The Drug Foundation has been working for many years to improve patient access to medicinal cannabis, because we believe it should be available under medical supervision to those who need it.
The evidence is clear that cannabis can be an effective medicine for a range of conditions. As with any medicine, it is more effective for some conditions than others. It should only be used under the guidance of your medical practitioner, especially if you are suffering from a serious health condition.
In 2017, the Government introduced legislation to develop a medicinal cannabis industry in New Zealand and make products more accessible. Regulations to support that Bill came into force on 1 April 2020.
Under the new scheme, cannabis-based medicines can be prescribed by a doctor. It will be easier to produce medicines in New Zealand, and to import them. Over time, this should enable more patients to access products. Information on the scheme for doctors and patients is available on the Ministry of Health website.
Although the new regulations are now in force, it will take some time to license companies to make products here, and to assess imported products to ensure they reach quality standards. It may take months, or longer, before patients notice any change in access.
In fact, patient advocates are concerned the new scheme may not be fully operational for a number of years, which is too long for those who are seriously ill. There’s a good chance that medicinal cannabis will continue to be costly, and there will be no government subsidies to help patients afford products. Advocates say most GPs have no training in how to prescribe cannabis-based medicines, which means some patients will find it difficult to get a prescription.
These are a few of the reasons the New Zealand Drug Foundation is promoting a yes vote at this year’s cannabis referendum. Legal control of cannabis would mean easier access for people who use cannabis products for a wide range of reasons, and will make them more affordable.
Find out more about the referendum and why we're backing a yes vote.
Here are some key sources for the most up-to-date information on medicinal cannabis
Download our submission on the Misuse of Drugs Medicinal Cannabis Amendment Bill
18 December 2019
Regulations governing medicinal cannabis, released today, are an improvement ... but success will be measured by better patient access
11 November 2019
Although medicinal cannabis was made legal in New Zealand, the medical profession has been slow to widely adopt the new option. Russell Brow...
02 August 2019
A growing body of overseas research has revealed that cannabis could help break harder drug dependence. Legalisation could allow more resear...
19 July 2019
The deadline for submissions on the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme is 7 August 2019. We produced a guide to help patients, carers and whānau mak...
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