The real work begins on the Medical Cannabis scheme

Media release from Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand after the passing of the medical cannabis bill in parliament today:


The real work begins on the Medical Cannabis scheme

MCANZ is delighted at the historic achievement of a solid commitment to produce Medical Cannabis in New Zealand, and is grateful for the amendments that were introduced broadening the scope of the compassionate clause, clarifying a more therapeutic “whole plant” definition of CBD, and allowing for native cannabis strains to enter the market, giving New Zealand Industry a competitive edge over Australia.

MCANZ Does note that the real mahi has yet to start, and close attention was paid to details in the Initial speech from David Clark.  Details were revealed around a consultation phase, with a mention of an advisory committee to be formed.

It is the view of MCANZ that a year has been wasted that could have been spent working on the scheme.
“We challenge the minister to get invitations for an advisory committee out before christmas to demonstrate it is truly a priority.” Says MCANZ Coordinator Shane Le Brun

“The challenge now lies in the MOH and its resourcing, we need the MOH to recruit more staff to assist in forming the scheme, and ultimately administering it, we hope that with a  budget surplus it should be fairly easy to get funds without resorting to the likes of industry levies.”

“Time frames are prone to slipping, especially with such large bodies of work, we hope that they can talk to other governments to learn from their experiences, and ensure that the scheme is implemented on time.”

“Our hope is that with early clarity on the direction of the scheme, manufacturers can be ready for the go live date, delivering products at much more affordable prices on day 1”

Poll suggests more progressive cannabis law reform wanted

People hoped that a new Government, especially one with Greens and Labour dominant, would properly address dysfunctional cannabis related laws. The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill is set to be passed this week, probably on Tuesday, but the lack of scope that has made it through the parliamentary system is underwhelming. Many will be disappointed.

A poll suggests that a majority of New Zealanders want more from Parliament – more like moves in a number of other countries, like Canada and United States who are far more progressive.

NZ Herald: Kiwis support medicinal cannabis for many conditions: Poll

A majority of New Zealanders say medicinal cannabis should be allowed to treat chronic pain, sleep disorders and other conditions, according to a new poll.

The Horizon Research poll, which was commissioned by fledgling medicinal cannabis producer Helius Therapeutics, comes just before a bill is expected to pass that will allow the use of medicinal cannabis for people who need palliative relief.

The poll, which canvassed the views of 2105 adults, showed support for medicinal cannabis to be allowed for a range of conditions.

Should be used for:

  • Chronic pain 68%
  • Cancer 58%
  • Epilepsy 52%
  • Multiple sclerosis 50%
  • Anxiety 49%
  • Arthritis 48%

I expect that those percentages would be much higher for those suffering from chronic pain, cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, anxiety or arthritis.

I wonder how these approval ratings would compare for the use of morphine?

The Government bill requires regulations for a medicinal cannabis scheme to be made no later than a year after the law comes into effect. There will be further consultation on those.

Other findings from the poll:

  • 75% agreed that medicinal cannabis should be treated the same as any other medicine
  • 59% agreed that doctors and nurse practitioners should be able to issue “medicinal cannabis cards” so patients could access cannabis products from pharmacists without prescription

More on that last result from Medical Cannabis Awareness NZ:

Recently Helius has commisioned a Horizons poll outlining attitudes around Medical Cannabis.  With the final reading of the Medical Cannabis bill likely to be early this coming week, it outlines strong support across the political spectrum for significantly more reform than what was offered in the Govt Cannabis Bill.

“A key critique of the govt bill is that it shows no shape or intent outlining the nature of the ‘scheme’. Public support as polled shows strong support for a Card based access scheme similar to what is in place in many US States, and as proposed in Dr. Shane Reti’s private member’s bill” says MCANZ Coordinator Shane Le Brun.

The Headline result shows that support for a card scheme is at 59%, with those opposed only at 18%

“Such results should be taken seriously by the team at the Ministry of Health who will be in charge of creating the scheme. Its a timely poll in that the next phase will be reliant on these unelected officials to balance the demands of the public, along with political expediency and the nature of managing the public health risks and benefits such a scheme may entail”.

