“New Zealanders fought hard to achieve strong parliamentary support for medicinal cannabis last year. It’s now important people have their say on the design of the regulations to ensure sound and sensible patient access,” says Paul Manning, Executive Director of Helius Therapeutics, the country’s largest medicinal cannabis firm.
Mr Manning was responding to the Ministry of Health’s release of its discussion document today on proposed regulations for New Zealand’s Medicinal Cannabis Scheme. The industry and public have until 5.00pm on 7 August to have their say.
“Helius strongly believes every New Zealander has a natural right to a pain-free existence and to improve their quality of life with medicinal cannabis. Primarily, the regulations need to ensure patient safety, access, and affordability. I’m pleased to see these key outcomes are broadly guiding the discussion document. The Ministry has done an excellent job on the fundamentals required to establish widespread social and economic benefits,” he says.
Since the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Act was passed in December last year, Helius Therapeutics has been working closely with Ministry of Health officials who Mr Manning says are fully engaged and committed to getting it right.
“We applaud the Ministry of Health’s pragmatic and workable approach to the proposed regulations, and the statements made today by Minister David Clark. However, patients will continue to face substantial barriers to access if a specialist recommendation is required before a GP can prescribe. This extra step could significantly impede patient access to medicinal cannabis.
“Helius has strongly advocated for general practitioners to be given professional discretion to prescribe medicinal cannabis for any condition – discretion like they have with other prescription medicines. If people agree that a specialist recommendation should not be required, they now need to have their say in the consultation,” he says.
In the areas of cultivation, manufacturing, and testing, Mr Manning says Helius is well positioned to deliver medicinal cannabis products that meet the proposed quality standards.
“This discussion document sets high yet workable cultivation and manufacturing standards. Regulators have made sure all the right components are in place to create a globally-competitive export industry.”
He says Helius Therapeutics will now consider its formal position on all the many options and proposals in the discussion document. However, he says on initial assessment the Ministry of Health is heading in the right direction.
“The challenge now, for both the industry and the public, is to provide considered responses within the consultation timeframe. A regulatory regime needs to be in place by the end of this year, with products more widely available to patients from the first quarter of 2020. Time is of the essence.
Parliament may have passed the medicinal cannabis bill last year, but this is now about writing the manual. It’s critical the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme firstly ensures patients can readily access high quality products. The New Zealand public has demanded nothing less,” says Mr Manning.
Click here for everything you need to know about New Zealand's proposed Medicinal Cannabis Scheme and the consultation process.