New Zealand patients with ailments that could be treated with CBD have received a big breakthrough, with the news that doctors are now able to import and prescribe the non-psychoactive marijuana compound.
Until now, CBD was a controlled substance listed on the Misuse of Drugs Act. New Zealand’s more relaxed position will bring them in line with neighboring country Australia, which also permits CBD on prescription.
New Zealanders remain sceptical
However, not everybody in New Zealand is satisfied, arguing that the country needs to go much further. This is the stance of Rose Renton, a prominent pro-cannabis voice – her son Alex was the first Kiwi to be permitted access to CBD in 2015, via exemption. Sadly, just one month after receiving ministerial approval to use CBD, 19-year-old Alex died from severe epilepsy.
Renton claims that the move is “totally symbolic,” and that New Zealanders are not offered any “affordable access” to the substance. She says that the CBD New Zealand doctors can prescribe must be imported and is very expensive, thereby seriously limiting who will be able to medicate with CBD.
The story led the New Zealand government to adjust the law, so physicians could prescribe patients with CBD, claiming that one of the primary reasons for doing so was to stop New Zealanders wasting their money on “junk” products. However, with the law change still not giving people genuine access to CBD, it’s unlikely that will eb achieved.
Sue Grey, an attorney and supporter of medical cannabis, was slightly more optimistic, saying that “symbolically it is great” that the New Zealand government has recognized the medicinal properties of CBD. But she also notes that the current legislation won’t offer patients in need any real change.
Furthermore, just because it’s now legal for CBD products to be imported into New Zealand does not mean that citizens are able to do so – there may even still be challenges for doctors to get the necessary products into the country.
Grey notes that the importing restrictions mean that it’s still unclear what doctors can now import, and what they still can’t.
Positive signs for the future
Otago University has been studying cannabis, the CBD molecule and its potential as a medicine, and student Victoria Catherwood says that research has found strong evidence in support.
For chemotherapy patients, CBD can be a helpful, side effect-free treatment for nausea symptoms. The substance is also used in some countries as medication for Multiple Sclerosis and as a natural solution for chronic pain and inflammation. However, some ailments benefit from the addition of THC to the medicating mix, and the laws surrounding THC are leaving New Zealand GPs confused.
Catherwood says that if GPs are uncertain about products, they should consult with the minister of health to make it clear what cannabis options would best serve their patients.
Medical marijuana use in New Zealand is fairly high, with around 175,000 citizens using the herb according to Catherwood. However, information surrounding the herb, particularly in a medical context, remains very low, with most patients admitting that they haven’t had a serious conversation with their doctor about CBD.
Catherwood argues that the Health and Disabilities Act requires doctors to have informed discussions with patients about medical marijuana, so that they are fully aware of all possible treatments and can make medicating decisions with all options considered.