“You can go and pick tilray up down the road here for $350, you can go down to Timaru or Whanganui and it’ll cost you $550,” he said.
Medicinal cannabis user Gareth Duff uses one of the cheaper CBD oils on prescription to stop epileptic seizures. It’s unlikely to get the tick by April and he simply can’t afford the more expensive Tilray products.
“It’s just helped me hugely. The thought of losing that is really quite frightening,” he said.
“If that disappears, where does that leave me? I could have seizures again. That’s a life threatening condition I could be exposed to because they are just taking this product away from me.”
That’s on top of dealing with a life-changing condition.
“There’s all that stress to worry about and now there’s the ‘oh no, they could take this away from me.”
The company importing Gareth’s medicinal cannabis, MedLeaf, has been trying for a year to tick all the boxes the Ministry of Health requires under the new regime. Their products are due to be taken off the shelves by April – that’s in less than a month.
An attempt to import another cheaper product called CleverLeaves stopped short because its Croatian pharmaceutical stamp isn’t recognised here.
Medleaf business development manager Shane Le Brun says New Zealand’s high standards can be met eventually, but not in the short term.
“They are basically cancelling better in the pursuit of perfect. In the short-term, that’s likely to push people more to the black market.”
Medicinal cannabis companies want a parallel regime with another country. Somewhere like Germany – so if a company passes all the lab tests required there, it can be imported here too.
“Products that are approved in Germany are shelf-life stable, they are accurate to label, they have all that data to show that they are good enough,” said Le Brun.
Even the Government appears to have been caught off-guard by how difficult its own regulations are to meet.
Then-Health Minister David Clark announced in April 2020 the first medicinal cannabis licences were expected to be issued by mid-2020. It took until now – nine months later than anticipated – for the very first approval.