Updated on January 25, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Although patients can access certain cannabis-based medications in New Zealand with only a doctor’s prescription, most believe this system is highly ineffective. Not only are very few medications approved, but patients must pay all costs out of pocket.
In December of 2017, a new bill was introduced to Parliament that would legalize medical marijuana and create a program that meets the needs of the patients. It would lay out the criteria for obtaining medical cannabis, provide safe and affordable products and allow patients to access the meds much easier. Even though the projected date of implementation is not for another two years, patients can look forward to a streamlined system.
Possessing cannabis even for medical purposes is illegal in New Zealand. But because prescription medical marijuana options are limited, many patients still choose to risk prosecution and obtain their medication illegally.
However, there are many reasons having a prescription for cannabis-based medicine — especially when the new program is established — is preferred, including the following facts:
There are only two cannabis-based products approved for patient use in New Zealand: cannabidiol (CBD) medications and Sativex. Patients don’t have to meet any special criteria to receive a CBD prescription, but those seeking a Sativex recommendation must either have multiple sclerosis or obtain special permission from New Zealand’s medicines regulatory Agency, Medsafe.
The process of obtaining cannabis medicine has yet to be determined, but legislature will likely implement guidelines for physicians to follow before they can prescribe cannabis medications.
After a patient has received a prescription for CBD or Sativex, they are not allowed to obtain these products themselves. They must rely on their physician, which can be a slow, expensive process. The new program promises to be more efficient, offering patients easier access and more affordable pricing.
Any physician can prescribe Sativex if they follow the guidelines laid out by Medsafe. CBD products are also approved and can be prescribed by any doctor. However, this physician must be willing to source these products on behalf of their patient.
The Ministry of Health has a special exception, where specialists can apply for an unapproved cannabis product by taking specific measures. The patient must meet a lengthy list of qualifications, and the specialist must provide applicable research on the product in question. Many applications have been submitted, but none have been approved.
The new system will establish guidelines for physicians prescribing cannabis, but these criteria have yet to be disclosed to the public.
If you’d like more information about the current program in New Zealand and the bill that currently sits before Parliament, check out these reliable sources:
And, of course, be sure to check back with MarijuanaDoctors.com. We’ll update you as the bill makes its way through Parliament, bringing New Zealanders one step closer to a more effective, inclusive medical marijuana program.