It has now been three years since Parliament unanimously passed the law to make a New Zealand medical cannabis industry possible.

With foreign products limited and expensive, kiwi patients would finally have legal access to quality local products at affordable prices.

After completing a variety of industry regulations, the New Zealand program and new medical cannabis agency went into effect in April 2020.

Yes, it was a complicated process and a long wait for patients. However, when it comes to pharmaceutical standards and human health care, it has been vital for the Ministry of Health to put in place and oversee a rigorous regulatory system, says Carmen Doran, managing director of Helius Therapeutics.

“Last year, concerns were raised that patients would forego it. This is because most overseas products under the New Zealand Medicinal Cannabis Scheme no longer meet the new minimum standards.”

As of October 1, doctors were no longer allowed to prescribe these imported products. However, as of October 4, the Medical Cannabis Agency announced that two local products had been verified. Finally, locally made products were offered.

This year, patients will see cheaper local products, says Carmen.

Helius was New Zealand’s first medical cannabis company to receive a GMP license to manufacture medicines in July. Rua Bioscience then received its GMP license with a product that was recently verified for release in 2022 and other companies will follow suit.

“Some people may have a rudimentary picture of how cannabis products are made. In reality, a successful cultivation and production company depends on an internationally experienced team. Compliance with some of the world’s highest quality standards requires in-depth pharmaceutical know-how.

“We trust science and standards – both of which will give New Zealand a competitive advantage.

“As the old saying goes, it is quality, not quantity. Our country’s newest industry will succeed in research and development and in providing new and novel products with greater efficacy and safety.”

Carmen Doran, CEO of Helius Therapeutics.

New Zealand has captured a remarkable share of the international wine market through intelligent innovation and collaboration, says Carmen, who is also a board member of the New Zealand Medicinal Cannabis Council. There’s no reason New Zealand can’t do the same with medicinal cannabis.

“News like Puro NZ’s awarding of BioGro-Bio status for its expansive outdoor cultivation only adds one benefit.

“After the pandemic, we need emerging industries to be successful and to increase our national export earnings. Since the global cannabis market is projected to be $ 18.7 billion this means more businesses and more jobs here at home.

“At the moment, kiwi patients are a priority. After all, they and their advocates have fought long and hard for better access to these natural medicines.”

Carmen says affordability is gradually being reached, but better access also means more doctors are willing to prescribe.

Carmen says any general practitioner in New Zealand can prescribe medicinal cannabis for any condition. However, as recent patient reports in the media suggest, many still lack the knowledge or confidence to do so.

“With our doctors being the gatekeepers, training of prescribers is a key component of patient access. In fact, surveys show that doctors themselves are the first to recognize the need to be better informed about medical cannabis and what and how it is being treated effectively can be.

“The good news for New Zealand patients is that many more healthcare professionals are now genuinely curious and actively engaged in training. We know this not only through encouraging prescribing data, but also through registration with educational resources and events.

“Two good examples are MCInfo and MedCan. Over 1,300 doctors and pharmacists have now registered with MCinfo – a special online information service for medical cannabis, both for prescribing kiwifruit and for patients. Significantly, the MedCan Summit 2022 in Auckland in February also received many more registrations from doctors than at the first industry summit in 2020. “