Marijuana licensing rules to create route

It will cost about $12,500 a year to possess, manufacture and supply medicinal cannabis products.

New licensing rules for the legal manufacture and distribution of medicinal cannabis will create a route to market for dozens of companies that have, to date, been limited to research.

Announcing the new quality and licensing regime last week, Minister of Health David Clark said the regulations would help ease the pain of thousands of people.

"There is huge international interest in the potential of medicinal cannabis. These regulations mean New Zealand companies will be well placed to manufacture for both the local and international market."

Dr Clark said there was already considerable interest and expertise in this area with 20 companies licensed to grow cannabis for research purposes and another 238 growing industrial hemp.

"It’s expected that at least some of these companies will apply for licences for medicinal cannabis," he said.

The Ministry of Health expected to start issuing licences from the middle of 2020.

Licence costs started at just under $3000 for the licence and pre-screening fees — drug manufacturers could add $3105 to the bill and another $6383 for a supply licence. The fee to make a declaration of illicit seed was $748, which covered up to 20 plants or 50 seeds.

"People with prescriptions for medicinal cannabis products can currently fill prescriptions with products sourced from overseas, which are often costly," Dr Clark said.

He expected increased competition from local manufacturers would drive prices down over time, Dr Clark said.

He said people eligible to receive palliation would continue to be exempt from prosecution for illicit cannabis.

"That will be reviewed once the scheme has been in operation and more quality products become available," he said.

To that end, the Ministry of health was establishing a medicinal cannabis agency to oversee the scheme.

It would provide guidance on the scheme for health practitioners, industry, and consumers.

Dr Clark said the scheme would also include appropriate restrictions to ensure cannabis was grown under appropriate security and batch testing of products to limit contamination, test shelf life, and accurately identify the level of active ingredients.

In terms of the scheme, advertising of medicinal cannabis products was not permitted and a cost recovery scheme would be in place to cover administration, licensing and regulatory costs.

The medicinal cannabis products permitted under the scheme included dried products, a variety of tablets and liquids but not products that could be smoked.

All medicinal cannabis products needed to be prescribed by a medical practitioner and obtained directly from the medical practitioner or from a pharmacy.

Soma Medical Research director Greg Marshall said the establishment of a licensing regime was a starting point for the New Zealand industry.

"There are huge risks in what is essentially a commodity market, so the challenge for companies will be to develop an 'end-to-end' cannabis business model, working across the supply chain, developing the science behind medicinal products and producing products for distribution."


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