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

CBD products may be prescribed by any doctor registered to practice in New Zealand.

Other medicinal cannabis products can be prescribed by a doctor when:

  • the product is an approved medicine, which means it has been assessed for safety and efficacy and been consented for distribution under the Medicines Act 1981, or
  • the Medicinal Cannabis Agency has verified the product meets the medicinal cannabis minimum quality standard, or
  • approval for a named patient has been granted by the Minister of Health following a recommendation from a relevant medical specialist or the Chief Medical Officer of a District Health Board.

Currently, SativexTM is the only medicinal cannabis product that is an approved medicine. This means that doctors can prescribe SativexTM without Ministerial approval.

A range of further medicinal cannabis products will become available over time as suppliers of medicinal cannabis products apply to the Medicinal Cannabis Agency to assess whether their products meet the medicinal cannabis minimum quality standard. Applications for product assessments opened on 1 April 2020.

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 medicinalcannabis@health.govt.nz.

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