Exclusive: Further details of Government's medicinal cannabis scheme revealed

The Government will release a discussion document outlining options for the country's medicinal cannabis regulatory scheme on Wednesday. 

Newshub understands multiple options will be put forward for some of the more controversial questions like who will be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis and what quality standards will need to be met. 

The discussion document will attempt to strike a balance between the needs of patients, the medical profession and those cultivating and manufacturing medicinal cannabis. 

The Ministry of Health is unlikely to play a role in prescribing medicinal cannabis, instead the options canvas whether GPs or specialists will be responsible without the need for Ministry approval. 

Under the new regulatory scheme patients suffering from chronic pain could be prescribed medicinal cannabis at the discretion of the prescriber. 

Other countries like Ireland have an access list of specified medical conditions for eligibility of medicinal cannabis but New Zealand is not expected to follow suit. That means prescribers here could decide to offer medicinal cannabis to patients with anxiety or insomnia and they will also decide the dose, form and concentration of cannabis for their patients. 

Giving relevant specialists the authority to prescribe could allay concerns from doctors about correct prescribing and concerns that GPs may be pressured to prescribe by some patients.

However patients will want to see the easiest access possible and specialist prescriptions could lead to more difficult access through extra costs and wait times trying to find a specialist.

The Government is expected to recommend pharmaceutical-grade manufacturing standards which will mean significant costs for producers and those costs would likely be passed onto consumers. 

Establishing alternative quality standards would mean a long delay before new medicines hit the market and prescribers may feel less comfortable giving non-pharmaceutical products to patients.

Reducing health inequalities and improving accessibility will be a key consideration in the development of the regulations, but because there will be no PHARMAC subsidies for new medicinal cannabis products the drugs are still expected to be relatively expensive.

The Government passed medicinal cannabis legislation in December 2018 which allows a legal defence for terminally ill people and those in palliative care to consume illicit marijuana without fear of prosecution.

It also set out to establish a regulatory regime within a year.