“The preference of the public is to destigmatize Medical Cannabis, which aligns with our charities views. Essentially we would be satisfied if ‘Balanced’ Cannabis products were treated with the same caution as lighter Opioids and Benzodiazepines such as Codeine and Diazepam, which are prescribed quite freely”

“Unfortunately the wording of the question suggests following the traditional medical development model, which is where cannabis-based medicines hit a snag, its commercial suicide to do large-scale phase 3 trials for Medical Cannabis products, where the compositions etc are not able to be protected by patents”
This leads into our main issue with Medical Cannabis gaining legitimacy, the paucity of Phase 3 RCTs”

It is the hope of MCANZ, that with the successful passage of the bill, that the Minister and the Ministry waste no time in getting the regulatory consultation underway, and use such polls in their initial planning.

After initially indicating they would take urgent action over medical cannabis availability. It has taken a year to get a watered down bill over the line.

It could take up to another year to put it into effect.

 

Labour 100 day medical cannabis promise could be 1,000 days or more

The lack of urgency by the Government on medical cannabis has been very disappointing, after initial promise of it being a first 100 day priority, and especially as it was promoted as important by Jacinda Ardern in the memory of her friend Helen Kelly.

And it was promoted as a 100 day promise:

Labour will hit the ground running in government, with a programme of work across housing, health, education, families, the environment and other priority areas.

  • Introduce legislation to make medicinal cannabis available for people with terminal illnesses or in chronic pain

It is now about 360 days since the Labour-led government took over, and they look nowhere near fulfilling this promise.

MCANZ Coordinator Shane Le Brun: “It is disappointing that the bill’s second reading has been postponed to November due to haggling around supplementary papers to improve the bill.”

“Patients are left disenfranchised and frustrated with the lack of progress on the bill”.

On 1 November 2017 Dylan Kelly wrote (The Spinoff): On a new government, kindness and the (unfinished) legacy of my mother, Helen Kelly

Jacinda Ardern’s programme offers real hope for the issues Mum fought so passionately for, from labour law and cannabis reform to forestry and Pike River.

…Fast-forward to this year’s debate, and Jacinda Ardern’s rapid-fire declaration that legal medicinal cannabis was a no-brainer was considered the savvy political response.

Mum’s final public words were “I want people just to be kind. It would make a hell of a difference.” Jacinda Ardern, in her final interview before becoming prime minister, told John Campbell that her government was going to “bring kindness back”.

We’ve got a lot of work to do. But with Prime Minister Ardern and co in charge, we can finally get started.

Ardern started with talk of kindness, and Labour started with a promise on medical cannabis, but a year later they have not delivered.

A press release from Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand:


Government’s 100-day Pledge to legalise Medical Cannabis could slip to 1000 days.

Documents released to MCANZ under the official information act show that the regulations associated with the government medical cannabis bill could take years, with a planned go-live of mid-2020. This go-live date is subject to change and with the current under-resourcing of the MOH, it could be considered a best-case scenario.  Additionally, an advisory committee initially scheduled for March has been pushed back to November, and may yet be pushed back further.

“It is disappointing that the bill’s second reading has been postponed to November due to haggling around supplementary papers to improve the bill. If the Minister of health had consulted widely in the first place when drafting the bill, we wouldn’t be in this fiasco where  essentially anyone who has a stake in the outcome of this bill, whether it’s the patients, the budding industry or indeed the political opposition are all asking for significant amendments to the bill.”

“Patients are left disenfranchised and frustrated with the lack of progress on the bill, and the lack of amendments from the select committee, where the overwhelming majority wished for the exemption to extend to those with severe, chronic and debilitating conditions.”

“It is likely that if things continue as they are, by the time this bill is sorted, nearly 3 years will have passed. Circumstances will have progressed so far that patients will likely be using the referendum as a tool to gain safe legal access, potentially skewing the result in favour”.

“Another issue is the lack of budget at the Ministry of health for external consultation or industry/international experts to assist. We hope that with the surprise surplus government has announced this week, that some of this can be dedicated to setting up the scheme”

“Without additional resources in the near term, it will prove hard for this potential industry to catch up with Australia, costing the country in jobs and revenues, and patients on a cost basis,” says MCANZ Coordinator Shane Le Brun.

Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand

https://mcawarenessnz.org/


Jacinda Ardern in 2016 (Stuff):  The pain behind the medical marijuana debate’

It was sometime in the middle of last year when the political suddenly felt personal. It wasn’t a party, it wasn’t even a social occasion. I was visiting my friend who had spent the evening periodically flinching, doubling over, and rocking, and was now reaching for a form of cannabis as she tried to deal with her pain.

My friend was dying.

