Medicinal Cannabis Agency - Information for consumers

Information for New Zealanders about medicinal cannabis.

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The Medicinal Cannabis Scheme 

The Medicinal Cannabis Scheme (the Scheme) came into effect on 1 April 2020 with the commencement of the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Regulations 2019 (the Regulations). The purpose of the Scheme is to improve access to quality medicinal cannabis products for patients. Increasing supply of products is enabled by allowing medicinal cannabis to be grown and manufactured in New Zealand.

As medicinal cannabis products are only available on prescription, it is also important for prescribers to have assurance of the quality of the products they are prescribing. The Scheme includes the requirement for all products to be verified as meeting minimum standards of quality before they can be supplied. The purpose of the minimum quality standard is to provide confidence that a product is safe to consume, of high quality, free from contaminants such as pesticides and heavy metals, and contains the amount of ingredients that are stated on the label.

The Regulations provided for a transitional period where medicinal cannabis products that did not meet the quality standards and that were being prescribed before 1 April 2020 could continue to be prescribed until verified quality products became available under the Scheme. The transitional period was extended twice and ended on 30 September 2021. From 1 October 2021 suppliers cannot import and supply by wholesale any medicinal cannabis products unless they have been verified as meeting the medicinal cannabis minimum quality standard

If you have previously been prescribed a CBD product under the transitional provisions that does not meet the minimum quality standard, the Ministry recommends you talk to your doctor to discuss whether an alternative product would be more suitable.

Access to medicinal cannabis products

You must have a prescription from a doctor before you can access any medicinal cannabis products.

Your doctor is the best person to decide whether a medicinal cannabis product is a suitable treatment for you. They will know your medical history and any medicines you are taking, and have the expertise needed to assess the risks and benefits.

Once you have a prescription, the doctor or a pharmacy will dispense the product to you. The prescription will state the kind of medicinal cannabis product(s) and the amount you can obtain.

Personal imports of medicinal cannabis products are prohibited under law. You cannot purchase medicinal cannabis products online or from anyone other than a doctor or pharmacist. 

Available products

Medicinal cannabis products that are verified as meeting the minimum quality standard can be prescribed by your doctor and accessed through your doctor or pharmacy. For a list of medicinal cannabis products available in New Zealand, see Medicinal cannabis products that meet the minimum quality standard.

CBD products that have not been verified as meeting the minimum quality standard can still be prescribed, but only if your doctor agrees to import it directly, or a pharmacy imports it directly on the doctor’s behalf in response to a prescription. 

The Medicinal Cannabis Agency expects the number of available medicinal cannabis products to steadily increase over coming months. Several New Zealand-based companies have obtained licences to manufacture medicines, and a number of products are being assessed to verify whether they meet the minimum quality standard.

For a list of medicinal cannabis products currently under assessment, see Applications received for assessment against the minimum product quality standard.

Types of medicinal cannabis products

A medicinal cannabis product can be a dried cannabis product or a product in a pharmaceutical dosage form (eg, tablets or capsules) that contains one or more cannabis-based ingredient(s) and no other prescription medicines or controlled drugs.

Cannabidiol (CBD) products are the most common type of medicinal cannabis product. CBD products have potential therapeutic value and contain little-to-no psychoactive substances. These products are typically available as capsules or in a liquid form suitable for taking orally. CBD products are prescription medicines.

Other medicinal cannabis products may contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or other psychoactive substances found in cannabis. These products may be available as tablets or capsules, or in a dried form that can be administered through a medical vaporiser, or for use as a tea. Medicinal cannabis products which do not meet definition of a CBD products, are controlled drugs.

Vaporisers

Your doctor may prescribe a medicinal cannabis product to you in a dried form that can be administered through a medical vaporiser.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Prohibition of Utensils) Notice 2020, a vaporiser can be imported and sold in New Zealand only if it has been approved as a medical device by an overseas regulator. This ensures the vaporiser will be a safe method for administering medicinal cannabis.

Other vaporiser devices, and utensils with prohibited features, continue to be prohibited from New Zealand and may be confiscated by Customs.

If you are uncertain whether a vaporiser has been approved as a medical device, please email [email protected].

Travelling with medicinal cannabis products

Entering New Zealand

If you are travelling, you may bring a medicinal cannabis product into New Zealand only if:

  • the product has been prescribed to you by a doctor
  • you have a copy of the prescription or a letter from your doctor stating that you are being treated with the product
  • you declare the product on your passenger arrival card
  • you carry the product in its original labelled container, and
  • you are bringing no more than a 3-month supply of a CBD product or a 1-month supply of any other medicinal cannabis product.

Taking medicinal cannabis products overseas

Before you travel overseas, ensure you check how medicinal cannabis products are classified in any places you plan to visit or transit through. In some countries, possession of cannabis is a criminal offence with no exemption for medicinal cannabis products.

It is advisable to keep the medicinal cannabis products in the original dispensed containers labelled with your patient details and take a copy of your prescription with you when you travel.

Adverse reactions

An adverse reaction is an unexpected or unintended effect that may have been caused by a medicine. If you are experiencing, or think you may be experiencing an adverse reaction to a medicinal cannabis product, please seek advice from your doctor as soon as possible.

Visit the Medsafe website for further information about adverse reactions. You can also report any adverse reactions to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (CARM).

Keeping medicinal cannabis products safe

Keep all medicinal cannabis products out of the reach of children. If the product is required to be stored in the refrigerator, ensure that it is stored out of the sight of children.

Do not use medicinal cannabis products past their expiry date on the label.

Follow the storage directions on the label.

 

How to dispose of medicinal cannabis products safely

Do not throw unused medicinal cannabis products in the rubbish or flush them down the toilet.

Return unused products, or products past their expiry date to your pharmacy for safe disposal.

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