Ruatoria-based Hikurangi Cannabis Company has welcomed the medical cannabis bill amendments proposed by the National Party today.
Managing director Manu Caddie says the amended bill prepared by Dr Shane Reti show the author has listened to patients and looked overseas at what has and hasn’t worked well in other jurisdictions. Mr Caddie believes the proposed changes would see New Zealand leapfrog Australia where medical cannabis was legalised in 2016 but legitimate patients still struggle to access the medicines because of overly bureaucratic regulations.
“The changes proposed by National will be good for patients, good for businesses like ours and good for New Zealand as they keep standards high but widen the scope and greatly improve access for patients.”
Mr Caddie says the proposals mostly compliment Labour’s bill but the two biggest differences are that doctors and pharmacists would be able to use their professional judgement to decide whether a person could benefit from medicinal cannabis products and the products will be Pharmacy Only medicines so anyone with the support of their medical professional will be able to purchase them from a pharmacy without needing a prescription for every item.
The biggest issue Hikurangi has with the new proposals is a clause ruling out people with convictions for cannabis possession or more serious offences from working in the industry.
“We think that needs to be reconsidered. There should be an exemption option for people who have a historical conviction but now have the support of their employer and perhaps local Police to be allowed to get a job in the industry if they meet a good character test.”
The tradeoff from Hikurangi’s perspective is that the bill favours rural producers by excluding any cultivation or manufacturing within five kilometres of a residential area.
“That means companies like ours in remote locations are well placed to get into production immediately” said Mr Caddie.
Mr Caddie said his company supports the proposal for MedSafe to have the power to grant interim approval for new products and he hopes that unregistered medicines can be made available sooner than later.
“The key in all of this is the need to accelerate the regulation-setting timeframe. At present the government are saying they will have draft high level regulations set by the end of this year but the scheme won’t come into effect until mid-2020. That is way too long. We need to have the scheme operational before the middle of next year and these new proposals will give the officials more guidance and less guesswork.”
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