With the release of the Medical Cannabis Scheme consultation paper, the most immediate contentious issue is prescribing.
The Ministry's preferred solution is for GPs to prescribe unconsented/off-label only with the support of a specialist. This conflicts with the fact that those that are vocationally registered as GPs are considered specialists in general practice.
Various groups have expressed opposition to this clause. The issue has been discussed through interviews this week.
"It needs to be acknowledged that vocationally trained GPs, are specialists in their own right" Dr Kate Baddock, Chair of the NZMA.
"The idea that we need to kowtow to our hospital-based colleagues is ridiculous" Says Dr Richard Medlicott, of the RNZCGP
Key industry players, Helius Therapeutics, also support unrestricted GP prescribing.
"Helius has strongly advocated for general practitioners to be given professional discretion to prescribe medicinal cannabis for any condition," says Executive Director of Helius Therapeutics, Paul Manning.
Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand (MCANZ), the patient-focused medical cannabis charity, is also strongly opposed to barriers placed on general practitioners.
"With formal accredited GP training on medical cannabis becoming available, I don't see why they should be excluded from prescribing medical cannabis, particularly when [considering] the safety compared to many conventional medicines," says MCANZ spokesperson, Mark Crotty.
"Due to the postcode lottery of DHBs and the lack of pain specialists generally, there are significant equity issues for access if GPs need specialist endorsements to prescribe", says Mark.
"Ultimately, up and coming training packages mean that GPs will be able to prescribe when competent and confident enough, and regulatory barriers are not needed," says Mark.
MCANZ has reached out to both the NZMA and RNZCGP to try and develop consensus on a position around GP prescribing. New Zealand's largest medical cannabis company, Helius Therapeutics, supports a joint response from patients, industry and healthcare professionals on this crucial issue.