Medical Marijuana Laws in New Zealand

Updated on January 22, 2019.  Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

The medical marijuana laws in New Zealand are extremely strict and somewhat tricky to understand. Under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, possessing any amount of marijuana is illegal, whether you’re using it for medical purposes or not. However, the use of cannabis among Kiwis is rampant. Millions of citizens support its legalization, but many government officials have stood in the way of revised legislation, even for medicinal use.

In recent years, Sativex and CBD products were approved, but they remain costly and hard to obtain. However, a new bill that would amend the 1975 act to allow the medical use of cannabis is now before the New Zealand Parliament. It’s expected to pass and be fully implemented within the next two years.

Medical Marijuana Use Laws in New Zealand

Medical marijuana is not a taboo subject in New Zealand. There are many vocal supporters on both sides of the issue, and it’s looking like those who want to see a workable medical marijuana program within the country will soon get their wish. Parliament is considering a bill which, if passed, would give more qualified patients access to affordable medical cannabis. However, this legislation is in the early stages and will not reach implementation until 2019 at earliest.

One of the first things this new amendment will accomplish is decriminalizing the use of cannabis for terminally ill patients with less than two years to live. Until then, patients can receive a prescription from their physician for CBD products or, under certain circumstances, Sativex. These are the only cannabis-based medications the New Zealand Ministry of Health approves of.

How New Zealand’s Medical Marijuana Program Will Work

Officials are not quite certain how New Zealand’s medical marijuana program will work at this point. As the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill — which focuses on medicinal cannabis — makes its way through Parliament, a Medicinal Cannabis Advisory Committee will be appointed to figure out the process physicians and patients must take to give and receive medical marijuana prescriptions.

The committee will consider the current protocol for prescribing and accessing cannabis and ensure patients who are terminally ill or suffering from chronic conditions can obtain safe and affordable medical marijuana.

Marijuana Criminalization in New Zealand

Although New Zealand is not a large nation, the country has the ninth highest cannabis consumption rate in the world. In fact, marijuana is the number one most used illicit substance in New Zealand. But, since it’s so difficult to receive a prescription, most patients purchase their medical marijuana on the streets.

Many first-time offenders or medical patients found with pot are issued verbal warnings, but those caught with cannabis put themselves at risk of being penalized with:

  • Up to three months in prison
  • A fine of as much as $500

Legal Limitations of New Zealand’s Medical Marijuana Program

The fact that so many patients are turning to sourcing their cannabis illegally shows that the current system for obtaining medical marijuana is not working. The new amendment will offer an expansion of the program, allowing more patients to participate and gain easier access to safe meds. However, the new program isn’t without its limitations, which include the following facts:

  • The new system will take at least two years to implement
  • The Medicinal Cannabis Advisory Committee may not include all the debilitating conditions that have proven to be treatable with cannabis medications
  • Patients may still have to obtain special permission from the Ministry of Health to receive cannabis prescriptions

Protections for New Zealand’s Patients and Doctors

The only cannabis-based products the Ministry of Health approves of are CBD medications and Sativex. Specialists can apply to the ministry for special permission for patients to use other cannabis meds, but so far, all applications have been denied.

Many doctors are aware that their patients use cannabis illegally to help their symptoms, but they put themselves at risk if they approve this usage or help patients obtain medical marijuana. Even though police tend to offer leniency to patients caught possessing medicinal cannabis, this protection is not a sure thing.

Learn More About International Medical Marijuana Laws

Whether you’re traveling to New Zealand or somewhere else, you should know the medical marijuana laws of the countries you visit. wants to be your source for this information, as well as anything else you’d like to know about medicinal cannabis. Check out our resources and blog to learn more about the benefits of medical marijuana.


Resources for Medical Marijuana Patients in New Zealand