Cannabis and CBD Oil

Evidence Based This article is based on scientific evidence, written by an expert. This article contains scientific references linked throughout.

New Zealand Regulation
of Cannabis-based Product

A breakdown of New Zealand law and regulation surrounding cannabis based products.

Cannabis-based products include a wide range of products that may be prescribed to treat a host of medical conditions and symptoms.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of many natural compounds found in the cannabis plant, classed as a cannabinoid. It has drawn the most attention recently as a key driver behind the legalisation of cannabis due to the growing amount of research into its potential application in human health and well-being.

What defines a Cannabis-Based product?

Cannabis based products contain usually contain one or both of CBD and THC. As most of the research and benefits have been focused around these two cannabinoids, these are the two ingredients you’ll see in most cannabis-based products. Some less refined or full spectrum products may also contain the plants other cannabinoids and terpenes.

Cannabidiol(CBD) Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
Non-psychoactive cannabinoid Psychoactive cannabinoid
Can reduce the anxiety and the effect of the THC high Responsible for the psychological effects such as head high, potential increase in heart rate, and slower reaction times
Cannabinoids work best together without each other

Medical Cannabis versus Recreational Cannabis

Medicinal cannabis is used to help treat disease or symptoms of medical conditions where cannabinoids are dosed accordingly. In contrast, recreational cannabis has developed purely for the experience of the ‘high’. When broken down into the cannabinoids, medicinal treatment excels using a balance of cannabinoids and terpenes which in some cases may result in a small high at large doses. Recreational use however has seen the development of cannabis plants with extremely high levels of THC and low levels of CBD just to produce a strong high.

Medicinal Cannabis Products in New Zealand

Evidence for the use of cannabis as a medicine has come too far to ignore. As a result some products have been developed and approved by the government to be prescribed as a cannabis based product.

Read more prescribing cannabis-based products (Medsafe)

Pharmaceutical Grade cannabis products that HAVE CONSENT for distribution in New Zealand

Consent for distribution means that the product has been determined by Medsafe to meet acceptable safety and efficacy requirements for distribution in New Zealand.

From 1 April 2020, registered medical practitioners no longer need Ministerial approval to prescribe Sativex™ for off-label use for patients under their care, where this is within their scope of practice. When a prescription has been issued, Sativex™ can be dispensed to the patient by a registered pharmacist, or by a registered medical practitioner if the patient is in their care.

Medical practitioners can prescribe SativexTM without Ministerial approval for any on-label or off-label indications within their scope of practice, where there is a clinical need.

Sativex is an unfunded CBD and THC solution in a 1:1 ratio, meaning it will cause a high in some people.

Learn more: Sativex® supply information for patients, prescribers and pharmacies

CBD Products

While the intent is to make it easier to access CBD products, there is currently a limited range of CBD products available in New Zealand. None of the products currently available have consent for distribution in New Zealand. Strict export restrictions on products sourced from some other countries will continue to impact the supply of CBD products in New Zealand. The range of products available in New Zealand is expected to increase once domestic cultivation and manufacture of medicinal cannabis products is enabled and established.
A CBD product is defined as a product that contains cannabidiol:

  • AND must have < 2% of THC (or any other psychoactive components within cannabis)
  • AND does not contain any other controlled drug
  • AND contains cannabidiol and does not contain a psychoactive substance.
These products do not require ministerial approval to be prescribed, supplied or dispensed. They are now regarded as prescription medicines. As with all prescription medicines, patients must have a prescription from an authorised prescriber to import or use CBD products.

Read more about CBD products

Dosing of Medicinal Cannabis

The recommended dose is difficult to be sure of due to the large range of products tested in studies.

  • Some are synthetic and some are natural (plant-based and have different strengths from different parts of the plant).
  • Different products have different amounts of cannabinoids, so until there are more reliable products available, it is difficult to know the right dose.
  • There are side effects and dangers of using smoked cannabis for medicinal use because it is impossible to know what doses are being inhaled.
  • The general advice for any medicinal cannabis product is to start with low doses and increase slowly to assess for beneficial effect
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