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Medicinal cannabis products likely by June, says Williams

Wednesday 17 May 2023 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in Local, National


Medicinal cannabis products  likely by June, says Williams

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 says the country’s secretary of health.

Bob Williams told RNZ that although amendments needed to be made to existing legislation, in the meantime, the Ministry of Health would reactivate its pharmacy board to issue medicinal cannabis products.

“The board can issue a licence to pharmacists and authorise them to import medicinal cannabis or any form of medications to support people or patients who require these types of medicines,” he said.

The board is planning to meet next month and process the necessary documentation to allow this to happen, Williams added.

“It shouldn’t be any time longer than after June for that process to kick in.”

A legally non-binding referendum was held in August last year that asked: “Should we review our cannabis laws to allow for research and medicinal use?” Sixty-two percent of respondents voted yes.

Since then, the government has created a committee to investigate the rules and regulations of medicinal cannabis.

Prime Minister Mark Brown told RNZ the committee was working on a policy paper at the moment.

Cook Islands News has been chasing the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Ben Ponia about progress on medicinal cannabis reform for about two weeks.

Shortly after the report aired on RNZ, Ponia apologised for the delay and said that an update would be forthcoming.

Ponia is spokesman for the Medicinal Cannabis Committee.

In March, Pukapuka MP and committee chairman Tingika Elikana told Cook Islands News that the committee had discussed about the best way to progress the issue while legislation is being drafted.

“We’re able to import medicinal cannabis products approved by MedSafe New Zealand, provided a special dispensation is issued,” Elikana said.

“The real problem we have is with products not covered by MedSafe NZ.

“For those products to be allowed in the country, they need a special waiver by the Secretary of Health. We’re encouraging the Secretary of Health to use his discretionary powers where he can. We’re leaving it up to him, but we really want him to take a more considered view of the legislation.”

Elikana said it was acknowledged by members of Cabinet that ongoing research is required to progress this matter.

  • Caleb Fotheringham (RNZ)/Matthew Littlewood