Access to medicinal marijuana must go through Ministry of Health

Peter Dunne has delegated decision-making for the prescribing of all cannabis-based products to the Ministry of Health, including those that are not pharmaceutical grade.

The Associate Health Minister is expected to make an announcement today. Source: 1 NEWS

For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

The Associate Health Minister had been expected to cut red tape allowing patients to be prescribed cannabis-based drugs by a specialist, not the ministry.

Despite that, the Associate Health Minister says the government won't interfere with Pharmac funding decisions. Source: 1 NEWS

"Last week I wrote to the Director-General of Health, advising him that as of 8 February 2017, applications from specialists to the Ministry to prescribe non-pharmaceutical cannabis-based products will no longer need Ministerial approval," Mr Dunne said.

"Approval for pharmaceutical grade cannabis products was similarly delegated some years ago."

Medicinal cannabis user Dr Huhana Hickey talks about the desperate need people have to get their hands on legal products. Source: 1 NEWS

The Minister says he will write to the New Zealand Medical Association and the Pharmacy Society of New Zealand outlining his decision and "expectation that medical professionals consider the prescribing of cannabis-based products with an open mind."

Mr Dunne says he intends to include a list of internationally available cannabis-based products that are either pharmaceutical grade or Good Manufacturing Practice certified, to provide additional clarity on the issue.

"The question is really does it need to be signed off by a minister and the answer is, it probably doesn't". Source: 1 NEWS

Mr Dunne is promising greater access to medicinal cannabis, with a menu of products to be made available.

Shane Le Brun from Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand has been advocating for greater access to the drug for people across the country.

He welcomes today's announcement, saying it goes further than he expected.

Mr Le Brun says it's only right that non-pharmaceutical grade products are given consideration as they will be able to help people in pain who can't use pharmaceutical grade cannabis.

But he does have concerns about the cost of accessing these products, as they're not covered by Pharmac.

Mr Le Brun also wants the costs of importing these drug centralised so patients aren't forced to fork out so much money.

The Green Party have praised the Associate Heatlh Minister for today's decision saying he had "removed one hoop" for New Zealanders, making access to medicinal marijuana a little easier.

Although pleased with elements of Mr Dunne's decision, Green Party health spokesperson Julie Anne Genter says the process for acquiring these drugs is still "too slow and frustrating" for the sick or dying.

Hopefully today's decision will speed up the application process for medical cannabis, but it doesn't address other issues of access, such as the cost of the medicines. - Julie Anne Genter

"Hopefully today's decision will speed up the application process for medical cannabis, but it doesn't address other issues of access, such as the cost of the medicines.

"We have seen a big shift in attitudes on medical cannabis, and it is well past time for the law to change so that medical cannabis is completely legal – which isn't even close to what Peter Dunne has announced today."