HDPA: Govt's plans will make legalising medicinal cannabis pointless

Heather du Plessis-Allan,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 10 July 2019, 4:32PM
Why legalise medicinal cannabis and then make it so hard to obtain, writes Heather. (Photo / File)

What’s the point in allowing the use of medicinal cannabis if it’s going to be so hard to get hold of?

That’s becoming obvious.  If there’s one thing you can take away from the Government’s discussion document released today, it’s that it’s going to be very hard to get a prescription for medicinal cannabis if you need it.

In a lot of cases, you’re going to have to see a specialist to get a prescription. In some cases, you’ll have to see two doctors.

There’s little available in the way of products. Right now, the only approved medicinal cannabis product is Sativex. What is available is considered quite expensive.

And so all of that stands in the way before you even get to what might be the biggest problem of all: will doctors even prescribe it? Will they want to? Do they trust medicinal cannabis?

This is a big problem in the UK right now. There, they made medicinal cannabis more widely available in October. Fast forward to May this year, and not one National Health Service prescription had been written for the stuff.

Doctors there don’t want to prescribe it because they don’t trust it. They don’t think there’s enough science to prove that it’s going to have a positive effect, and they’re very worried about the negative effects and if that will leave them exposed to legal action.

I tell you what, there are signs that we might have a similar problem here. 89 doctors say they’re happy to prescribe it IF, and that’s important, if they have enough information. Do they have enough information? Only 24% of those doctors say they do.

So maybe we’ve got the same problem developing here. Even if there are more products available in New Zealand, even if they’re cheaper, even if you don’t have to see two doctors and only have to see one, perhaps that one won’t prescribe it.

You know what people will do? They’ll just get the stuff illegally. Right now, the Ministry of Health estimates that 235,000 Kiwis are already using cannabis for medicinal purposes.

So what’s the point? What’s the point in going through this whole process if the doctors are going to say no, if it’s going to take multiple doctors to say yes, if it’s going to be expensive, and if, at the end, the product is not even available?

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