Auckland Patients Group (APG) is renewing its call for an amnesty for compassionate providers, carers and their patients. The request seeks to include registered herbal practitioners as the demand for medicinal cannabis products increases. The call is strongly supported by the New Zealand Association of Medical Herbalists (NZAMH).
It follows confirmation last week that the referendum on recreational cannabis use for adults narrowly failed. This week, New Zealand’s first medicinal cannabis summit, MedCan 2020, took place in Auckland, with locally made products expected to be available for patients, via prescription, from next year. However, APG says this transition period could take up to two to four years as seen in the UK and Australia.
“Pharmaceutical cannabis products should not be the only access pathway for patients and to date the herbal model with trained practitioners has not been identified,” says Erin Hudson, medical herbalist and spokesperson for Auckland Patients Group. “An amnesty would provide a safer environment for the patient and their supporters including medical herbalists, thereby reducing the risk to vulnerable patients,” she says.
Many patients, with a wide range of serious health issues, benefit from the use of non-pharmaceutical cannabis products. Pharmaceutical medicinal cannabis is expensive and access is limited which makes an amnesty crucial during this transition.
NZAMH supports this stance and says they will continue to advocate for a more appropriate long-term prescribing system to enable improved and legitimate access to medicinal cannabis products for New Zealand patients requiring them.
“Many patients are encountering huge difficulties in accessing legal and efficacious cannabis-based products. Research shows that most medical practitioners feel that they don’t have the education, time, available products, or the product knowledge to feel comfortable prescribing them,” says Mike Eyres, NZAMH spokesperson.
Professional Members of NZAMH, on the other hand, have undergone extensive degree and/or post-graduate level training in herbal medicine. Last year NZAMH formally requested professional prescribing rights for its members to cannabis preparations, as part of the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme, which was declined.
NZAMH continues to assert that its registered members would be ideal cannabis prescribers, working within their scope of practice providing safe and effective medicine for a range of complex health issues. In 2015 NZAMH applied to become a regulated profession under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act, however the Ministry of Health is still assessing this application.
“Given the extensive training many NZAMH members have undertaken, medical herbalists are well placed to offer individualised plant medicine prescribing. Until patients and providers have more practical and legal options, a cannabis prescriber amnesty would make a big difference,” says Mike Eyres.
“The Government have already legislated a compassionate exemption for palliative patients to use non-pharmaceutical cannabis, it’s time to extend this exemption to all patients who choose this medicine and the providers who support them,” says Erin Hudson.
Auckland Patients Group was formed in 2016 to lobby government for an amnesty on all medicinal cannabis patients and their supporters, including carers and green fairies while cannabis law reform in Aotearoa New Zealand was enacted.