Drugs

Sick New Zealanders Can Finally Get Medicinal Cannabis From Their Doctor

The government announced today they will lift restrictions on doctors prescribing CBD oil.
June 2, 2017, 12:37am
Image by Bob Doran via Flickr.

Following years of campaigning, the government announced today they will lift restrictions on cannabidiol, or CBD—a drug hailed for having no psychoactive properties and low side-effects.

Up until now, patients have been needed Ministry of Health approval, doctors will now be able to prescribe the drug under the new regime. Pharmacies, prescribers and wholesalers will also have reduced import licence controls.

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Prior to today's news, Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne told VICE he was generally against CBD, and favoured "access to appropriately manufactured medicinal products for therapeutic purposes where clinically indicated".

In his statement released today, he changed his tune after taking advice from the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs so to be in line with international developments
"In practical terms, the changes mean CBD would be able to be prescribed by a doctor to their patient and supplied in a manner similar to any other prescription medicine. Australia has already taken a similar step while other countries are also responding to emerging evidence that CBD has a low risk of harm when used therapeutically."

The move has been a long time coming; around 80 percent of New Zealanders said marijuana should be decriminalised for pain relief in a study last year. In April campaigners took a 17,000-signature petition before the health select committee asking for cheaper, easier access to the drug.

And what's more, the legality of CBD was also disputed by Nelson lawyer Sue Grey, who threatened to take the government to court. She argued that because CBD lacks the psychoactive substance THC, it fell outside of the Misuse of Drugs Act. This would mean the government was illegally restricting CBD use.

The former position was "completely out of step with the international research, patient reports of its effectiveness, and developments in other states to facilitate access to CBD—due to its effectiveness and minimal side effects compared to opiates," she said.

"There are sick people who could be accessing safe and affordable medication that's widely regarded around the world and yet we [had] some bureaucrats sitting in Wellington saying no arbitrarily."

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