In response to sustained lobbying from patients and advocates including NORML, the NZ Government is changing the rules for medicinal cannabis so doctors can prescribe it direct to patients.
It’s a step forward, and what we’ve been saying for years: it’s the regulations that prevent doctors prescribing cannabis without special Ministerial approval, and these could be changed any time without needing to change the law.
The risk is that the new rules, like the old rules, could make access all but impossible for most patients. Patients need a dual access scheme, where we treat medicinal cannabis like a herbal remedy (letting them grow their own), as well as having pharmaceutical-level products available for doctors to prescribe.
NORML will write to Peter Dunne with specific recommendations for how to change s22 of the 1977 regulations (written 40 years ago!). We encourage patients, caregivers and supporters to do the same. (email firstname.lastname@example.org)
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said access to the drug for pain relief could be signed off by a specialist.
Currently the Associate Health Minister signs off the use of cannabis, but Dr Coleman said the Government was looking at making it “less bureaucratic”.
“The real thing is, does it need to be signed off by a minister? And the answer is, it probably doesn’t. It might be specialist access, that’s probably more likely than [having] a GP sign it off,” Dr Coleman said.
Dr Coleman said Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne was looking at changing the process.
“There’s a process which Peter Dunne is looking at in terms of making it easier for people to access cannabis-based medicines. So at the moment they need to be signed off in this case by the Associate Minister of Health,” said Dr Coleman.
“The question is could we make that process “less-bureaucratic”, and give people quicker access in that case where they do need that access. We just want to make it a bit less bureaucratic.”
Youth Minister and Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye said she will be watching Mr Dunne’s work closely. After her cancer diagnosis last year she is “a bit more sympathetic” to the cause.
“I know there is some work going on and I think at the moment it is a bit difficult to access”, Ms Kaye said.
“Previously I didn’t know that much about the issue, I’m really keen to get more skilled up on it. But obviously I’m going to follow very closely what Peter Dunne’s doing in this area, you know just the nature of what I’ve been through, I’m a bit more sympathetic but we’ll have to see what comes out of the work Peter Dunne is doing.”
Ms Kaye returned to Parliament in December after taking three months off to undergo treatment for breast cancer.
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