I think that’s what gets me most about the medical marijuana debate. It’s the perfect example of the brutal reality of people’s individual situations, and the layers of complexity that emerge as soon as you dig into it as a politician.

This is not a new debate – it came up when I first came into Parliament. At that time it was in the form of a member’s bill. It’s fair to say that it had a few holes in it, but those were all details that we had time to fix. I voted in favour of it, others used the drafting as an excuse to turn it down. The bill failed.

And here we are again. Same problem, different political cycle.

That was the last political cycle, before Ardern made 100 promises as Labour Prime Minister.

My friend will never benefit from change in this area, she passed away. But in reality I doubt she ever really cared too much. She was too busy living every single day to the fullest right up until her last breath. Surely we owe it to everyone to give them the best chance they have to do the same, despite the pain.

Surely Ardern and her Government owe it to the people who experience problems and pain on a daily basis, people who die suffering, to bloody well treat this like the priority she promised.

Ministry cannabis advice based on definition difficulties

The Ministry of Health advised against making it easier (and at least semi-legal) for people suffering from chronic pain to access cannabis products for relief because of claimed difficulties with legal definitions.

That sounds like a cop out to me. It’s up to Parliament to work out the law and legal definitions, and helping people shouldn’t be refused based on departmental definition difficulties.

It has also gave Labour an excuse to cop out of it’s campaign promise to make medical cannabis available.

NZH:  Medicinal cannabis: Ministry of Health advised against decriminalisation for those in chronic pain

The Ministry of Health advised against decriminalising medicinal cannabis for those in chronic pain, saying it would lead to major issues over its legal definition.

The advice is contained in a regulatory impact statement, released at the end of last year, on the Government’s Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill.

The impact statement said decriminalising for those in chronic pain would be problematic.

“Chronic pain is difficult to define, subjective, and would potentially cover a large patient group (21 per cent of adults experience chronic pain). Extending this proposal to this group would be likely to result in significant dispute around the definition of chronic pain.”

So ‘chronic pain’ would be difficult to define. Chronic pain can be bloody difficult to live with too, but the Ministry and the Government don’t seem to care about people suffering from that.

So the Amendment Bill avoided defining chronic pain. In other words they have ignored the needs of people suffering from chronic pain

As well as this the Bill proposes a flawed means of dying patients using medical cannabis – they will be able to claim a defence against using cannabis but it will remain illegal for them to grow it or obtain it and it will remain illegal for anyone to supply them with it.

Rebecca Reider, who uses medicinal cannabis, said those in chronic pain should also be able to use cannabis without being criminalised.

“It’s great that the Government recognises a compassionate approach to terminally ill patients is needed. But what about non-terminal patients? Why can’t the Government show that amnesty to everyone who has a doctor recommend cannabis?”

Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell also said the provision for those with a terminal illness – defined as someone who can reasonably expect their life to end within 12 months – was too narrow.

“A one-year window simply does not go far enough to cover people with chronic pain and any terminal illness, and needs to be reconsidered by the select committee.”

Labour, and Jacinda Ardern, at least implied that would take a compassionate approach to people who suffered, but instead took a technical approach and avoided addressing it.

Health Minister David Clark has said that the bill, introduced at the end of last month, was a compassionate measure that would ensure no prosecutions while a new prescribing framework is set up.

The bill, which fulfils a 100-day promise, was softened to gain the support of New Zealand First, and will pass with the support of the Greens.

Bullshit. It’s a less than half arsed attempt to be seen to doing something they promised to do without actually doing much.

The Government has said those wishing for medicinal cannabis to be more widely available will have a chance to have their say when Swarbrick’s bill has its first reading, expected to be a conscience vote.

So they are effectively admitting that their own bill is a crock – a crooked attempt to appear as if they are keeping a promise.

So what if some people without major pain manage to use a bit of cannabis less illegally than now? People are still suffering and are putting themselves at legal risk.

Compassion my arse. Political gutlessness.

 

 

Greens’ “push for more caring medicinal cannabis law” may be futile

The Green Party say they will support the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill, which is a largely toothless sop to try and look like the Labour is fulfilling a 100 day promise.

But just prior to this bill being tabled in parliament yesterday the greens showed their lack of confidence in what it does with this press release:

Greens to push for more caring medicinal cannabis law

The Green Party is supporting the Government’s medicinal cannabis legislation introduced to parliament today, but is encouraging the public to use the select committee process to push for improvements to expand the law in relation to New Zealanders suffering from chronic pain and other medical conditions who could benefit from the use of medicinal cannabis, but who are excluded from legal protections in the Bill.

