While New Zealand still looks forward to a 2020 General Election Referendum on cannabis decriminalization (the actual ballot text is not yet available), medicinal use is legal in very limited circumstances. The decriminalization referendum came about from a petition in the legislature, and the referendum before voters will be binding, meaning it will be required to be implemented if it wins a majority of votes. Interested parties should refer to the Electoral Commission site for updates on the text and voter information.
Medical use was legalized under limited circumstances via the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Act Bill 12-2 in December 2018. Exemption from prosecution is secure for qualified patients prior to the implementation of a national cultivation supply, which must occur by December 2019.
Cannabidiol (CBD) and Sativex are possible to prescribe without ministerial approval. Industrial hemp must contain less than 0.35% THC and must be made by a licensed producer. Advertising hemp with intoxicating properties is illegal and is governed by the Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006.
All other cannabis products are Class B1 controlled substances, and can be prescribed only to those with a terminal illness requiring palliative care. Palliation is certified by a medicinal practitioner or nurse practitioner who attests that the individual has an advanced, progressive, life-limiting condition and is nearing the end of life. Previously, the only use permitted was for those in the last 12 months of life, as determined by a physician. Cannabis use is also permitted for multiple sclerosis spasticity, but both conditions require a medicinal practitioner to submit an application.
The Ministry of Health is responsible for developing and enforcing rules around medicinal cannabis as well as cultivation licensing, guidance for growers, and formulation of a domestic cultivation and taxation framework. They also govern industrial hemp and CBD regulations.
Prescribing medical cannabis
The Ministry of Health developed a flowchart to help clinicians navigate the process of prescribing and the numerous approvals that are required. The options for prescription are extremely limited and generally approved via a case-by-case application submitted by a medical or nurse practitioner. Complete guidelines are available here.
- Sativex is a nasal spray which must be prescribed per Medsafe guidelines. There is a long titration period of gradual dosage increase which must be adhered to. A prescription for Sativex to treat multiple sclerosis does not require an application.
- Applications for other new pharmaceutical-grade and nonpharmaceutical-grade products must meet a list of requirements and be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- CBD products that contain enough THC to be intoxicating are available only through a prescription.
Consuming medicinal cannabis
All plant and plant derivatives are allowable under strict medicinal conditions.
New Zealand offers guidance for importing medicines and the national laws and regulations are universally applied within its borders. No U.S. products are permitted, as the U.S. still federally prohibits cannabis. Otherwise, import is permitted if a patient declares the following to N.Z. Customs, certifying that the drug:
- is required for treating a medicinal condition for you or for someone under your care who is traveling with you;
- has been lawfully supplied to you in the country of origin
- is no more than one month’s supply.
Personal cultivation is not legal and medicinal cannabis is tightly controlled. A license for growing cannabis can be only applied for a medicinal prescription application.
Per the Ministry of Health: “Applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis. If you do not have details of who your product will be supplied to or that person does not yet have the appropriate licenses, you may have a condition on the license that product cannot be supplied. This can be updated as more information becomes available.”
Formal licensure can be pursued only for medicinal use or scientific research in clinical trials. Commercial cultivation is prohibited. There is a fee schedule available:
Currently, there is no cultivation licensure fee for:
- growing cannabis
- harvesting cannabis
- drying cannabis
- storing cannabis
- possessing cannabis and its seed.
Currently, a NZ$966 fee applies for dealing licensure:
- possessing cannabis, seeds or cannabis products
- storing cannabis, seeds or cannabis products
- extracting, processing or hulling cannabis and its seed
- manufacturing products from cannabis, cannabis extracts, or cannabis seed for scientific research only
- selling or distributing cannabis, seeds, or cannabis products.
Currently, a NZ$13,750 fee applies for manufacturing medicinal cannabis products or active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) for therapeutic use, currently allowed to be manufactured for clinical trials only.
A separate import or export application fee of NZ$194.22 is added to a dealing license, requiring separate applications for each activity.
Industrial Hemp licensure is NZ$511 and can be obtained by emailing email@example.com.
CBD and hemp
The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Act Amendment Bill 12-2 permits up to 2% trace THC in a product before requiring it to be prescribed as a THC product. The Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006 define industrial hemp by its THC content, which must be below 0.35%.
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