Access to medicinal cannabis for New Zealanders suffering ill health is being made easier, with the Government today announcing new regulations which will allow for the local cultivation and manufacture of cannabis products.
Minister of Health Dr David Clark said in a statement, "many New Zealanders will have watched a loved one struggle with chronic pain, particularly near the end of their lives. Medicinal cannabis products can make a real difference to people’s quality of life".
"Over time this Government’s medicinal cannabis scheme will help people ease their suffering by making a wider range of quality medicinal cannabis products available," he said.
The regulations will come into effect on April 1, next year. The first medicinal cannabis licenses are expected to be issued by mid-next year.
Mr Clark also said there was "huge" international interest in the potential of medicinal products. He said the new regulations in New Zealand mean companies will be well placed to serve both domestic and international markets.
"There is already considerable expertise in this area with 20 companies currently licensed to grow cannabis for research purposes and another 238 growing industrial hemp," Mr Clark said, adding it's expected some of those companies will apply for licenses.
People with prescriptions for medicinal cannabis products can currently fill prescriptions with products sourced from overseas, but they are often costly.
"I'm confident increased competition from local manufacturers will drive prices down over time," Mr Clark said.
"However, sadly we know some people won't be able to wait for domestic manufacturers to begin production - so as a compassionate measure, people eligible to receive palliation will continue to be exempt from prosecution for illicit cannabis."
The exemption will be reviewed once the scheme has been in operation and more quality products become available, Mr Clark added.