NZ to follow Australia on medical cannabis

New Zealand is likely to wait on Australia and follow them in allowing wider use of medicinal cannabis, according to Peter Dunne and common sense. We don’t have the resources to do the necessary testing ourselves.

But in the meantime Ministry of Health guidelines that are being reviewed may make it easier for patients to import their own cannabis derived medicines.

Jo Moir at Stuff: Guidelines for medicinal cannabis applications are under review as access looks set to broaden

The reality is simple. The Government is not sitting on its hands doing nothing. In fact Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne is one of many driving change.

Just last month he called for a review of the guidelines for considering medicinal cannabis applications.

As it stands the only approved medicinal cannabis in New Zealand is the mouth spray, Sativex. It is not funded by Pharmac and costs over $1000 a month. Any other product must be approved by Dunne.

As of the end of January the ministry had received 120 applications for medicinal cannabis, of which 105 have been approved. Another five are still in progress and 10 have not been granted for various reasons.

So there it is – people are applying for access to medicinal cannabis and in most cases being granted it.

Dunne is on the record saying he is keeping a close watch on research and random-control trials of cannabinoid products in Israel and the United States. Once manufacturers make a product and it passes MedSafe checks it will be available in New Zealand.

The point in doing it this way is that it makes no sense to reinvent the wheel in New Zealand.

We’re not big enough to have the medical professionals and patients available to do the trials so it makes sense to piggy-back where possible, including in Australia.

And in an interview on Radio NZ Peter Dunne repeats the ‘follow Australia’ line: NZ likely to follow Australia on medical cannabis

New Zealand is likely to follow Australia once it provides medical cannabis for use, says Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne.

Mr Dunne said trials to assess the safety of such drugs were underway in Australia but were probably still two years off completion.

“Clinical trials that produce viable products in Australia that the therapeutic goods agency approves as being able to be prescribed, it’s very likely that MedSafe would follow suit.”

Mr Dunne said no manufacturers had come forward expressing an interest in conducting clinical trials in New Zealand for a medical cannabis product.

For medical cannabis products to be approved they need to have passed clinical trials. For the good of patients and for the good of the availability of cannabis products they must be proven to be safe enough to use.

Dunne also said he did not expect people to be prosecuted for using medical cannabis.

“I do not expect, and it’s not my responsibility anyway, but I do not expect the police or the authorities to be running around persecuting people who are using cannabis sourced illegally.”

However it has happened – see Rebecca Reider’s legal costs.

Helen Kelly has admitted self medicating with cannabis products, but I think there would be an uproar if she was investigated or prosecuted.

I doubt that police or politicians would want to stir that one up.

The drug is already legal for medical use in several American states, and both Queensland and Victoria in Australia expect to legalise it next year.

If you are prescribed cannabis products overseas you can carry a month’s supply into New Zealand. Travelling to the US to stock up would be expensive, but Australia would be more attractive. But once Australia legalises more medicines New Zealand seems likely to follow soon after.

Moir points out:

In short, if the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves something in America, which is only a matter of time, there’s no reason it wouldn’t be of a good enough standard for New Zealand.

Then it would be a case of Pharmac negotiating a price and potentially subsidising it.

But not yet.

National MPs including Prime Minister Key have been resisting any loosing of cannabis laws, but that may not be needed.

Prime Minister John Key moving away from his staunch position that there was no need to look at the system as it stands, to instead being open to research and evidence that shows the efficacy of medicinal cannabis.

A law change is almost entirely unnecessary. It would simply be a case of having medicinal cannabis products regulated under the Medicines Act 1981.

But safety has to be assured.

We live in a country where there’s processes for doing things and, yes, they’re tedious at times, but the flipside of that is we live in a country where making sure people aren’t put at greater risk is considered a priority.

Patients need a little more patience.

But if I was dying and thought that medicinal cannabis may help ease my suffering I’d be bloody impatient.

Leave a comment


  1. Good post PG

    Dunne is still sitting on the fence.. leaning slightly forward. Methinks he needs a ‘big shove’ to get his A off it.. especially when I hear; Seymour calling for a wide ranging debate on drug law & Crusher Collins (Police minister) apparently just saying “NO !!” :/

  2. The main ‘problem’ is that none of the parties, currently in the parliament are really pushing to progress it.. Even the Greens have said ‘drug law reform, is no longer a big priority’ :/


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