For over 20 years NORML has been advising patients who could afford it to get medicinal cannabis prescribed overseas and bring it back legally.

The Misuse of Drugs Act allows any patient traveling to bring with them a personal supply of ANY prescribed drug. All countries have similar clauses, so that, for example, someone from NZ can travel with their painkillers or cancer meds. It also means anyone can come to NZ with cannabis legally prescribed in any of the 23 US states where it is legal, Canada, Netherlands, Spain, Argentina, Uruguay, and soon Australia.

This was first tested in the mid-90’s by US cannabis activist Todd McCormick who was allowed to fly from the Netherlands to New York with 3 months supply of medicinal cannabis.

The first New Zealand patient charged with importing legally prescribed medicinal cannabis to New Zealand has successfully defended herself against charges brought by the Police. Rebecca Reider was victorious in the Nelson District Court, with her lawyer lawyer Sue Grey arguing that the law allows exemptions where the medication was prescribed overseas.

However in response the NZ Ministry of Health has said “it is still unlawful to import cannabis (including cannabis medications) into New Zealand without proper approval”.

We do not accept their creative self-serving interpretation of what the law says, and Otago law professor Andrew Geddis agrees with our advice to patients. He is quoted here on the Legalise Cannabis Party website:

Geddis points out that the Act doesn’t say “supplied overseas in accordance with New Zealand law” it says “lawfully supplied to the person overseas”.

“It may very well be true that Customs would, as a matter of fact, confiscate medical marijuana from travelers at the border. I just think that their doing so would be unlawful,” he said.

Read the law for yourself – the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 s8(l)(iii) says:

“a person may, while entering or leaving New Zealand, possess a controlled drug required for treating the medical condition of the person or any other person in his or her care or control, if the quantity of drug is no greater than that required for treating the medical condition for 1 month, and the drug was—

(iii) lawfully supplied to the person overseas and supplied for the purpose of treating a medical condition.”

Therefore to be legal a patient must satisfy these criteria:

  • The medicinal cannabis or medicinal cannabis product must be “lawfully supplied”, which would depend on the source country’s medicinal cannabis rules;
  • It must be for a medical condition;
  • It can be for the traveler, “or any other person in his or her care or control”;
  • The patient must travel with it on them, not post it back (Rebecca Reider posted it back and was convicted of importation, then discharged without conviction);
  • Patients are limited to one month’s supply, so would have to travel back every month (but given the $1000-$1500 monthly cost of Sativex, that may be cost effective for some patients, especially when medicinal cannabis become available in Australia).

Be warned however, if you do travel with medicinal cannabis or arrange to have it imported to expect a argument with Customs and possibly the Police or Ministry of Health – although we think they would lose in court based on what the law actually says, and Rebecca Reider’s precedent case. To avoid confusion make sure a copy of your prescription is included with any medicinal cannabis products.

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