Is New Zealand’s Medical Cannabis Market in Trouble?

16th February 2021

According to a report published in NZ Herald, New Zealand could lose three of its five largest medical cannabis importers due to a change in government policy. Experts believe the country’s strict regulations may cause the legal medical cannabis market to take a plunge.

After proposed legalisation of recreational cannabis was defeated in a voter referendum last year, cannabis campaigners in New Zealand warned that the country could lose the majority of its medical cannabis market in just two months.

Last April the government announced that it aimed to create “a more safe, widespread and affordable” medicinal cannabis market in the country.

However, a report claims that three of the most prominent cannabis importers may find their products kept out of the market after 31 March, when a deadline set by the government passes.

Lack of Approvals for Cannabis Products

Medleaf Therapeutics, Nubu Pharmaceuticals and Eqalis Pharmaceuticals all confirmed that their products wouldn’t be verified under the government’s proposal meaning that their domestic products won’t reach the market until later this year.

One of the representatives of these companies told NZ Herald that this would potentially see them halting their operations for a couple of months – another expects that their home-grown products will not be available sooner than September.

Moreover, they say, even if they are given Ministry approval for the import and sale of medical cannabis, this process would be significantly expensive and time-consuming.

A government spokesperson told NZ Herald while it was true that no products have been approved under New Zealand’s new system, they expect “a number of products to be verified as meeting quality standards by 1 April 2021.”

The spokesperson added that the sole medical cannabis product approved by Medsafe, the New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority, would remain available in the country.

Importers told the paper that the government’s proposal was seen as unfair as they would have to comply with much more strict regulations than similar companies in Germany, Canada or even in Australia.

Their products would be required to meet “a pharmaceutical-grade standard” (GMP), while CBD products around the globe would reportedly only be required to meet some “lesser, food-grade standards.”

Medical cannabis has been legal in New Zealand since 2018. Although under the new legislation GPs will be able to prescribe medical cannabis containing THC, this change is expected to take a long time to be brought in.

This is because, until the ministry approves the products, only specialists will be given these rights on a case-by-case agreement. As GPs are unable to prescribe medical cannabis to their patients, those in need of treatment can only purchase more expensive products, such as Sativex.

New Zealand has been seen as a progressive country for a while now. With this decision and the delays in the approval process, it may fall well behind the biggest parties on the medical cannabis market.

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