Medicinal Cannabis Agency - Information for consumers

The following section provides information for members of the public who may have a clinical need to access quality medicinal cannabis products.

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About medicinal cannabis products

You need a prescription from a doctor registered to practice medicine in New Zealand before you can obtain any medicinal cannabis products.

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

Cannabidiol (CBD) products are a type of medicinal cannabis product that has potential therapeutic value and contains little-to-no psychoactive substances. These products are typically available as capsules or oral liquid.

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 as dried flower intended for vaporisation.

Seeking advice

Your doctor is the best person to advise you whether a medicinal cannabis product is a suitable treatment for you.

For general information about the safety of medicines, see the Medsafe website.

Getting a prescription

Your doctor will have knowledge of your medical history, including any other medicines you are taking, and is best placed to advise you on the risks and benefits of using medicinal cannabis products.

You need a prescription from a doctor before you can obtain any medicinal cannabis product. Once you have a prescription, the doctor or a pharmacy will dispense the product to you. You cannot purchase medicinal cannabis products online or from a third party.

Product availability after 30 September 2021

Access to medicinal cannabis products from 1 October 2021

From 1 October 2021 suppliers can no longer import or supply products that are not verified against the medicinal cannabis minimum quality standards.

What does this mean for patients?

As medicinal cannabis products are only available on prescription, you should contact your doctor to discuss options for access to medicinal cannabis. A doctor can prescribe any product that has been verified as meeting the minimum quality standard, including CBD products and products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

To date, four products have been verified as meeting the minimum quality standard. These products are listed on the Ministry of Health website and include both combination THC/CBD products and CBD-only products.

If you are currently being prescribed products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (Tilray FS Oral Solution THC 25 or Tilray FS Oral Solution THC10: CBD10), it is now easier for your doctor to prescribe. Your doctor does not need to apply to the Ministry for approval to prescribe and once you have a prescription, you can access these products through your pharmacy.

You can still access unverified CBD products from 1 October 2021. Talk to your doctor – they can prescribe and import CBD products directly for you, or your doctor can ask their local pharmacy to import products directly in response to a prescription written for you.

However, the Ministry of Health strongly recommends that patients are prescribed products verified as meeting the quality standard, so patients, and their doctor, can have confidence that the 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 Medicinal Cannabis Agency is assessing a number of other medicinal cannabis products, and expects the number of verified products to steadily increase over the coming months.

A number of New Zealand based companies are making significant steps towards supplying New Zealand manufactured medicinal cannabis products.

Medsafe have recently issued two licences to manufacture medicines to Helius Therapeutics Limited and Rua Bioscience Limited. These licences recognise that both these companies meet Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards for manufacture of certain medicinal cannabis products.

At least one other company is in the final stages of being assessed against the requirements for a licence to manufacture medicines.

Further information

Adverse reactions

An adverse reaction is an unexpected or unintended effect that may have been caused by a medicine. If you think you are 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 Reactions Monitoring.

Concerns about a medicinal cannabis product

If you have concerns regarding the quality of a medicinal cannabis product or if you think you have been given the wrong product, strength or quantity, you should discuss your concern with your pharmacist first. Your pharmacist may then want to discuss the issue with your doctor.

Travelling with medicinal cannabis products

Entering New Zealand

If you are travelling, you may bring a medicinal cannabis product into New Zealand 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 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.

Importing from overseas

Personal imports of medicinal cannabis products are not allowed. All medicinal cannabis products must be dispensed by a doctor or a pharmacy.

Vaporisers

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

The Misuse of Drugs Prohibition of Utensils) Notice 2020 sets out that a vaporiser can be imported and sold 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 contact [email protected].

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