The problems with medicinal cannabis

Only minor changes have been made to Ministry of health guidelines for approval of use of cannabis-based products – see Minor MOH changes on cannabis based products.

This leaves medicinal cannabis in a bit of a catch-22 situation – until products can be proven to be effective and safe they won’t be approved, but until they are used and properly assessed their effectiveness and safety will remain unknown.

Stuff reports: Guidelines for applying for medicinal cannabis barely touched following review

The feedback from the review was “unanimously supportive that the guidelines and process are sound,” Dunne said.

His position of a “robust and scientific” approach to cannabis has not changed, which means “identifying the greatest therapeutic benefits and determining the most appropriate ratios, dosage and delivery mechanisms”.

“Otherwise we are essentially flying blind and hoping for the best, an approach that flies in the face of evidence-based medicines policy.

“The consistent feedback from experts in their field was that cannabis-based products should be treated no differently to other medicines – evidence-based principles should and will continue to be followed”.

New Zealand will have to wait until adequate testing of cannabis based products has been done overseas.

In general this is a sound approach, the Ministry should not approve untested or unknown products.

However cannabis is already widely used in new Zealand, and cannabis based medical products are legally available in other countries and notably in some states of the USA, like California and Oregon (where all cannabis use is legal).

It has also been found to be legal to bring a month’s supply of prescribed cannabis based medicine into New Zealand.

So annoyance and frustration and anger here are easy to understand and empathise with.

This situation has left Helen Kelly, like others, in a situation where she is openly breaking the law.

Terminally ill Helen Kelly says the Government has made her a “criminal” after a review of medicinal cannabis guidelines ended with little change.

Kelly continues to illegally source her own drugs after her bid for medicinal cannabis was withdrawn – the result of a “complicated” application process, which required information that was “impossible to access”.

“I’ve been left to buy my own cancer treatment and take illegal cannabis – the whole system is stuffed.”

I can understand why she thinks the whole system is stuffed, I’d probably feel the same way if I was in a similar situation to her.

And I’d probably break the law too if I thought that illegal but available products would help easy pain and discomfort better than legal products.

The Police appear to be turning a blind eye to  Kelly’s use of cannabis product despite her openness, and it would look awful if they arrested a dying person, but it but this leaves the law looking like an ass.

It’s also understandable that the Ministry of Health and Dunne are unwilling to approve unproven medical products – it would look bad (and would be bad) if they approved one that turned out to be inappropriate or unsafe.

There seems to be no sensible solution in sight in the foreseeable future.

If you thought things were too PC now…

…see what the BBC was like in the 1940s, according to ‘1948 Guidelines for Light Entertainment  Producers of matters of taste’, as posted on Slate.

Filmmaker Samantha Horley recently posted an image of this set of “Guidelines,” which she found among her father’s effects, on her Facebook page. Horley told me that her aunt worked at the BBC as a secretary in the 1960s and 1970s; she thinks the page originally came from her aunt’s papers.

The BBC’s press office told me, over email, that the page looks like it came from The BBC Variety Programmes Policy Guide For Writers and Producers, published in 1948.


The BBC reprinted the entire document as a book in the late 1990s; it’s now out of print, but here is a version in PDF. The longer document includes provisions that are less overtly amusing than this section but are interesting nonetheless, offering guidelines on libel and slander, religious and political references, and jokes about physical and mental disability.

From: The BBC’s Hilarious 1948 Style Guidelines “On Matters of Taste”