So they don’t think the bill is good enough.

“This Bill represents a significant improvement from the status quo and delivers on the promise to legislate for medicinal cannabis. It represents the consensus view across the governing parties,” said Green Party drug law reform spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick.

It is nonsense to claim it is “a significant improvement from the status quo”. It “delivers on the promise to legislate for medicinal cannabis”, but it is a Claytons’ bill.

“We will vote to improve access to medicinal cannabis, but we are disappointed the Bill does not provide coverage to all people suffering from conditions who could benefit from its use, limiting access to a legal defence to only those with a terminal illness.

“Parliament has the opportunity to improve the Bill through the select committee process and through supporting my Member’s Bill, which offers sick New Zealanders better access to medicinal cannabis pain relief.

“The Green Party has always campaigned for a compassionate approach to medicinal cannabis, and as a partner of the Government we want to see this done right.

“We are encouraging New Zealanders who want to see the Bill widened to include sufferers of chronic pain and other medical conditions to make their voice heard at the select committee. We will support them and keep pushing for a better Bill.

“New Zealanders overwhelmingly support the use of medicinal cannabis for the alleviation of pain, so it’s disappointing the Bill excludes these people. A Curia Research Poll commissioned by the New Zealand Drug Foundation this year showed 78% of New Zealanders support growing and using cannabis for any medical reasons such as to alleviate pain,” said Ms Swarbrick.

The problem is even if people put in an effort to lobby for decent changes through this bill, as encouraged by the Greens, it is a Government bill and unless NZ First agrees with any amendments they are doomed.

A problem with “encouraging the public to use the select committee process to push for improvements to expand the law in relation to New Zealanders suffering from chronic pain and other medical conditions who could benefit from the use of medicinal cannabis” is there is little chance of significant change – and that appears likely given the toothless nature of the bill, then Greens may be raising false hopes.

The tail wagging the dog and pup?

When comparing two bills currently in the news it looks like the NZ First tail is wagging the Labour dog and green pup.

Labour and the Greens say they are allowing NZ First to progress their waka jumping bill. The Greens in particular have compromised their principles significantly in order to allow the bill to pass with a unified majority.

See Waka jumping bill and integrity.

But NZ First seems to be responsible for neutering changes on Medical Cannabis, a bill that is important enough for Labour to include in their 100 day plan, and important enough to the Greens to keep a Member’s Bill that goes further (and for Labour to support leaving that bill in), indications are that NZ First, with 9 votes to Labour-Greens 54, seems to be getting away with crippling the bill.

It’s not just a clear majority in Government that NZ First are stuffing around.

A Curia poll in July shows strong public support:

• Growing and/or using cannabis for any medical reasons such as to alleviate pain
17% illegal
21% decriminalised
57% legal

• Growing and/or using cannabis for medical reasons if you have a terminal illness
15% illegal
22% decriminalised
59% legal

• Possessing a small amount of cannabis for personal use
31% illegal
37% decriminalised
28% legal

• Growing a small amount of cannabis for personal use
41% illegal
32% decriminalised
23% legal

• Growing a small amount of cannabis for giving or selling to your friends
69% illegal
16% decriminalised
10% legal

• Selling cannabis from a store
57% illegal
11% decriminalised
23% legal

The poll was conducted from July 3-18, with 938 people participating. The margin of error is +/-3.1 per cent.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11906718

We will see what the bill looks like when it is introduced today, but Ardern, Shaw and Minister of Health David Clark have all talked down expectations in advance.

Stuff: Government downplays expectations on medicinal cannabis law reform

Clark would not comment on the details of the bill, before it was announced. But his comments suggested the Government could be preparing to widen access for medicinal cannabis products, while not necessarily allowing for the full legalisation of medicinal marijuana in its raw form.

“The bill itself, represents what we know the Parliament is willing to progress. There’s another member’s bill in the name of Chloe Swarbrick that will test if the Parliament has an appetite to go further,” he said.

Clark said the party “drew on the experience it had through the campaign” when drafting the policy. But admitted some would be left disappointed by the legislation.

“It won’t make all of the activists happy. There will be some who would wish that we would go further – we believe we have struck a balance, which represents good progress.

Referring to ‘activists’ has made a lot of people unhapy, especially those who are genuinely campaigning for wider and cheaper medical use of cannabis products.

