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NZ ‘study tour’ to finalise medicinal cannabis policy

Saturday 20 May 2023 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Health, National

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NZ ‘study tour’ to finalise  medicinal cannabis policy
The medicinal cannabis debate continues. 23032024

Members of the Cook Islands cannabis referendum committee will soon be travelling abroad to get a handle on the New Zealand market.

In a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, it says that a New Zealand study tour to investigate lessons-learnt for licensing, prescribing, and dispensing, and potentially producing medicinal cannabis products in the Cook Islands is proposed for next month.

“Comprehensive work is underway to determine the policy settings and assess the legal framework to allow for future possible legal use, importation and/or production of medicinal cannabis in the Cook Islands, with plans to have a policy prepared and approved by Cabinet by later this year,” the statement says.

“As part of that extensive research, some members of the Cannabis Referendum Committee will visit key stakeholders in the New Zealand Medicinal Cannabis sector including a range of companies and pharmacists and regulators.”

The committee was formed in response to the August 2022 referendum on medicinal cannabis, which was overwhelmingly in favour, with 62 per cent of respondents voting “yes”. The referendum asked: “Should we review our cannabis laws to allow for research and medicinal use?”.

Medicinal cannabis campaigner Steve Boggs said making the trip to New Zealand to look at its markets should not be its first priority.

“The most appropriate concern right now is for the Executive Council to meet immediately in order to allow for the registering and licensing of individual and designated growers of medicinal cannabis so they can meet their medical necessities,” Boggs said.

“The Government can then gain the firsthand knowledge that is needed from the growers of medicinal cannabis that will help to foster the research, education, public consultation and training the police will need to understand everything that the cultivation of medicinal cannabis will entail.”

Members of the committee are chairperson and Pukapuka MP Tingika Elikana, Solicitor General Lauaki Annandale, Ministry of Health Secretary Bob Williams, Office of the Prime Minister chief of staff Ben Ponia, and community representative Marie Francis.

Attempts to contact Elikana on Friday were unsuccessful.

However, in the statement Elikana said in order to develop a regulatory framework for the legalisation of medicinal cannabis in the Cook Islands, research needs to be carried out on the systems and laws in countries where medicinal cannabis is legal.

The production and prescription of medicinal cannabis in the Cook Islands is also consistent with goals of the National Sustainable Development Agenda 2020+ (NSDA 2020+), a government statement said.

Ministry of Health Secretary Bob Williams says the use of medicinal cannabis to treat patients with a number of chronic health conditions, is new to the Cook Islands so it is critical that all relevant matters are considered in the development of the framework.

 “It’s essential that ongoing research, education, public consultation and training is undertaken to allow for medical cannabis to be imported, prescribed and produced in the Cook Islands,” he says.

“We need to ensure that all risks are carefully considered and managed, and measures are put in place to regulate the industry.”

Earlier this week, Williams told Radio New Zealand that medicinal cannabis products could be available to some people in the Cook Islands as early as June and will “definitely” be available by the end of the year.