NZ To Follow Australia’s Medical Cannabis Lead

Medical cannabis in New Zealand
Image: BigStock

Our good friends across the ditch are likely to follow Australia’s lead on medical cannabis laws says a New Zealand government official.

In a Radio NZ interview,  Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said viable products identified in trials in Australia that receive the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA’s) blessing would likely also be approved by New Zealand’s equivalent agency, MedSafe.

New Zealand already has a loophole allowing the use of unapproved medicinal cannabis products if they are legally supplied overseas (i.e. via a prescription) for the treatment of a specific condition and it is no more than one month’s worth of treatment.

Apparently, Mr. Dunne recently said a law professor was incorrect suggesting this could be done but has obviously reversed his position; acknowledging the practice during the interview.

This loophole was put to the test recently with the attempted prosecution of a woman in New Zealand who was charged over the importation of medical cannabis, possession of cannabis oil, plant material and seed. The woman had a current medical cannabis prescription from her family doctor in California, USA and charges were dropped. We’re not sure whether her seized medication has been returned yet.

Mr. Dunne now also seems to be averse to authorities expending precious resources in apprehending users of medical cannabis; regardless of how it is sourced.

“I do not expect the police or the authorities to be running around persecuting people who are using cannabis sourced illegally,” he said.

Australia has similar laws for non-TGA approved medications; but whether that extends to medical marijuana isn’t very clear.

The change in stance in New Zealand will be welcomed by many medical cannabis supporters; assuming access to approved products isn’t too restrictive or expensive. Unfortunately, it may well be both in the short to medium term.

On a somewhat related point; along with Australia, New Zealand is also the only other country in the world where the sale of hemp-based foods is illegal; with the exception of hemp seed oil. Thankfully, this may change in both countries soon.

Like Australia, New Zealand has its own industrial hemp industry. As is the case in Australia, gaining entry into the sector is difficult and expensive.