The first medicinal cannabis licences are expected to be issued by mid-2020, now that the Government has confirmed new regulations for the product.
The regulations - which will come into effect on April 1, 2020 - outline the quality and licensing requirements for manufacturing and distributing medicinal cannabis in New Zealand.
It's hoped that over time, the scheme will help people ease their suffering by making a wider range of quality medicinal cannabis products available.
Health Minister David Clark's Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill passed its final reading in December last year, allowing terminally ill people to possess and use cannabis and utensils for medical purposes.
A consultation document released by the Government in July suggested making it easier for doctors to prescribe medicinal marijuana by not requiring Ministry of Health approval - and this is now confirmed.
The Ministry of Health recommended Cabinet allow all doctors to prescribe CBD and THC products, saying it was the preferred option for health practitioners and stakeholders.
Medicinal cannabis campaigners have fought hard for prescription at GP-level, and were pleased to see that was the Ministry of Health's preferred option.
Research is already underway in New Zealand on medicinal cannabis. The regulations mean New Zealand companies will be able to manufacture for both the local and international market.
"There is already considerable expertise in this area with 20 companies currently licensed to grow cannabis for research purposes and another 238 growing industrial hemp," Dr Clark said.
"These regulations put in place the infrastructure that allows us to locally grow, manufacture and provide quality medicinal cannabis products that are intended to make a real difference to people living in pain."
A medicinal cannabis agency within the Ministry of Health is being established to oversee the medicinal cannabis scheme - which will provide guidance for doctors, industry and consumers.
Five things you need to know:
- The scheme will include a licencing regime for cultivation of cannabis for medicinal use, and the manufacture and supply of medicinal cannabis products
- There will be restrictions to ensure cannabis is grown under appropriate security, and products will be tested to make sure there is no contamination and that products have the required level of active ingredients
- The medicinal cannabis products permitted under the scheme include dried products, a variety of tablets and liquids - but do not allow products able to be smoked
- All medicinal cannabis products will need to be prescribed by a general practitioner (GP) and obtained directly from them or from a pharmacy
- The standards will apply to both imported and locally produced products and advertising of medicinal cannabis products will not be permitted