“And the Parliament will get its chance with Chloe Swarbrick’s bill to decide whether it wants to go further,” Clark said.

A virtual admission that their own bill is crap.

“The Government has created its own piece of legislation to progress medicinal cannabis; it was part of our 100-day plan. We wanted to make sure that medicinal cannabis is more accessible to people with terminal illness or chronic conditions and the piece of legislation will make progress.”

Important enough to be included in their 100 day plan.

Not important enough to stand up to Winston Peters, despite Labour and the Greens compromising for NZ First’s pet bill.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said members would have options with the presence of both bills.

But the Government bill would “improve on the status quo”.

“We can guarantee with the bill we have got we can do that. We can’t guarantee that with the member’s bill. There are differences and you will see that when the bill is introduced.”

We will see, but the signs look ominous.

The tail appears to be wagging the dog and pup vigorously.

 

What’s in Labour’s Medical Cannabis bill?

Labour promised to something about medical cannabis in Taking action in our first 100 days:

  • Introduce legislation to make medicinal cannabis available for people with terminal illnesses or in chronic pain

And there is also the promises to Labour stalwart Helen Kelly to honour as well, after she openly admitted using cannabis to alleviate the symptoms of the cancer as she died.

Medical Cannabis New Zealand worries about ” “a sense of dread in the patient community that Labour’s bill will be more tinkering around the edges”:


What’s in Labour’s Medical Cannabis bill?

With the looming introduction of a bill by Labour for Medical Cannabis, the patient community is sceptical, and bordering on pre-emptively hostile due to the lack of consultation, and the comments from Jacinda Ardern about pharmaceutical grade Cannabis Based Products. Considering the lack of information coming out, we wish to publish our bottom line positions. These positions were promulgated to David Clark and other MPs with Health portfolios pre election, and represent what we feel is the minimum that needs to be done to drastically improve health and legal outcomes for patients.

“There is a sense of dread in the patient community that Labour’s bill will be more tinkering around the edges”.

“While I am pessimistic, we hope that a majority of our redlines are met, and that there is an engagement and commitment toundertake further reform, particularly around licensed production, which doesn’t lend itself easily to the hundred day fix”.

“It is concerning also that there has been zero consultation with the patient community on the bill being put forward, and that any briefings or BIMs David Clark has had on this topic are being refused release”.

“To enable something rapid for patients, the only affordable option is home growing, despite this being undesirable from a medical perspective, any imported products are still going to be unobtainable by the patients who need them most, sickness beneficiaries and ACC Claimants.” Says MCANZ Coordinator Shane Le Brun.

MCANZ Redlines

  • Medical necessity must be a legal defence. Due to the postcode lottery of medical specialists, a legal defence needs to be in place for those stuck in the backwaters or with backwards-thinking doctors. This would force police to more carefully consider the public interest. The police have demonstrated a fixation on cultivation and are prosecuting patients with severe medical needs, an amendment to the crimes act to include this defence is needed.
  • A non-smoking provision. In the age of the portable vaporizer, there is absolutely no need to smoke cannabis, and no one should. Any Politician citing excuses around smoking being bad for health should be soundly ignored, as no one is credibly arguing to smoke a medicine, This is already in line with the theoretical acceptability of Bedrocan, a standardized, granulated raw cannabis product, which MOH officials have said would be covered under the smoke free laws anyway.
  • GPs to prescribe. Schedule 22 of the current Misuse of Drugs Act needs changing so that all cannabis-based products can be prescribedby GPs. THC has a far better safety profile than other GP prescribed options such as Fentanyl, Diazepam, Methadone etc. This would also greatly reduces the barrier to access for patients, and would allow Cannabis to be prescribed as freely as Medicinal Cocaine. (theoretical, it’s on the books but no one prescribes it).
  • Notifiable prescribing. Instead of seeking Ministry approval to use Medical Cannabis, GPs should have a simple form to notify MOH of the prescribing, so MOH can gather data and look for unusual prescribing patterns. There is potential for this to become a survey of sorts and become part of the clinical data going forward – if there are several N=1 trials for a condition such as fibromyalgia for instance, the collective data may be used to measure benefit and even go as far as findings published in a medical journal article.
  • Made in NZ. It is important that the law is changed to allow Medical Cannabis to be grown for commercialized product. Our current law requires trials and facilities that could end up costing well over $20 million, for no ability to sell a finished, trialled product. Cultivation for trials has been legal since 1977 – yet it would be commercial suicide to undertake it in New Zealand.
  • A concerted medical education campaign. Many doctors are poorly informed when they talk to their patients about the benefits versus risks, and some try to avoid even prescribing Sativex to the point of misinforming the public. Even former NZMA chair Stephen Childs has made inaccurate statements on TV about the purity of the Botanically Derived Solution (BDS) that goes into Sativex. We note that the UICbranded symposiums held in Australia every year are hugely successful in bringing world-leading experts on Medical Cannabis to speak and generate conversation, piggy-backing off those efforts and mirroring that in New Zealand would go some way to addressing the barriers posed by senior Medical Staff.

