Topic: Health

Ministry to have authority to prescribe cannabis

By Heta Gardiner

Decision-making to prescribe cannabis-based products will now go through the Ministry of Health and will no longer require sign off from the Minister.  That announcement was made by Associate Minister Peter Dunne. But some politicians question if the change goes far enough.

A step to hasten access for patients to cannabis products.

Dunne says, “There is a body of experience now and practice built up about dealing with these things. This is just one step of the way in smoothing the pathway.”

Previously, the Minister himself would have to approve marijuana for pain relief. Now he has delegated responsibility for the prescribing of all cannabis-based products to the Ministry of Health.

Green Party MP Marama Davidson says, “There are still many processes that need to be cleaned up in this area. It's just too hard for dying people to access some of these potential medicines.”

Māori Party Co-leader Marama Fox says, “That authority does not lie with the Minister. It's better to have trained professionals making the call on whether someone should be able to have cannabis for medical purposes.” 

But Minister Dunne says this is just the first step.

“Look this is a progressive set of changes. Last year announced that Sativex when being used for multiple sclerosis no longer needed the approval of the director general of health today's announcement is just one more step along the way.  There will be more announcements from time to time as our knowledge base improves and our practice improves.”

Davidson from the Green Party says that looking ashore shows the direction we should be going in.

“This is one of those occasions that New Zealand should take our lead from other countries that have legalised medical cannabis.”

The added responsibility on the Ministry of Health will take effect immediately.