual or particular to medicinal cannabis in that – we do not make any prescription medicines available without the support of the specialist or medical practitioner, for obvious reasons, and medicinal cannabis should be treated exactly the same way.

However, I would be concerned if it became clear that personal antipathy to cannabis was causing some doctors not to seek approval for medicinal cannabis products for their patients, in cases where it was potentially beneficial. My strong plea to them is to always put the best interests of their patients ahead of any personal views they might hold, when considering such cases.

We are watching closely the clinical trials being conducted in the United States and Australia, but they are not likely to produce results before 2016-2017 at the earliest. It is possible that were the FDA or the Therapeutic Goods Agency to approve medicinal cannabis products as a result of these trials our regulator Medsafe would look to follow suit here, but that is still some time away.

Things are moving fairly quickly now on testing and potentially approving of cannabis products, but it takes time to ensure it is done properly.

One of the worst things that could happen would be to rush access to a product that turns out to be ineffective or worse, detrimental to health.

What is clear, however, is that any approval is likely to be for a very limited range of products in highly specific and regulated circumstances, and certainly not the open slather situation some seem to be expecting.

The current attention is towards medicinal products that exclude intoxicating ingredients. This is not a back door to widespread smoking of cannabis.

Meantime, the provisions of our Medicines Act will continue to apply, including the opportunities for doctors to seek access to these products in the general interests of their patients. For my part, I will consider any case that comes before me on its particular merits, and without any reference to whatever external noise there might be at the time.

So anyone who wants medicinal product should try to find a doctor who will seek approval and will present a good case for it.

“What is really ridiculous about the whole cannabis debate…”

A comment from ‘Robby’ sums up something that is really ridiculous about cannabis availability in New Zealand:

What is really ridiculous about the whole cannabis debate, is that the people who want a quality product with known medicinal benefits have to source it offshore and smuggle it past customs.

Everyone else (who just wants to roll a spliff and chill) just has to walk down the road and see ‘a guy they know’.

All the stoners get what they want, but the parents of sick kids have to go begging to politicians for medicine. The law is truly an ASS

It’s worse than that. It may be possible to source medicinal cannabis product from within New Zealand – but the quality, safety and composition may be unknown, while safely manufactured well specified product is very difficult to obtain.

An open letter from Toni-marie Matich, CEO of United in Compassion NZ, about Medical Cannabis in NZ

My name is Toni-Marie Matich and I am co-founder and CEO of United in Compassion NZ, a non profit charitable trust formed early this year as a sister branch to our Australian team co-founded by Troy Langman and Lucy Haslam. I came about advocating on this issue some 4 years ago, I am a solo mother of 5 children and my eldest daughter 17 suffers from Dravet syndrome, a intractable, life limiting and progressive form of Epilepsy where she would seizure up to 1000 times a day.

My daughter has being on dozens of medications, she has undergone a VNS implant one of the first in NZ which was ineffective, high dosages of steroids, and other more ‘alternative’ treatments such as sacral massage and naturopathic remedies.

By the end of 2012 she had had 122 hospital admissions for non convulsive and convulsive status (ongoing prolonged seizure activity) some of these admissions were to ICU, and despite having over that decade 2 very proactive and compassionate paediatricians we were told to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

My daughter at that time was largely wheelchair bound, oxygen reliant, out of school for 5 years, and we relied heavily on funded respite and other various support services, all at a large expense to the government.

Before I got married and started a family my initial studies were in science and technology, I also went on to study a certificate in horticulture from home when my eldest children were younger, over the years it became apparent that my full time job would and has been as my eldest daughters carer.

This extends into an advocacy role for every aspect of her care from special education through to funding, it is at times often an exhausting role as you try to navigate through the various appointments and systems of support.

In 2012 when we received a heartbreaking prognosis I started to look desperately into any other possible treatments that could extend her life and give her a better quality, I learnt of medical cannabis through an American Dravet support forum and to be honest I was at first pessimistic, however as I researched and reached out to those with knowledge I soon learnt that it may very well have therapeutic benefits for my daughter.

I soon learnt that due to the illegality of the plant and the lack of research and evidence of its benefits or efficacy it wasn’t available to us here in NZ.

What I did next was risky and illegal as I went about importing seeds of high CBD (cannabidol) and low THC (aka 1 compound of the plant known to get recreational users ‘high’) over 18 months I then had associates in the horticulture industry cultivate, another within the pharmacological industry was able to test the plant matter for panels of compound ratios as well as ensuring it was clean of micro organisms, solvents, metals and any other potential contaminants that could make someone unwell, this was an expensive and risky undertaking whilst caring for someone so ill.

I then went on to make the plant matter into a tincture which was again tested for adequate ratios, I consulted with several MC specialists in the states as to possible contraindications with other meds she was on and dosaging ranges, this too was expensive and time consuming, all the while constantly researching global developments.

