Legal Update: Medicinal Cannabis

Legal Update: Medicinal Cannabis

There has been a great deal of coverage and discussion within the New Zealand media in relation to the legalisation of medicinal cannabis. The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Act 2018 became part of the New Zealand legal landscape as of 18 December 2018. The Act legalises the use of cannabis by people with a terminal illness by providing them with a statutory defence to possess and use illicit cannabis.

Illicit cannabis means any cannabis product not prescribed by a doctor, which can take the form of dried leaves, oils and balms.

The introduction of the new law is a “compassionate measure” while the Government establishes the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme, which will form part of the regulations to govern the industry. The regulatory framework is to be formulated in the next year and will address issues such as licensing, cultivation, manufacture, production, quality, sale and use of medicinal cannabis. The objective of the scheme is to increase patient access to quality medicinal cannabis products on prescription.

Now that cannabis has been legalised for use in a medicinal purpose, the question now is: how long will it take for the de-criminalisation of cannabis for all New Zealanders?

It seems that the de-criminalisation of cannabis is only a matter of time and it's been estimated that by 2024 the global legal cannabis market will be worth around $90 billion. There is certainly no shortage of New Zealand entrepreneurs and businesses ready (and hoping) to take advantage of the loosening in laws surrounding production and sale of cannabis products. However, many start-ups may be left in a “licensing limbo” while they wait for the regulations and Scheme to be implemented.

The standards for medicinal cannabis will be developed by the ministry of Health and presented to the public for comment in the first half of 2019. If you want to be kept up to date on the progress of the Scheme, including information on participating in the public consultation, you can email medicinal_cannabis@moh.govt.nz.

Next month’s edition of The NEWS will look at the requirements for starting up a cannabis business.

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