Dust off your plans to grow medical cannabis because changes are coming, prohibition still sucks, and good news in Minnesota this week on the Marijuana Media potcast, with hosts Jonny and Corey from 95bFM Drive and Chris Fowlie from NORML – thanks to The Hempstore.


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Changes will shake up medical cannabis sector

On Monday Manatū Hauora – Ministry of Health announced it has received approval to make changes to the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Regulations 2019 which they say will better support economic and research opportunities for the medicinal cannabis industry sector and, in turn, benefit Kiwi patients.

There needs to be changes because the local industry has become an oligopoly and not thrived as expected and ninety per cent of patients are still outside the legal scheme and accessing illicit medicinal cannabis.

In the only reportage so far, on Hemp Gazette, Chris James, Deputy Director-General Regulatory Services at Manatū Hauora said the revisions would contribute to a sustainable medicinal cannabis industry. “Supporting a local industry that produces locally grown and manufactured products for domestic and export purposes benefits both industry and those patients for whom it is prescribed.”

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The official statement is scant on details, but it looks like the changes, first proposed to industry last December, will make local production much more viable – especially for export.

With better access to large overseas markets the resulting economies of scale are expected to lead to reduced prices for local patients. Importing a wider range of ingredients and products should also become possible.

The changes include allowing:

  • Exporting cannabis seed;
  • Exporting cannabis ‘starting material’ (bulk biomass) without having to meet NZ’s quality standard;
  • Exporting cannabis ingredients and products without having to meet NZ’s quality standard if they are GMP and meet the receiving country’s standard;
  • Additional ‘forms’ of cannabis (eg tissue culture)
  • A wider range of products qualifying for approval here, with updated pesticide requirements, the alignment of overseas technical specifications, inclusion of the US pharmacopeia and less duplication of tests.

I really hope these changes will lead to would-be growers dusting off their plans and having another look at whether they can now give it a go. Like me they may have shelved plans, but their costs could now be lower, export opportunities now possible, or importing products more viable.

While the proposed changes are all positive, they are rather narrowly focussed on product approvals. The Ministry stressed the changes will not enable the recreational use of cannabis or allow patients to grow their own.

But there are other areas for improvement which could significantly benefit patients, such as shifting low-dose or hemp-derived CBD to over-the-counter (like in Europe and North America), allowing pharmacy compounding of small batches of cannabis meds (like pharmacists can do for any other medicine), and allowing batch-tested craft cannabis production (like in Canada and US states).

I also wanted to see changes to the de facto ban on marketing which inhibits competition and restricts the information patients need to make informed choices and get the best prices. No sign of that.

But in a positive sign, there are no changes proposed to the prescription and dispensing process. It is already among the best in the world, although it is frustrating that the ban on advertising means most people don’t know how easy it is or that the prices have already come down a lot.

Following a public consultation on any material that will be incorporated by reference (such as pharmacopoeias) into the new regulations, we should know more details about the changes this side of the election. The new regulations are expected to take effect by the end of the year – but that may depend on who forms the next government.


Why prohibition still sucks…

Just 12 months after New Zealand narrowly voted to stick with cannabis prohibition, Brian James was shot dead over it. Stuff reports three men are now on trial for his murder, a direct result of a law that puts the cannabis trade outside the law. And in a more recent case, Stuff also reported Man beaten, dreads cut off as trio attempts to extort money for a cannabis deal. Thanks, Nopers!

Singapore executes woman for drugs – RNZ reports, via the BBC, Singaporean national Saridewi Djamani, 45, was found guilty of trafficking 30g (1.06oz) of heroin in 2018.  Singapore imposes the death penalty on anyone caught trafficking more than 15g of heroin or 500g of cannabis.

Mastercard tells banks don’t let people buy pot with debit cards, even when in compliance with local laws. The federal prohibition means they cannot provide services for dispensaries, CBD or hemp companies – see reports in the NY Times and Washington Post.

The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, still before the Senate, could resolve this. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says lawmakers are “making good progress” in bipartisan negotiations on the marijuana banking bill. According to Marijuana Moment, more than 1000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in US state legislatures and Congress this year. There are currently zero in New Zealand.

Some good news: Minnesota legalisation takes effect

Cannabis freedom has come to the Land of 10,000 Lakes! As of August 1st, the possession and home cultivation of marijuana is now legal for Minnesotans, and officials are also taking steps to expunge tens of thousands of marijuana-related convictions.

According to US NORML, those age 21 or older may legally possess in public up to two ounces of cannabis flowers and/or eight grams of cannabis concentrates. Adults may also home-grow up to four mature plants in a private residence and store up to two pounds of cannabis flowers. Licensed retail sales of cannabis are not anticipated to begin until 2024. However, some Indian tribes are already engaging in retail sales on tribal lands.

NORML’s Paul Armentano said nearly half of all Americans now reside in a jurisdiction where the adult use of cannabis is legal – and no state has moved to either curtail or repeal these legalisation laws, “because these policies are working largely as voters and lawmakers intended and they are clearly preferable to criminal marijuana prohibition.”

Minnesota is the 23rd state to legalize marijuana for adults, and the third to so do this year. Nationwide, nearly two million Americans have now had their marijuana-related convictions expunged.

In other good news for drug reform, Scotland wants to decriminalise all drugs (although the UK govt says no); Nepal is looking at legalising medicinal cannabis farming and exports; the Washington Post reports “As more states legalise marijuana, employers are opting out of testing for the substance — either by choice or as required by law”; and in Australia it is now legal to prescribe MDMA and psychedelics for therapeutic use. Happy days!

Coming up:

     Green Horizons Medicinal Cannabis Expo & Gala fundraiser for the cannabis museum 12 August at Hopetoun Alpha, Beresford Street, Auckland, followed by a public open day on 13 August. Tickets for both at Cosmic Ticketing.

·       CannaPosium 7-8 October at the Surrey Hotel, Grey Lynn, Auckland. Tickets here.  

·       Auckland J Day Saturday 2nd December in Albert Park (postponed from May) + cannabis rallies leading up to the election.

Marijuana Media airs every Thursday at 4:20pm on 95bFM, with your hosts bFM Drive’s Jonny and Chris Fowlie from The Hempstore. Stream or download the pot-cast for this show or hundreds of previous Marijuana Media shows at (or via iTunes / RSS feed). Thanks to The Hemp Store!


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