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New Zealand Approves Domestic Medical Cannabis Products

New Zealand health regulators last week began allowing the use of domestically produced medicinal cannabis products, ending patients’ reliance on imported medical marijuana products. Access to local medications was allowed by the Ministry of Health on September 9th, creating a new market for New Zealand marijuana growers and producers.

Under New Zealand’s medicinal cannabis legalization laws, any licensed general physician can prescribe cannabis medications to any patient to treat any health condition. According to Tim Aldridge (Managing Director of Puro New Zealand), only patients have access to imported cannabis medications since 2017.

“Up until now, New Zealand patients could only be prescribed medicinal cannabis grown overseas, with the vast majority being imported from Australia and Canada,” Aldridge said in a statement.

Puro New Zealand grows organically produced cannabis at its outdoor facility on the nation’s South Island. In May, Puro New Zealand signed a multimillion-dollar, five-year contract to sell cannabis to Helius Therapeutics. Helius manufactures cannabinoid medicines at the East Auckland facility. Carmen Doran, chief executive of Helius, noted that a change in the law now allows New Zealand patients access to the company’s products.

“In 2018, Parliament’s legislative intent around improving access and affordability was clear,” said Doran. “The subsequent Medicinal Cannabis Scheme has also strived for both locally grown and made cannabis medicines. That national ambition to better serve long-suffering Kiwi patients is finally a reality and that’s exciting.”

“This is great news for many patients who have long sought legal access to both New Zealand-grown and made medicinal cannabis products,” Doran added.

Local Market Approves Medications

The Ministry of Health notified Helius on Tuesday that two of the company’s medications had passed the quality standards testing. This requirement must be fulfilled before any cannabis products are allowed to enter the market in accordance with regulations that were adopted in 2019. New Zealand currently has 35 cannabis-related companies in its country. Helius Therapeutics is the biggest.

Helius was New Zealand’s first medicinal cannabis business to achieve a GMP Licence for Manufacturing Medicines in July 2021, bringing the first products to market three months later. New Zealand will be the first to launch new products, and then international markets. Europe and South America have been identified as key foreign markets.

“Gaining approval of medicinal cannabis products that are truly New Zealand-grown and made is a significant milestone for our industry,” Doran said. “Local patients and their advocates have fought long and hard for truly Kiwi products which are both high quality and cost-effective.”

Aldridge stated that the company spent four years improving its operation to meet government regulations.

“It hasn’t always been plain sailing,” Aldridge said. “Navigating this new industry, coming to grips with the regulatory regime, and growing a new crop at scale has been a massive undertaking.”

He says patients will reap the benefits of the local cannabis production system, even though it has been difficult. Expect to pay half the cost of imported cannabis medicines when produced locally.

Doran of Helius claimed that New Zealand will benefit from a local supply of CBD, and other cannabis products. This is despite the fact that international logistical issues have impacted imports of cannabis products made in Australia over the past 2 years.

“We have seen significant delays and disruptions in the availability of imported products as COVID continues to impact supply chains,” said Doran. “It is disconcerting for patients and prescribers when products that are making a difference in people’s lives are not available. Fully New Zealand-grown and made products will help alleviate such issues.”