Backgrounder – Medicinal use

I read a press release from the NZ minister (resp. Drug policy).. called : ‘Backgrounder : Medical Cannabis in New Zealand.’
Again; trying to clarify, but also justify the minimal level of support for Cannabis as a medicine in Aotearoa/NZ.. BUT there is nothing really new, except the recent report that in 2015, 31 patients were approved the use of ‘Sativex’ (the only currently legal cannabis drug in NZ). This is about twice the previous year.

Just some ‘highlights’ from the report :

‘In light of recent and increasing commentary on the use, access to and funding of cannabis based medical products, attached is a fact sheet on the definition, current availability, status and authorisation process around the use of these products for therapeutic purposes.’

‘Medical cannabis is a blanket term that has different meanings for different people, ranging from the raw plant through to pharmaceutical grade products.’

‘A variety of claims have been made about the efficacy of cannabis in various forms for a range of medical conditions but there is limited robust evidence to support these claims.’

‘The wide variety in interpretations of what constitutes medical cannabis can result in confusing and/or inaccurate messaging in the various fora it is reported in, including mainstream media and social media.’

‘The Government’s position is that for cannabis to be used for medical purposes, the same criteria and testing processes as for any other medicine must be met.’

‘Currently the only pharmaceutical grade cannabis product available in New Zealand is Sativex® which is approved for use in multiple sclerosis but is also prescribed for “off-label” uses such as chronic pain, neuropathic pain, cancer pain and intractable childhood epilepsy.’

‘For non-pharmaceutical grade products, for example the product Elixinol that was granted ministerial approval for prescribing to an individual in June 2015, ministerial approval is not delegated.’

‘These criteria are in place because the use of non-pharmaceutical grade cannabis products is outside current Government policy. There is no evidence for the safety and efficacy of these products and the ad-hoc use of these products does not progress medical knowledge.’

Whilst the majority of these statements, do seem quite reasonable.. the Minister IS setting a precedent with this issue. He has effectively limited medicinal cannabis to ONE pharmaceutical extract only. Most other ‘approved drugs’ in NZ require only a doctors prescription, BUT Sativex requires ministerial approval (case-by-case basis).
He claims he is watching developments occurring overseas (in similar jurisdictions) BUT has ruled out allowing the ‘raw plant’ to be used (as is allowed in USA, Canada, parts of EU & Sth America & now Australia).
In Aotearoa/NZ many pharmaceutical drugs are funded by Govt. agency ‘Pharmac’, BUT Sativex is not. It currently costs patients over $1000/month. Sativex is a product made by GW Pharm. (UK).. the NZ Govt. has effectively ruled out allowing any cannabis drugs to be cultivated/manufactured in NZ, which could reduce the cost massively.
There are some ‘high profile’ people who have openly admitted using ‘illegal cannabis’ to self-medicate their illness/condition, because it is often cheaper & much less complicated than jumping through all these hoops, currently setup to get legal approval.

To me.. the bottom-line is; that fear-mongering about ‘MARIJUANA’ (as it is still often called) is still at the top of this Govt. agenda. They appear to be still about maintaining ABSOLUTE control. This kind of reminds me of an issue from the old ‘Reefer Madness’ days :
‘Marihuana can be grown/used, as long as you have a Govt. approved ‘tax stamp’… BUT the Govt. refused to issue these approvals !

The population of Aotearoa/NZ is currently just over 4 million people. We have amongst the highest levels of illegal cannabis use per capita (according to UN report) & similarly high arrest rates (mostly for personal use/possession). BUT whilst many OECD countries are moving forward on medicinal/therapeutic cannabis use.. this Govt. just buries its head in the sand & refuses to take it out !

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