New Zealand’s medical cannabis industry to benefit from amended regulations

News article

31 July 2023

New Zealand’s Medicinal Cannabis Agency has received approval to make a number of changes to the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme. These changes involve amending regulations to better support economic and research opportunities for the medicinal cannabis industry.

The changes are mainly technical in nature and will not impact on the availability and quality of medicinal cannabis, which is available to patients via prescription from a New Zealand registered doctor. The three main changes involve:

  • broadening the medicinal cannabis category definitions to encompass a wider range of plant forms
  • changing the quality requirements for exports of medicinal cannabis so New Zealand companies can access markets more readily
  • enabling a licence to possess controlled drugs to be issued for non-therapeutic research with cannabis plant material or products sourced from the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme or the Industrial Hemp Framework.

“The intent of the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme, which came into effect on 1 April 2020, was to improve access to quality medicinal cannabis products for New Zealand patients,” says Chris James, Deputy Director-General Regulatory Services at Manatū Hauora.

“While the Scheme was introduced to improve access to quality medicinal cannabis products for patients, we received feedback from our medicinal cannabis industry that some of the Scheme’s requirements were creating challenges for this emerging and rapidly evolving domestic industry.

“Because New Zealand has a small population, our medicinal cannabis market is also small. We recognise that access to export markets is necessary to help ensure our local industry can continue to be commercially viable. 

“The changes are designed to streamline and update the Scheme’s compliance requirements wherever possible without compromising the overall quality of cannabis-based ingredients and medicinal cannabis products supplied to New Zealand patients. This will help ensure the medicinal cannabis industry is on a sustainable footing going forward.

“Supporting a local industry that can produce locally grown and manufactured products for both domestic and export purposes, benefits both industry and those patients for whom it is prescribed.

“In addition, permitting researchers to use cannabis grown under the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme or Industrial Hemp framework for scientific research will better support innovation and reduce barriers to research in New Zealand.”

In Aotearoa New Zealand medicinal cannabis can only be supplied via a prescription from a New Zealand registered doctor. The Scheme does not enable the recreational use of cannabis or allow patients to grow their own.

For more detail about the changes to the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme see the Medicinal Cannabis Agency section.

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