Cannabidiol

The Associate Minister of Health has announced steps to remove some restrictions on cannabidiol (CBD) based products, following advice from the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs (EACD). This page outlines the proposed changes, and the current situation.

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Key Points

  • CBD is a controlled drug
  • Ministry of Health approval is currently still required to access these products
  • However regulatory changes to remove some restrictions are expected by the end of 2017

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a substance found in cannabis that has potential therapeutic value. It has little or no psychoactive properties, but is currently a controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.

The EACD recently considered whether CBD should remain controlled under the Act. It considered that CBD should not be a controlled drug. Find out more about the outcome of their decision.

In response to this advice, the Associate Minister of Health announced in June 2017 that the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 1977 will be amended. CBD will continue to be a controlled drug. However, many of the restrictions currently imposed by the Regulations will be removed. The changes will mean that CBD products, where the level of other naturally occurring cannabinoids is less than 2% of the cannabinoid content, will be easier to access.

It’s anticipated the changes will come into effect by the end of 2017. It is important to note that at present there is an established route for patients to access CBD products for therapeutic use. A medical practitioner is required to get approval by the Ministry of Health. The requirement for Ministry of Health approval will continue until the regulatory changes are made.

The proposed changes do not affect the current requirements for bringing medicines into New Zealand on your person. More information on bringing medicines into New Zealand can be found on the Ministry of Health website:

Individual patients are not permitted to import CBD or any other cannabis-based product. This restriction is not affected by the planned changes to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations. Pharmacies, prescribers and wholesalers are currently able to import these products, but are required to have an import licence.

The changes proposed would mean that CBD products would be able to be prescribed by a doctor to their patient and supplied in a manner similar to any other prescription medicine containing a controlled drug. Approval from the Ministry of Health to prescribe would no longer be required.

It would also remove current requirements for pharmacies, prescribers, and wholesalers to have an import licence, and to meet certain requirements for storage, and the maintaining of controlled drug records and stock keeping.

While the intent is to make it easier in future for access to CBD products, there is currently a limited range of CBD products that would meet the current and proposed requirements. For example, strict export restrictions on products sourced from other countries will continue to impact the supply of CBD products in New Zealand.

The Ministry will be providing further guidance for prescribers, the public and other interested parties in due course.

Information on how to access cannabis-based products for medical use can be found on the Ministry of Health website:

The current classification of cannabidiol

The Ministry of Health (the Ministry) considers cannabidiol (CBD) to be a class B1 controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 as an isomer of the class B1 controlled drug tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabidiol is also a prescription medicine under the Medicines Act 1981.

A drug captured by the Misuse of Drugs Act is controlled when present at any level. This means that any amount of a controlled drug in a product would cause that product to be treated as a controlled drug. All naturally-derived CBD products are likely to contain small amounts of THC and other cannabinoids making them controlled drugs regardless of the classification of CBD.

Classification of cannabidiol internationally

The classification of CBD internationally has only recently begun to change due to emerging evidence that CBD has a low risk of harm when used therapeutically. Prior to this knowledge, many countries’ legislation captured CBD as a controlled drug in a similar way to New Zealand’s Misuse of Drugs Act. The examples below show that it is not uncommon for CBD to be classified as a controlled drug internationally.

Australia

In Australia, CBD was considered a Schedule 9 prohibited substance until 1 June 2015 when CBD was reclassified to a Schedule 4 prescription only medicine:

The United States

In the United States, at the federal level, CBD is considered a Schedule I controlled drug as a component of cannabis (referred to as ‘marihuana’):

The wording ‘within the specific chemical designation’ that is used in the New Zealand Misuse of Drugs Act is also used in the US Controlled Substances Act.

The United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have recently released a statement on their opinion that products containing CBD used for medical purposes are medicines:

The UK do not include the wording ‘within the specific chemical designation’ in their Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Canada

In Canada, CBD is specifically included in ‘Cannabis, its preparations and derivatives’ as a controlled substance under Schedule II of the Controlled Drug and Substances Act (S.C. 1996, c.19)

In 2016 Canada’s Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (SOR/2016-230) came into effect. These regulations improve access to cannabis (and therefore CBD) when used for medicinal purposes:

Access to CBD in New Zealand

Cannabis-based products (including naturally derived CBD products) are classified as class B1 controlled drugs and can only be prescribed with ministerial approval (regulation 22 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 1977). The guidelines for the assessment of applications for these products reflects the increased risk associated with pharmaceutical grade products that do not have consent for distribution in New Zealand and non-pharmaceutical grade products.

Medicines prescribed in normal clinical practice in New Zealand are manufactured to Good Manufacturing Practice standards (pharmaceutical-grade). The only pharmaceutical grade cannabis-based product currently available in New Zealand is Sativex®.

The Ministry remains committed to working with health care professionals to ensure timely access to safe products in appropriate circumstances. Since 2008, the Ministry has approved 163 applications for Sativex®, most of which were for uses different to those for which Sativex® received consent as a medicine. Six applications for Sativex® have been declined since 2008, five have been withdrawn and at the time of this publication, two applications for Sativex® are currently in progress.

Since 2015, seven non-pharmaceutical grade cannabis-based product applications have been approved, two were withdrawn and one was declined as the product could not be lawfully supplied. The majority of these cannabis-based products were known to contain CBD and THC meaning they were not affected by the current classification of CBD.

Note: Figures as of 27 January, 2017

Information on how to access cannabis-based products for medical use can be found on the Ministry of Health website:

 More information on bringing medicines into New Zealand can be found on the Ministry of Health website:

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