– Shane le Brun, MZANZ Coordinator

Do We Really Need “Pharma Grade” Medical Cannabis?

Part one of a series of opinion pieces by Shane Le Brun, Coordinator, Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand

There is strong public support for significant reform of Medical Cannabis (MC) regulation. The system currently in place, which focuses wholly on pharmaceutically trialed cannabis-based medicines, removes patient and prescriber choice, and costs are prohibitive. New Zealand may have the highest priced MC in the western world – a side-effect of our remote location and small market.

Most other western countries are looking to grow and make their own products to expand treatment options while reducing costs. Australia in particular, with its solid experience in poppy cultivation, is looking to create an export market and has at least a dozen companies exploring the pharmaceutical route, pouring 10s of millions of dollars into trials for a product that they will likely have trouble holding patents on.

We have already proved with one patient, Dr Huhana Hickey, that a comparatively simple standardised extract made in grapeseed oil, can do a better job than the registered pharmaceutical alternative. This is compared to the ‘pharmaceutical grade’ product Sativex, which is essentially “2 strains of hash oil in a spraycan”. The alternative is available from Canada for a much lower cost. Imagine the cost reduction if such products could be produced in New Zealand with our proven scientific capabilities. Our issue with cost can be resolved without granting patients the individual freedom to grow their own.

At MCANZ we have introduced a small handful of products from 2 companies in Canada. These products are not Pharmaceutical grade, but are close to it, yet they cost 30-60% less than Sativex to the patient. I refer to these products as “near pharmaceutical” the quality is good, the product is clean. We have never had a request to prescribe one of these products declined by the MOH and we need to differentiate them from the negative connotations of “non pharmaceutical” in the applications scheme.

These products are not dirty hash oils made in a Californian garage by a “Ganjapreneur”, but are developed under a regime regulated and monitored by the Canadian MOH equivalent, “Health Canada”. For these products, the MOH has said nothing but yes (the trick is convincing New Zealand doctors to apply). These products have been safely prescribed to thousands of Canadian patients already, so why shouldn’t we also use these products?

The cost savings per patient can be immense for customers. However, this also matters for public expenditure as currently, WINZ, ACC and DHBs are funding Sativex on rare occasions. I estimate there are tens of thousands of dollars to be saved per annum by ditching the pharmaceutical only mindset. Naturally, starting from such a low number, the projections will only increase going forward as the evidence of cannabis’ effectiveness for conditions such as chronic pain shores up. (It is trending towards conclusive in general terms.) This has massive ramifications for the potential financial vulnerability/liability for the likes of ACC if they are increasingly asked to pay up for Sativex or other Pharmaceutical grade products in the future. It also matters for patients if they refuse access due to this cost burden.

After our next product roll out, we will reach a point where the only way to get products cheaper will be to make them ourselves in New Zealand. Canada’s system of licensed manufacturers would be ideal for New Zealand. It delivers relatively standardised and safe, sterilised products 80% cheaper than Sativex (the only relevant product preapproved by MedSafe for use in New Zealand) for similar-strength products. Products can double in price when getting shipped internationally, if we allow “near pharmaceutical” products to be made in New Zealand without trials, then we could make these products available as unregistered medicines. Trials cost big money, a cost that is then forwarded on to the patients. With plenty of generalised evidence emerging, there is no need to reinvent the wheel and prove that a balanced cannabis product that is in essence similar to Sativex does the same job.

Instead, lets make the products locally, and make them available to GPs and specialists, and let the medical professionals use their own common sense about when to prescribe. Additionally, by forgoing the insistence on trials, we can race ahead of Australia in getting the potential industry to the export stage, with cost advantages to boot. We snoozed and loosed with Opium production in the 60s, and now Tasmania leads the world in that multibillion-dollar industry, lets not make the same mistakes with Cannabis just because a few conservative MPs can’t differentiate between a medicinal crop and the cash crop down at their local tinny house.

