The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners has told Parliament that cannabis products must be pharmaceutical-grade products, meeting standard criteria, to be classed as medicines.
At the current time, there is a lack of credible evidence for the efficacy of therapeutic cannabis. The College’s view is that therapeutic cannabis products should not be considered medicines. Instead, if the law is changed, GPs should treat them in the same way as complementary and alternative medicines.
The College has called on the Government to facilitate research on the medical potential of cannabis, to enable a larger evidence base which will allow politicians and medical professionals to make more informed decisions about therapeutic cannabis use.
The College has also described the lack of clarity around terminology of cannabis, and the omission of a definition of ‘medicinal cannabis’ in the Bill as regrettable. The College suggested this could lead to public confusion and risk undermining public confidence in medicines.
In terms of the defence for terminally ill people to use illicit cannabis, the College pointed out the potential unintended consequences of this change. Of concern is that there is no requirement for a doctor, when supplying a medical certificate confirming a patient’s terminal illness, to discuss the benefits or harms of using illicit cannabis with the patient.
President of The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, Dr Tim Malloy, said:
“It is important that the public can trust the advice they get from GPs and the health system about cannabis, and that claims are backed up by evidence.
“Therefore, the Government should make sure the public has authoritative information on the benefits and harms of cannabis. Patients have a right to be informed.
“Access to medicines, including cannabis-based medicines, should be equitable. We would regret a situation where some patients can afford pharmaceutical-grade products, but, due to cost, others could only access lower-quality therapeutic products.”
The College has made these points in its submission to the Health Committee on the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Bill.
The College has also endorsed the New Zealand Medical Association’s position statement on medicinal cannabis and the eight recommendations in that statement.