Legally bringing medical cannabis into NZ

Andrew Geddis has written a couple of posts on the legality (he thinks it is legal) of personally carrying medical cannabis into New Zealand as long as it’s on a prescription .

More on bringing medical marijuana into New Zealand …

Yesterday I wrote this post, leveraging off a RNZ story about a judge discharging a woman without conviction for mailing herself medical marijuana from the US. In it I claimed that, on a straight reading of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, it appears that personal imports of a month’s worth of medicinal marijuana is lawful (so long as you personally carry it into the country through Customs).

That’s a view that I repeated to a reporter from RNZ news, and it is included in this follow up story.

To recap and develop what I said in yesterday’s post, it generally is unlawful for an individual to possess or import marijuana into New Zealand in either medicinal  or recreational forms. In its “raw” form it is a class C “controlled drug” under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975. In a refined or processed form (as is the case for pharmaceutical-grade products), it is a class B.

However, there are many substances that have therapeutic purposes (but are open to misuse/abuse) that also are listed as being controlled drugs; substances that we commonly think of as “medicines”. Codeine. Pentobarbital. Camazepam. Diazepam. Pseudoephedrine. And so on. It is important to note that the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 doesn’t distinguish between “good” drugs (medicines) and “bad” drugs (not-medicines). Rather, it simply categorises “controlled drugs” into three levels (A, B and C … orreally bad, bad and quite bad) and attaches consequences to possessing/importing each.

he quotes from New Zealand law that states that possession on entering the country can be exempt.

Note that this exemption does not turn on whether or not New Zealand presently permits a particular controlled drug to be prescribed for therapeutic purposes under the Medicines Act 1981. It instead turns on three questions.

  • Is the drug “a controlled drug required for treating the medical condition of the person”?
  • Is the “quantity of drug … no greater than that required for treating the medical condition for 1 month”?
  • Was the drug “lawfully supplied to the person overseas and supplied for the purpose of treating a medical condition”?

If the answer to these three questions is “yes”, then you may possess the “controlled drug” when entering New Zealand.

He goes on to quote advice on NZ Custom’s  website  that supports this and gives some examples.

He concludes:

So given this, on what basis can Customs then confiscate the medical marijuana? It can’t simply be that marijuana is a “controlled substance” (as Minister Dunne says in his statement). So is methadone (the example Customs uses). So is diazepam. So is codeine. Both class C controlled drugs, just like raw marijuana. So are oxycodone or morphine, which are both class B controlled drugs like processed marijuana.

Yet if these drugs are “required” (i.e. suited) to treat a person’s medical condition and were lawfully obtained overseas, you can bring a month’s worth of them into the country. That’s the whole point of s.8(2)(l) – it permits controlled drugs to be brought into NZ and then used for personal treatment purposes!

And what it doesn’t say anywhere is that those controlled drugs first must be approved as “medicines” here in New Zealand.

So how could properly prescribed medical marijuana be treated any differently to other therapeutic controlled drugs under present law? Because that is a position I would love to see the Crown have to defend in, for instance, an application for a declaratory judgment … in case anyone out there was keen to test the matter?

It would get expensive going overseas every month (further than Australia) to obtain medical cannabis on prescription but it appears that it can be done legally.

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1 Comment

  1. Good post PG.. 🙂
    Maybe Dunne & Co. will finally remove their blinkers, ‘pull their heads out of the sand’ & get their A’s off the fence on this issue.
    Aotearoa/NZ is looking, increasingly isolated on it ! 😦


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