Part 2 of this series of opinion pieces will be published next week and will cover the finer points on the workability of policy allowing patients to grow cannabis at home.

Medicinal Cannabis Bill

Green MP Julie Anne Genter’s Medicinal Cannabis Bill was drawn from the Members’ ballot today. It seems unlikely it will make it into it’s First Reading in Parliament before the election.

Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis and Other Matters) Amendment Bill

The purpose of this bill is to make it legal for New Zealanders who are suffering from terminal illness or any debilitating condition to use cannabis or cannabis products with the support of a registered medical practitioner.

Greens:  Medicinal cannabis finally on Parliament’s agenda

The Green Party is thrilled that Parliament will consider whether to finally legalise medicinal cannabis in New Zealand.

Green Party health spokesperson Julie Anne Genter’s Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis and Other Matters) Amendment Bill was drawn from the Member’s Ballot today. The Bill will make it legal for any New Zealander who is suffering from a terminal illness or any debilitating condition to use cannabis or cannabis products with the support of a registered medical practitioner.

“We are finally going to have the conversation about medicinal cannabis that New Zealanders have been crying out for,” said Green Party health spokesperson.

“No Kiwi should have to live in pain because of an archaic, uncompassionate law.

“Medicinal cannabis must be available by prescription at the doctor but it also must be affordable.

“The recent ‘softening’ of the law, announced by Peter Dunne, goes only part of the way to ensuring New Zealanders can get the pain relief they need. It does not guarantee medicinal cannabis products will be affordable for the average New Zealander – in fact, it relies upon the import of expensive overseas-developed medicines.

“Why should New Zealanders have to pay thousands of dollars to buy imported medicinal cannabis products when we can produce our own effective and affordable medicines here?

“My Bill will ensure that sick people and those in pain will actually be able to afford the cannabis products they need.

“The change to cannabis laws that New Zealanders have been wanting for years is now within reach. The hard work of everyone who has campaigned on this issue, including Rose Renton and the late Helen Kelly, may finally be realised.

“New Zealand can finally catch up to the much of the rest of the world on cannabis – now it’s up to my colleagues across the aisle in Parliament,” said Ms Genter.

See also from Public Address  Genter’s Bill: Starting at last on medical cannabis

Julie Anne Genter’s private members bill on medical cannabis emerged from the ballot this morning – and it raises some interesting questions.

You’ll recall me posting to the effect that the scheduled rewrite of the Misuse of Drugs Act – a process I’ve been told could begin as soon as November – makes drug policy an election issue. Even though it will presumably be subject to a conscience vote, Genter’s bill being drawn makes it even more so.

But it’s complicated, Genter’s bill is written as an amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act. It’s entirely likely that the MoDA reboot and voting on the bill will aiming to amend it will overlap, and that the two could be in select committee at the same time. Genter’s bill – if it passes its first reading –  would go to the Health select committee. These things are political decisions, but consideration of new Misuse of Drugs Act might also go to Health. It will need to be managed.

It seems possible subsequent readings of the bill could be deferred until there’s a new MoDA to amend – which could be years. I guess it’s also possible the bill could give impetus to the rewrite process, or be used to expedite the relevant parts of the new MoDA. Again, all that will be political.

Legal challenge of MoH on medical cannabis

A post by Russell Brown at Public Address asks Is the Ministry of Health acting outside the law on medical cannabis?

The key barrier to the use of medical cannabis – or to even discovering what its uses might be – has long been marijuana’s illegality under the Misuse of Drugs Act. But what if it transpired that a key component of cannabis is not, and has never been, controlled by the act? And that heavy restrictions on its use and importation are in fact taking place outside the law?

…it’s the subject of an intended legal challenge notified by Nelson lawyer Sue Grey.

From a letter from Grey to Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne outlines her claim.