We started the tincture in 2013, within 3 months seizures had reduced by at least 50%, by 6 months people were commenting on her speech being clear and more understandable,and she was becoming less dependant on her wheelchair or other aids, within a year she was back to attending a special school for 4 days a week and she had attended the hospital just 7 times down from the previous 122 the year prior.

Life was wonderful, we went out on outings as a family, my daughters personality was discovered as it emerged out of the cloud of post seizure state that caused such severe brain damage, my anxiety reduced and I could have a full nights sleep.

By the end of the first year I informed her paediatrician of her being on the tincture, he was surprised and also concerned, and he advised me responsibly of the possible consequences as well as being compassionate and supportive of my choice, which isn’t an easy position for a paediatrician to be in, especially when they are the NZ Children Commissioner.

In October of last year after 22 months of significant reduction in seizures and the most sustained reduction in her life thus far the seizures begun returning and unfortunately the ability to have the plant material tested fell through, it was advised that a different ratio or strain could again be effective, however I couldn’t risk not having testing ability. I have no regrets of what I did, I gave my daughter the best quality of life over that period against the odds of her condition, currently her seizures are poorly controlled and she is again regressing.

United in Compassion NZ

I want to share our story and my role within UICNZ which has seen a database of 7000+ individuals join wanting access to medical cannabis, many of these people are either out of time or out of options and their stories are overwhelmingly sad, these are individuals with cancers, intractable epilepsy,hiv/aids,motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain,ptsd/anxiety, alzeimers, chrohns, tourettes – I can tell you now that illness knows no boundaries, these people come from all walks of life and yes they are vulnerable, exhausted and desperate to know if medical cannabis could possibly improve there quality of life and reduce the symptoms of their illness.

We hear and read of the remarkable stories globally and like my daughters, but what we don’t hear about is the lack of regulation of products,the patients who don’t benefit from it or those who suffer contraindications and side effect.

And the disturbing part is those out there known as ‘snakoil sellers’ who sell crap products to vulnerable unwell people at horrific prices without containing what they claim to,some of these products can be made from the by product of industrial hemp and contain contaminants that make patients very unwell, I’ve heard of stories where people have to pay $10,000 upfront before they will receive their 3 months supply! So its a industry with issue like any other and we need to take both the negative aspects and positive of this from a global perspective and consider how we can learn from it to progress logically

Earlier this year and also last week I met with the Hon Peter Dunne in conjunction with Ross Bell from the NZ Drug Foundation and with the support of the Children’s Commissioner who have both acted as mentors and advisers to me.

The meetings have been constructive and the minister has always been approachable and compassionate, he tasked me with a working group within the MOH who we frequently engage with on this issue and how to logically progress in relevance to the current political and medical landscape in NZ.

I can tell you now that I have a immense respect for those who we have engaged with,I have and am constantly learning.

The purpose of last week’s meeting with the minister was to find out whether there is the ability to run observational trials under compassionate grounds for those who would meet such circumstances and whether we could collaborate with our Australian branch in connecting the relevant Australian governments who are working on regulation and trials of compassionate access over the ditch with those here in the ministry so as New Zealand could possibly engage and contribute to such developments, or duplicate that process here, those discussions have started and are ongoing and positive.

Our Australian branch ran a successful medical cannabis symposium in NSW last year which was the catalyst for change and saw over 55 million dollars go into the research and development of medical cannabis.

UICNZ are planning on running a first of its kind medical cannabis symposium in march of next year, we will bring in international and national experts such as Dr Alan Shackelford who is our medical advisor, Dr Mike Nichols of Massey University,Dr Bonnie Goldstein, United Patients Group who have the ability to offer educative courses and seminars at a medical level supported by the American Medical Association, the lineup is looking impressive.

What we lack is support from those who could be advocating more for patients. I have written to the NZMA 7 times this year and received not one response, our organisation has approached over 200 relevant organisations in NZ over the past 2 years to garner support such as the cancer society, epilepsy NZ, Autism NZ, the MS Society and not one has responded to us.

We even approached the fundraising institute of NZ who help with fundraising for the symposium and were identified as a ‘black sheep’ with many individuals not wanting to help us due to possible conflicts of interest with other medical foundations they also work for, it took 3 banks and 6 months before we could setup a bank account.

So the issue doesn’t just sit with the MOH or the minister who in fact have been in regards to our work with them helpful and compassionate, this issue sits with the conservative public of NZ and the likes of those described above who could be doing more to support logical progress and appropriate support, education and research of this issue.

If we are to progress this issue in NZ then it must be done logically, education of the endocannabionoid system and a plant that has over 500 compounds (not just THC!) is vital, it is through education and mature balanced discussion as to how medical cannabis could be regulated here through a moderated criteria and how we can best support medical professionals so they are able to support patients that we will progress.

This past few days has seen me inundated with messages, emails and media contact as to Helen Kelly and her admittance of use of cannabis in helping her with her journey and diagnosis of cancer and again as it did with the Alex Renton case the public debate has opened, I ask that people keep an open mind on this issue and also with respect to the various frameworks needed to progress it logically

Toni Marie Matich


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