ACCESSING MEDICINAL CANNABIS IN
Locally-produced medicinal cannabis products became available in New Zealand in 2021.
New Zealand's Medicinal Cannabis Scheme came into effect on 1 April 2020 with the commencement of the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Regulations 2019.
The scheme's purpose is to improve access to quality medicinal cannabis products for patients.
Cannabis medicines are available to patients through a prescription from their doctor. Products are typically dispensed by a pharmacy, just like other medicines.
Helius is required to comply with pharmaceutical quality standards, set by the Medicinal Cannabis Agency. Every medicine we manufacture is registered with the agency before being supplied. This way, doctors, pharmacists and patients can be confident that regulated medicines deliver an accurate dose of cannabinoids, as stated on the pack.
Patients in New Zealand gained access to locally-made cannabis medicines in October 2021. More information for patients and healthcare professionals can be found on the Ministry of Health website.
All doctors in New Zealand are now authorised to prescribe medicinal cannabis products, for any condition.
Your doctor will have knowledge of your medical history, including any other medicines you are taking, and is best placed to advise you on the risks and benefits of using medicinal cannabis products.
You need a prescription from a doctor before you can obtain any medicinal cannabis product in New Zealand. Once you have a prescription, the doctor or a pharmacy will dispense the product to you. You cannot purchase medicinal cannabis products online or from a third party.
Before you book an appointment with your doctor, we recommend you do as much research as you can on medicinal cannabis as a treatment for your particular condition. If you can find evidence that medicinal cannabis has helped other people with your condition, bring a copy of the study or article with you. A scholarly journal or academic study will be your best source, but less formal sources like patient testimonials or blog posts can also be helpful.
Clearly identify the symptoms that you feel can be better managed with medical cannabis. Make a list of the medicines and therapies you have already tried and mark which have, and which have not, worked. Medicinal cannabis is often prescribed when conventional medicines are not working satisfactorily.
Here are some questions that you can ask your doctor during your visit:
Given my condition, could medicinal cannabis be a valid treatment for me?
Is medicinal cannabis safe for me to use?
Will taking medicinal cannabis interact with my other medications?
What are the side effects?
Cannabis-based medicines present a unique opportunity for use as therapeutic alternatives to many conventional pharmaceutical medicines. If your doctor is not comfortable prescribing medical cannabis, ask if he or she would be willing to refer you to a doctor with cannabinoid expertise.
There are now several specialist cannabis access clinics operating in New Zealand. These private clinics are staffed by healthcare professionals who have been trained in medicinal cannabis treatments. You can have a consultation in person or with tele-health (video call). At their discretion, they can provide you with a prescription and access to a range of suitable cannabis medicines that meet high quality standards.
Here are some links to cannabis access clinics in New Zealand:
The Medicinal Cannabis Agency also provides some consumer information about accessing cannabis products, here.
Many patients prefer an alternative to the conventional method of smoking cannabis products. There are several options available, including the use of medicinal cannabinoid extracts. You can use cannabis as an oral medicine, sublingually (under the tongue), topically, and you can even inhale it without smoking, through a vapouriser.
Medicinal cannabis extracts start out as cannabis oil and are formulated into a wide variety of delivery media, such as soft gel caplets, sublingual drops and topical creams. Using cannabis oil extracts can yield different medical benefits to conventionally smoking raw flowers.
Reserach shows that cannabis-based medicines may be effective in treating chronic pain, epilepsy, sleep disorders, gastrointestinal disorders and may even help reduce the size or stop the growth of cancer, as well as stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Both extracts and raw cannabis may be used to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), headaches and migraines. They may also be used to combat the symptoms of multiple sclerosis and premenstrual syndrome.
Typically, extract oil contains concentrated cannabinoid profiles for more potency. Most extracts are cannabidiol (CBD) dominant, meaning they have little or no psychoactive effect on the patient.