New Zealand Ministry of Health Confirms Review Aimed at Improving ‘Workability’ of Medicinal Cannabis Regimen

New Zealand health authorities have confirmed that a review of the much criticized Medicinal Cannabis Scheme will begin “soon” as concerns grow that onerous quality standards are strangling the industry.

Consultation papers are being drafted as the government aims to improve the “workability” of the scheme.

This follows growing frustration from industry leaders that too few companies have been able to bring their products to market. Fears are also growing that businesses will struggle to stay afloat.

Sally King, executive director of the New Zealand Medicinal Cannabis Council, said some elements of the framework “just don’t work”.

“The regulations were drafted very quickly and consultation was limited, so it was inevitable that some adjustments would be required,” King said. cannabis. “Some parts of the regulations…seem incredibly restrictive, such as testing parameters and export requirements. Many of the fixes are pretty simple, like harmonizing our interpretations and settings with Europe.

“The critical factor for the industry, however, is exporting, which is key to achieving scale. Exporting ultimately creates accessible and affordable products for patients. current settings hamper quality and increase costs.”

The frustration of growers and manufacturers is all the greater because the problems can be fixed and would not impact patient safety, she said.

“It would be fair to say that the department’s response times are not sensitive to business factors, such as cash burn,” King added. “The ministry has simply been far too slow. It is shameful. This has had an impact on small businesses or undercapitalized businesses [with] some struggle to stay afloat.

The Department of Health has acknowledged that it has faced “requests” from industry since the scheme was introduced.

“Over the past two years of operation, the department has received inquiries and comments from industry on the feasibility, clarity and functionality of the medicinal cannabis regime, focused on the requirements of minimum quality standards and of the licensing regime,” a spokesperson said. .

“We are currently reviewing medical cannabis regulations to improve the feasibility of the program. The ministry is preparing a consultation document, which should be released shortly for comment.

But King questioned the parameters of the exam.

“Indications we received from the ministry indicate that the review seeks to make minor adjustments,” she said, adding that the review was likely to focus on technical and policy changes.

Despite the “real challenges” in regulation, King said the industry has benefited from “very real progress”.

Sally King: ‘real progress’

“Council members recently visited Europe and reported great interest in New Zealand produce,” she said. “Awareness of medicinal cannabis is growing in New Zealand among patients and prescribers. We are seeing growth, but more importantly, a more mature understanding of what cannabis-based medicine can offer. »

She added: “We recently had a vote of confidence from the government with a major research grant. We just need to fine-tune the regulations to unlock the potential of medical cannabis for patients.

Maria J. Book