[ Skip to main content ]

Only a tiny percentage of New Zealanders who use cannabis for medicinal purposes are accessing the product through legal channels, new analysis by the NZ Drug Foundation shows.

The analysis, based on Official Information Act requests and patient estimates calculated from the NZ Health Survey, shows that while an estimated 266,700 New Zealanders use cannabis for medicinal purposes, only 6% – around 17,000 people – accessed cannabis using a prescription under the country’s medicinal cannabis regime in 2020.

NZ Drug Foundation Policy Director, Kali Mercier, says the numbers show that while the amount of people accessing cannabis legally has grown under the new regime, there are still significant barriers.

“Unfortunately the current medicinal cannabis regime is simply inaccessible for many people. It is hard to get a prescription because many doctors won’t prescribe or aren’t sure how to prescribe the products. And price is another huge barrier. The drugs aren’t funded, so CBD oil can cost a patient $150-350 per month, with other products costing even more.”

CBD-only products also remain much easier to source legally than those containing THC, even though some medical conditions respond better to products containing that compound.

Ms Mercier says strict quality control standards mean there is an extremely limited number of the products on the market, keeping prices higher.

“Patients suffering some really debilitating conditions continue to use illegally-sourced
products and live in fear of the law, and often their plants and medicines are destroyed by Police enforcing the law.”

Ms Mercier says the solution lies not just in improving the price and accessibility of prescription products, but in decriminalisation.

“Unless medicinal cannabis products start to be funded by Pharmac and doctors become more comfortable with prescribing it, tens of thousands of people will continue to turn to the black market. And even then, many people will continue to distrust the health system. We should not be criminalising any of them.”

The analysis is part of the NZ Drug Foundation’s 2022 State of the Nation report, released today.


Related See more

cannabis oil

Harm reduction tips for medicinal cannabis users

Too many kiwis are still buying medicinal cannabis on the black market. We asked two leading experts for some harm reduction tips to keep th...


D-Day approaches for new medicinal cannabis scheme

The number of products are set to be slashed and prices are expected to spike when a transitional medicinal cannabis scheme expires in Octob...

Dr Reti’s medicinal cannabis bill highlights flaws in current system

Private members bill from Dr Shane Reit highlights how the current medicinal scheme has left patients with huge barriers to access.

MoS aug 2020 growing pains

Growing pains: How cannabis impacts pain relief

Dr Bronwyn Thompson says patients will benefit from cannabis legalisation, even with studies on using the drug for pain management yet to co...

The Level promo

Straight up guide for people who use drugs

The Level is for real people, in real life, whatever level they are at.

The Level

social graphic subscribe

Subscribe to email updates

Get regular news, analysis and commentary on drug issues in New Zealand. Free.

Sign up now!

Back to top