Health Select Committee reports back on medicinal cannabis bill

Updated: Aug 1, 2018

The New Zealand's government's Health Select Committee, composing four Labour MPs and four National MPs, has today released their report on Labour's Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill.



Purpose of the bill


The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill seeks to improve access to, and the quality of, medicinal cannabis. It is a Government bill that would amend the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.


Currently, there is a legal pathway for people to obtain medicinal cannabis products on

prescription from a medical practitioner. However, access to affordable medicinal cannabis

products remains problematic for many New Zealanders.


As introduced the bill would:

  • Introduce an exception and a statutory defence for terminally ill people to possess and use illicit cannabis and to possess a cannabis utensil

  • Amend Schedule 2 of the Act so that cannabidiol (CBD) and CBD products (products containing CBD and no more than 2 percent other cannabinoids) are no longer classed as controlled drugs

  • Provide a regulation-making power to enable the setting of standards that products manufactured, imported, or supplied under licence must meet.

The creation of a regulation-making power would facilitate the development of a Medicinal

Cannabis Scheme. The scheme’s aim would be to provide a greater supply of quality

medicinal cannabis products by enabling domestic cultivation and manufacture.


Submissions


The government received a record 1,786 written submissions on the bill. The majority of submitters indicated that they support allowing individuals to use cannabis for medicinal purposes.


Only 1% of submitters did not support the intent of the bill.


The Health Select Committee heard 158 oral submissions in Wellington from a wide range of individuals, industry bodies and organisations, including Helius Therapeutics.

Regulation of medicinal cannabis products


The provision in the bill to allow the setting of quality standards was supported by many

submitters; 96% of those who commented on this provision supported it. They

submitted that minimum standards should be well-regulated to ensure public safety, and that advertising of products should be allowed.


Full spectrum cannabis


The committee recommended excluding substances from the Act that are related to tetrahydrocannabinols (THCs3) that are naturally found in cannabis, where there is evidence that they have little to no psychoactivity.


The Act currently lists THCs as controlled drugs, and captures a number of other cannabinoids as related substances. A number of these substances have little

to no psychoactivity, and many have potential therapeutic benefits. Cannabinoids in

general are not specifically listed in the Act. The amendment would allow for control

under the Act to be limited to substances related to THCs that are capable of inducing a

psychoactive effect in individuals.


Definition of CBD to be revised


The committee recommended revising the definition of CBD products (clause 4 of the bill) to allow no more than 2% of the total CBD and specified substance content to consist of THCs and related psychoactive substances that are naturally found in cannabis. This would also allow CBD products to contain some non-psychoactive cannabinoids that are naturally

found in cannabis. The revision was said to "enable easier production of CBD products while minimising the risk of harm from psychoactive components that are also naturally found in cannabis."


Conclusion


The Health Select Committee heard diverse perspectives in the course of considering this bill. The polarity of the views, and the complexity of the issues made it impossible for them to reach a united stance.


National has subsequently presented their own alternative bill with substantially more detail, bringing Health Select Committee to deadlock


• A summary presentation of the Health Select Committee's report can be found here.

• A copy of the Health Select Committee's full report can be found here.








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