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Auckland Patients Group call for broader cannabis amnesty in New Zealand

Nov 12, 2020

Although cannabis legalization lost in New Zealand this year, many in the country aren’t ready to give up the fight. According to a recent press release, Auckland Patients Group is calling for amnesty for compassionate providers, carers, and their patients. The group notes in their statement that “the request seeks to include registered herbal practitioners as the demand for medicinal cannabis products increases. The call is strongly supported by the New Zealand Association of Medical Herbalists.”

The call follows the recent referendum on recreational cannabis use for adults, which narrowly failed. At New Zealand’s first medicinal cannabis summit, MedCan 2020, locally made cannabis products were said to be expected to be made available for patients starting next year. However, according to APG, it could be more like two to four years.

“Pharmaceutical cannabis products should not be the only access pathway for patients and to date the herbal model with trained practitioners has not been identified,” says Erin Hudson, medical herbalist and spokesperson for Auckland Patients Group in a statement. “An amnesty would provide a safer environment for the patient and their supporters including medical herbalists, thereby reducing the risk to vulnerable patients.”

The statement went on to note that “many patients, with a wide range of serious health issues, benefit from the use of non-pharmaceutical cannabis products. Pharmaceutical medicinal cannabis is expensive and access is limited which makes an amnesty crucial during this transition.”

The New Zealand Association of Medical Herbalists believes this as well. It will continue to advocate for a long-term cannabis prescribing system and appropriate availability of products for people in the country.

“Many patients are encountering huge difficulties in accessing legal and efficacious cannabis-based products. Research shows that most medical practitioners feel that they don’t have the education, time, available products, or the product knowledge to feel comfortable prescribing them,” says Mike Eyres, NZAMH spokesperson, in a statement.

“Given the extensive training many NZAMH members have undertaken, medical herbalists are well placed to offer individualised plant medicine prescribing. Until patients and providers have more practical and legal options, a cannabis prescriber amnesty would make a big difference,” he continued Mike Eyres.

Members of NZAMH undergo extensive degree and post-graduate training in herbal medicine. The organization requested professional prescribing rights regarding cannabis for its members last year but was declined. 

“The Government have already legislated a compassionate exemption for palliative patients to use non-pharmaceutical cannabis, it’s time to extend this exemption to all patients who choose this medicine and the providers who support them,” says Erin Hudson.

"Auckland Patients Group was formed in 2016 to lobby the government for an amnesty on all medicinal cannabis patients and their supporters, including carers and green fairies, while cannabis law reform in Aotearoa New Zealand was enacted," noted the press release.

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