Caren Ashford suffers from complex regional pain syndrome. Before she started taking medicinal cannabis, she says life was pretty miserable for her.
As soon as it became legal, she started taking medicinal cannabis. Ashford said she was able to drop 12 medications and the severity of pain she was experiencing during the day had dropped.
“I spent most of the time in my wheelchair … and suddenly, I got quality of life.”
But, the Government is about to end the transitional regime which has given Ashford easy access to her brand of medicine.
Ashford is worried people like her would get sicker and would be forced to go to the black market.
In August, the Ministry of Health confirmed it was extending a grace period for medicinal cannabis to the start of October. It aimed to allow suppliers and importers time to get their products up to minimum standards.
But, so far, only four very expensive Canadian medicines have met New Zealand standards, which are some of the toughest in the world.
Pharmacist Ben Latty said he had a number of patients that were “very concerned” about “being locked out of the market”.
He said costs for some patients, a number who were already on payment plans, were more than doubling.
Medicinal Cannabis Industry Association’s Greg Marshall said there was “widespread panic”.
“A large number of patients rely upon these products to live a proper life and, importantly, to stop taking a whole lot of pharmaceuticals,” he said.
But the Health Minister is sticking by his decision.
“I'm not going to extend the exemption,” Andrew Little said.
“There are products that have been approved. I understand that there are more products that are about to be [approved] or will be approved before the 30th of September.
“At some point, we've got to say ‘You know what? The industry has had enough time to get their data from overseas or produce it locally.’”
Those in the industry are worried it will backfire.
“The patients are going to have to turn to the black market; it’s the only place they can go,” Marshall said.
Latty said people were “going to end up going into an unregulated, unsafe market where nothing's tested to be able to support their needs”.