Dunne won't rule out further changes to medicinal cannabis laws before election

Author
Alicia Burrow,
Publish Date
Wed, 8 Feb 2017, 2:04PM
Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne (NZH)

Dunne won't rule out further changes to medicinal cannabis laws before election

Author
Alicia Burrow,
Publish Date
Wed, 8 Feb 2017, 2:04PM

The Associate Health Minister isn't ruling out a further relaxation of medicinal cannabis laws before the next election.

Peter Dunne has announced prescriptions for non-pharmaceutical medicinal cannabis will no longer need ministerial approval.

LISTEN ABOVE: ASSOCIATE HEALTH MINISTER PETER DUNNE SPEAKS WITH NEWSTALK ZB'S ALICIA BURROW

The Ministry of Health will instead be responsible for overseeing prescription of cannabis-based products.

But his announcement has had some criticism, including from the Green Party and the New Zealand Drug Foundation, who say it won't change much.

They say the change refers only to non-pharmaceutical products - the only pharmaceutical based product available in New Zealand is Sativex.

Drug Foundation Executive Director Ross Bell said patients and doctors will still have to jump many hurdles.

He said patients will still have to find a specialist willing to do the application, find a proven and tested product, and put together the funding needed.

"For medical cannabis, we think there should be a pharmaceutical route and we wish that would hurry up and that pharmaceutical companies come on board," Mr Bell said.

LISTEN: More movement needed urgently from the govt on medical cannabis

Mr Dunne said the Government will respond to new pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical products as they become available.

"We're working through a series of steps, and a lot of those decisions are going to be dependent really on a lot of moves that happen in other countries in terms of the availability of new products for instance as a result of clinical trials, but I can't put a time-frame on when that might be," he said.

Mr Dunne said the Government treats medicinal cannabis products the same as it treats other medicinal products. He said whether or not medicinal cannabis will be funded will be a decision for Pharmac - not Government.

"Which means that the decisions regarding funding rest with Pharmac on the basis of any applications that were received from manufacturers to consider whether it's appropriate to subsidise those products."

LISTEN: More education needed before medical cannabis is made legal

Mr Dunne defended claims changes to medicinal cannabis are taking too long. Despite some criticism on how much change today's announcement will bring, he said it's better to be safe than sorry.

"I always had in mind from the time this became an issue about two years ago of a need to work through a steady, evidence-based process."