16 Oct 2015

'Raw cannabis is not on the agenda'

11:05 am on 16 October 2015

Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne says the provisions in place for medicinal cannabis are not likely to change.

Peter Dunne says raw cannabis is not on the agenda for the current government.

Peter Dunne says raw cannabis is not on the agenda for the current government. Photo: AFP/RNZ

During an interview with Morning Report, he said people whose doctors felt it would be beneficial for them could already go through a process to access Sativex, the only legal cannabis-based medicine approved in New Zealand.

He said that so far only one person had done this.

"The procedure is very clear: if a person's doctors believe they would benefit from those products, then they can apply for a dispensation, like they would any other [products]."

Mr Dunne said that it was untrue that there were a variety of products available, and said the few others were available internationally were only approved in individual countries or were still undergoing trial.

He said, contrary to popular belief, though Sativex was very expensive, it only cost $1,000 a month, rather than the sometimes touted $20,000 figure.

"Pharmac is currently considering whether to subsidise it or not, and they'll make that decision in due course," he said.

Mr Dunne said legalising the cannabis plant for medical use would not be on the agenda for this government.

"This government's policy is not to decriminalise the cannabis leaf, and that is not going to change. Raw cannabis is not on the agenda. It is government policy not to do so. Full stop, end of story.

"We're talking here about medicinal products that have to be properly tested, properly approved. The evidence there is mixed at best, but there are some examples where there are likely to be positive benefits."

A Law Commission report released a few years ago advocated government-backed clinical trials testing the medicinal benefits of cannabis, but Mr Dunne said this was not going to influence current policy.

"The Law Commission is not God, and in this case the government disagrees with their view.

"I am not being swayed by all the other emotional knowledge."