NOTICE OF INTENDED LEGAL CHALLENGE RE STATUS OF CANNABIDIOL “CBD” UNDER THE MISUSE OF DRUGS ACT

I write on behalf of various interests who seek urgent clarification of the legal status of Cannabidiol “CBD” under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

In summary:

  1. CBD is not explicitly scheduled under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
  2. CBD does not meet the statutory criteria under Section 3A for scheduling under the Misuse of Drugs Act1 as there is no evidence that it poses a very high, high or moderate risk of harm to individuals or to society.
  3. Information obtained under the Official Information Act and from the Ministry of Health website identify a significant disagreement within the New Zealand government officials over the status of CBD under the Misuse of Drugs Act.!!Some from the Ministry of Health claim CBD is indirectly covered by Schedule 2 (1)(2)2 as a Class B drug based on their assessment that it is “an isomer of tetraDhydrocannabinols” (THC). In contrast, the government’s leading expert analytical chemist, Dr Keith Bedford and his expert team at Crown Research Institute Environmental Science and Research, “ESR”, have published a paper explaining why THC is not within this definition, because CBD has a different chemical formula, structure and function to THC and accordingly it is not caught within the definition of “an isomer within the same chemical designation”
  4. Dr Bedford’s expert view has been made clear to the Ministry of Health and to his colleagues on the government’s Expert Advisory Drug Committee (“the EADC”). The minutes of the EADC’s April 2016 identify no scientific or legal reason why Dr Bedford’s view is wrong. It appears the different views relate solely to policy consideration and perhaps vested interests, although it remains unclear to me why some members of the committee would prefer to continue to treat CBD as if it is illegal. Clearly government policy cannot override the law that was written by Parliament, and in particular s3A of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Grey also claims.

  • Medicines containing CBD are (in my view unlawfully) treated as if Ministerial approval is required under Regulation 22 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations, resulting in considerable bureaucratic hoops and hurdles, delay in access and unnecessary cost for patients who are typically already very ill, and their families who are typically already very stressed.
  • The complex situation is compounded by the apparent policy of Medsafe (disclosed in documents obtained under the Official Information Act) to attempt to prohibit foods or other products which contain CBD from being sold as foods or dietary supplements, apparently because CBD is also scheduled under the Medicines Regulations. I can find no lawful basis for this policy and do not understand how Medsafe can reconcile this with the law or with the FSANZ proposal to approve the sale of hemp seed foods for human use.
  • I understand from other Official Information Act responses and from recent coverage on TV3’s Story (on the use of CBD as a supplement for managing Alzheimers by Mr Robinson, father of Nicky Evans) and other documentation that I have been shown, that NZ Customs have been instructed to seize products that contain CBD at the NZ border. This is despite the expert advice to the Ministry of Health that CBD has no known harmful effects to individuals or society and it is outside the scope of the Misuse of Drugs Act schedules.
  • The current policy of Ministry of Health, and adopted by NZ Customs to treat CBD as if it is covered by the Misuse of Drugs Act to try to justify the seizure of products which contain CBD, is in my view unlawful, unreasonable and unjustified as CBD is not covered by the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Grey asks for the Court to make declarations on:

A) CBD is not explicitly prohibited under the Misuse of Drugs Act

B) CBD has a different chemical formula and different structure and function to THC and accordingly it is not restricted as “an isomer within the same chemical designation as tetrahydrocannabinols”and is not covered by Schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Act ;

C) CBD does not meet the criteria of section 3A for classification under the!! Misuse of Drugs Act, as it does not cause a very high, high or moderate risk of individual or social harm;

D) Products containing CBD do not require Ministerial approval to be prescribed or recommended under Regulation 22(1) of the Misuse of Drugs Act because CBD is not subject to that Act.!!Regulation 22(1) of the Misuse of Drugs Act does not apply or is being unlawfully applied to medicines and other products containing CBD

E) The actions of NZ Customs in seizing or restricting access into or out of New Zealand of products because they contain or may contain CBD is unlawful.

It will be very interesting to see how the Court deals with this, if it has to go that far. Brown posts:

Grey has received a response from Customs minister Nicky Wagner, explaining that Customs – which has been seizing medical CBD products at the border –  is guided by the advice of the Ministry of Health, which is that “CBD is a class B1 controlled drug as it is an isomer of tetrahydrocannabinol. Customs has acted on that basis.”

“How long do we have to wait? We’ve got people who are sick now,” Grey said. “They don’t want to have to wait another six months or two years for the advisory committee to align itself with what the law already says.

“I’m still hoping that the Minister of Health will get some control over his officials and ask what are you guys doing, why don’t we just listen to what the experts are saying and accept that it’s not covered by the Misuse of Drugs Act and it doesn’t need to be? Then we won’t need to go to court. But if they don’t come to that conclusion fairly quickly, then we will file in court.”