Helen Clark says new medicinal cannabis scheme too expensive

The Government's new medicinal cannabis scheme will prove too expensive for most people, according to former Prime Minister Helen Clark.

She says the scheme is far too narrow - and the way forward is full legalisation.

She's not alone.

"Yes there will be product available, and doctors will be able to prescribe them," NZ Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said. "But the barrier of cost will remain."

And Ministry of Health documentation acknowledges cost is a significant barrier.

Cannabis-based product Sativex is approved by Medsafe but is not funded by Pharmac. If a doctor prescribes it, it costs $900 per month.

"If people find relief from using a drug like this - which I stress - is less harmful than alcohol or tobacco - they should be able to use it," Clark said.

Medicinal cannabis will remain prohibitively expensive as long as it's not funded by Pharmac, and as long as only a handful of products are available here.

As long as that's the case, illegal cannabis will still be the most attractive and most affordable option.