Extend transitional medicinal cannabis standards to ease patients’ suffering

The Green Party is calling on the Minister of Health, Andrew Little to extend ‘transitional standards’ for medicinal cannabis to prevent thousands of patients being cut off from their medicine.

In March, Minister Little extended transitional medicinal cannabis regulations to 30 September 2021. This allowed patients to access products that didn’t meet strict regulatory standards, while the Government hoped to licence and verify Medicinal Cannabis that did meet those standards. But no new products have met those standards to come onto the market.

Today the Minister will let the transitional period expire, making 13 currently available products illegal – with no plan in place to ensure people can get the pain relief they need.

“The Minister will be leaving thousands of patients in the lurch and forcing them to suffer unnecessarily. He could easily fix this with the stroke of a pen,” Green spokesperson for Drug Law Reform Chlöe Swarbrick says.

“A further extension to the transitional period would mean patients can continue to be prescribed products to ease their pain instead of paying double the price for what they need, or becoming criminals for accessing the black market.

“It has been three years since a law was passed to make Medicinal Cannabis available for New Zealanders. Since then, our impossibly strict domestic standards mean just four, expensive products from one multi-national company have become verified.

“Back in March the Minister said the reason he was extending the transitional medicinal cannabis regulations was to allow more products to become verified in New Zealand.

“Six months later, no more products are verified in New Zealand.

“My questions to Ministers have shown that 20 products were stuck in regulation purgatory in March of this year – and at the beginning of this month, those same products were still stuck in that process.

“Letting the transitional standards expire will put more pressure on prescribers and direct importations, which wastes Customs’ time and holds up medicine for sick folks. We know the Minister hasn’t asked officials for advice on how this will impact patients.

“Along with patients and prescribers, we’re asking the Minister to fix this with the stroke of a pen as he did in March. We’re also asking for the basics of this fundamentally unfit law to be fixed.

“We want to see a compassionate and caring Aotearoa, where people can access the medicine they need to live a life free of pain. A law that wasn’t designed to enable proper access can’t even be called broken. This system is not working by design.

“Green Fairies continue to be criminally prosecuted across this country as they fill the gap for desperate patients. Something has got to give.”

ENDS

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