Woman who uses cannabis to treat arthritis urges doctors to prescribe to patients in need

Hopeful patients could be sorely disappointed, despite new medicinal cannabis laws due to kick in December.

Some doctors are raising concerns they will be too scared to prescribe most cannabis-based medicines because they haven't got Medsafe approval.

Pearl Schomburg uses cannabis to treat rheumatoid arthritis. 

"Cannabis balm was the first thing I discovered and was shocked by how well it worked," she told Newshub.

She's urging doctors to put their fears aside and prescribe to patients. 

"There's no reason for so much fear," she said. "I think it's just a matter of a bit of bravery."

The Government's proposing to give doctors the ability to prescribe medicinal cannabis - offering wider access.

But some doctors are worried they'll be caught between patients who want medicinal cannabis and their own rules about prescription medicine.

"There's going to be some very difficult patient-doctor interactions in the middle of December going forward, where a patient's going to go to the doctor, [and] ask for cannabis-based products," Dr Irene Brathwaite said.

Concerns raised by researchers in the New Zealand Medical Journal on Friday that most cannabis-derived products likely to be available here haven't been clinically tested or approved by Medsafe 

"I think there's a very good chance doctors are going to be able to say they can't attest to the quality or safety of those products and they are going to be reluctant to prescribe," Dr Braithwaite said.

Rebecca Reider is also a cannabis patient. She's a New Zealander currently in California, where cannabis is legal.

People are able to get safe legal products, and they don't have to go to a drug dealer," she told Newshub. "They can go to a nice well-lit shop."

Dr Russell Wills chaired the Government's advisory group on medicinal cannabis - helping find a path between patients and doctors. 

"We have to balance two key issues - one is we need medicines to be safe so people know what they're getting," he said. "The other is costs and access to medicines. 

"If medicines are too expensive people can't afford it, and they'll continue to use unsafe cannabis preparations."

Both Health Minister David Clark and the Ministry of Health refused to be interviewed for this story, but the ministry said in a statement that doctors commonly prescribe medicines that haven't got Medsafe approval - including under the existing scheme with limited access.