16th August 2019, Volume 132 Number 1500

Irene Braithwaite, Giles Newton-Howes, Karen Oldfield, Alex Semprini

In December 2018, New Zealand legislators passed the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Bill into law.1,2 An amendment of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975,3 it is intended to improve…

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Most cannabis-based products do not have enough information about how they are made or how safe and effective they are to be licensed as a medicine here in New Zealand. When the medicinal cannabis scheme comes into effect, these products can become available to patients provided they are prescribed. The current medical system in which doctors operate does not support the prescription of products that do not have data relating to quality, safety and effectiveness. Doctors will find themselves caught in a conflict between patient demand and professional obligations.


With rapidly changing legislation designed to improve access to cannabis-based medicinal products, we assess the obligations of the law and professional bodies on the proposed prescribers of these products. We argue that the current legal and professional obligations may limit prescribing practices despite legislative change, and that without the usual licensing processes of Medsafe being applied to these products, prescribers and their professional bodies must engage in the process of change to ensure short- and long-term patient safety and to maintain professional standards.

Author Information

Irene Braithwaite, Deputy Director, Medical Research Institute of New Zealand;
Giles Newton-Howes, Associate Professor, Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago; Karen Oldfield, Senior Research Fellow, Medical Research Institute of New Zealand;
Alex Semprini, Deputy Director, Medical Research Institute of New Zealand.


Irene Braithwaite, Medical Research Institute of New Zealand, Private Bag 7902, Wellington 6242.

Correspondence Email


Competing Interests

All authors are members of the Medical Marijuana Research Collaborative, an impartial collaboration of academics and regulatory experts in the field of cannabis-based medicine development. The Medical Research Institute of New Zealand has undertaken research activity unrelated to this article for Helius, and Whakaora Pharma, both of which are New Zealand-based medicinal cannabis companies. There are no other conflicts of interest to declare.


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