Frustration over government’s continual lack of support for medical cannabis

May 29, 2024

Frustration over government’s continual lack of support for medical cannabis

User of medical cannabis showing their products. Photo by Quinn Plunkett

Some patients are disappointed with the lack of government funding for pain relief, as medical cannabis is still heavily stigmatised.

Privately held company Medleaf Therapeutics consultant Shane Le Brun says that cost is a big issue for New Zealanders who need medical cannabis prescriptions.

“The cost is expensive but only for genuine patients who need it as a medicine, but for the people who just want to buy a big bag cause it's legal for shits and giggles every second Friday, that's what they're already paying on the streets.”

According to Le Brun, ACC only helps cover medical cannabis cost through a complicated independent review process.

“The issue is really the heavy high-needs patients don't have any realistic funding pathways, so ACC won't touch it until you've exhausted all reasonable treatment options so that means you have to be an opioid addict first.”

Med Leaf was one of the first companies to bring medical cannabis (CBD) products to New Zealand. Regulatory and Business Development consultant, Shane Le Brun pictured in his at-home office. Photo by Quinn Plunkett

Med Leaf was one of the first companies to bring medical cannabis (CBD) products to New Zealand. Regulatory and Business Development consultant, Shane Le Brun pictured in his at-home office. Photo by Quinn Plunkett  

WINZ also requires evidence that medical cannabis is effective for the patient before they actually help fund it.

One medical cannabis user who did not want to be named, says he pays around $400 for one ounce of cannabis to help with pain relief.

“I broke my back earlier on in college playing sports and it was just affecting me too much through work, so it has helped with my back and then through anxiety as well.

“It helped me focus on things a little bit more so I wasn’t worried about what was going on in my head and it was just a way I could numb my pain.”

Le Brun said that New Zealand should take a page out of other countries’ books when it comes to taxing medicines.

“The way the system is at the moment, the person making the most money is the government with the GST. They have GST on medicines, and they don't do that in Australia.

“The government would be making 15 per cent in GST - no one else is making 15 per cent on the final product, that's pretty tough and it gets frustrating.”

The Medical Cannabis Scheme came into effect in 2020 yet there is still stigma against the usage as a medicine in New Zealand.

The user of prescribed cannabis wishes that medical cannabis was more normalised for medicinal purposes rather than just recreational.

“It'll just be a safer way of doing it, less harm done to people because they're not getting spiked with anything it's all being tested and grown in safe labs.”

Listen here: Shane Le Brun on the issue with medical cannabis.

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