An Inner Scoop of Medicinal Cannabis in New Zealand

medicinal cannabis in NZ

What is Medicinal Cannabis?

The history of medical cannabis dates back to thousands of years ago, way before cannabis became a prohibited substance in most parts of the world. The therapeutic potentials of the drug have been known for many centuries, but cannabis remains banned in most parts of the world because of its psychoactivity and potentials to impair our senses.

However, in recent times, research has led to the discovery and exploration of an extract of cannabis known as cannabidiol (CBD), which delivers most of the therapeutic effects of the drug without inducing a high. This discovery has led to the emergence of a sprawling medical marijuana industry as well as the legalization of marijuana for medical use in New Zealand.

Medical cannabis mostly entails the use of CBD products in treating a host of illnesses. In many other instances, the whole plant can be used - though it’s usually the CBD-dominant strains. Medical marijuana products have little or no THC, which is the substance responsible for the drug’s psychoactive qualities. Patients on medical marijuana don’t normally feel any alterations in their perception.

How to Get Medicinal Cannabis in NZ

Last December, the Government enacted a bill establishing the new Medical Cannabis Scheme. The scheme, which came into effect on April 1, 2020, allows medical marijuana patients to gain much easier and cost-effective access to a wider range of medical cannabis products. With the new bill, General Practitioners (GPs) and medical specialists will be allowed to prescribe cannabis like any other prescription medicine.

In the same vein, medical cannabis products will be classified and regulated as other pharmaceutical products. That implies that the drugs can be manufactured and distributed according to the current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) and other quality requirements stipulated for every other pharmaceutical product.

As things stand, you can obtain medical marijuana products legally simply by obtaining a doctor’s prescription for them and using your script to buy the supplies from a pharmacy or dispensary.

Uses of Medicinal Cannabis

Given the prohibition on the drug, studies on the medicinal properties of cannabis have been limited. But with positive developments in recent times, the drug has become one of the most studied medicinal compounds in the world, and there are substantial pieces of evidence that support claims of many of its therapeutic potentials. These potentials include:

  • Pain relief:
    Medical marijuana is commonly used to mitigate chronic pain. It’s much safer and less addictive than opiates. While it’s not strong enough to control severe pain like post-surgical pain or bone fractures, it’s proved to be highly effective in chronic pains such as multiple sclerosis and nerve pain.
  • Muscle relaxant:
    The lightly sedative effects of cannabis make it an effective muscle relaxant. Cannabis has helped an uncounted number of people with Parkinson’s to reduce their tremors.
  • Seizure treatment:
    Dravet syndrome, an extremely severe type of childhood epilepsy, which is nearly impossible to treat with traditional medicine, can be meliorated by a CBD-dominant strain of cannabis known as Charlotte’s Web. Cannabis is also effective in treating many other types of seizures.
  • Treatment of many other symptoms:
    Cannabis has repeatedly shown potentials for managing a wide array of many other symptoms, from nausea to glaucoma, PTSD, and a host of others.

Medicinal Cannabis Products Available in NZ

Medical marijuana products in NZ

Medical marijuana products in NZ mostly come in oral forms (capsules and tinctures). img src

Under the new medical marijuana laws in NZ, medical cannabis products include dried cannabis or pharmaceutical products containing one or more cannabis-based ingredients with therapeutic potentials. According to the law, the pharmaceutical products must come with a monograph in the European pharmacopoeia (non-sterile product) and only pharmaceutically approved ingredients.

The products must also not come in smokeable form. Currently, the most prevalent consumption method is oral – either through unit-dose dispensers (tinctures or sprays) or capsules.

Prescribing Medicinal Products

Before a medical practitioner prescribes cannabis, s/he must be sure that the drug can be effective in treating the patient’s symptoms without causing any harm. The health expert is expected to be totally unbiased in the assessment of the medical potentials of the drug for treating the patient. After sharing their findings with the patient, the doctor can then discuss details of a procedure for administering the drug and monitoring for safety and effectiveness.

The patient is also required under the Medicines Act to provide information about their drug use to Medsafe.