25 Jan 2017

Govt stance on medical cannabis 'unlawful'

11:36 am on 25 January 2017

People with chronic pain are being denied relief by an incorrect Health Ministry claim that a cannabis compound is covered by the Misuse of Drugs Act, a Nelson lawyer says.

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CBD can help with nausea, sleeplessness and chronic pain, advocates say. Photo: 123rf

The Ministry of Health has said that cannabidiol (CBD), which is found in cannabis and hemp, is covered by the Act and has instructed Customs to seize any products containing it at the border.

Nelson lawyer Sue Grey said that interpretation seemed to be based on advice from ministry officials that if reacted with acid, CBD could become a compound with the same molecular formula (an isomer) as THC - another compound found in cannabis that is psychoactive and falls under the Act.

However, that was an unlawful interpretation, Ms Grey said.

"That's not the test. The test is what is it [CBD] as it stands, in the form that it's in.

"If it's not an isomer ... then it's outside the scope of the Misuse of Drugs Act."

One of the members of the government's own advisory panel on illegal drugs, ESR scientist Keith Bedford, agreed with her interpretation, Ms Grey said.

CBD is available in some US states and other countries as a food, dietary supplement and medicine.

It could be used for chronic pain, insomnia and nausea, which made it helpful for people suffering from illnesses such as cancer, Ms Grey said.

The ministry's current stance was especially illogical, given that Food Standards Australia and New Zealand had recommended that hemp seed products be approved for sale in both countries, she said.

It was also already scheduled as a medicine in New Zealand, as it was an active ingredient in Sativex, a cannabis spray product.

She was waiting on further information the ministry was getting from its advisory panel, she said.

"I say, 'Fine, I'm happy to give you a bit of time, but you've already been working on this for a long time', and people are sick - they can't keep waiting."

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