The timing is not right for New Zealand to legalise the recreational use of cannabis according to industry experts Eqalis Pharmaceuticals Limited.
With the medicinal cannabis industry only in the early stages of development in New Zealand, Eqalis Pharmaceuticals Limited Managing Director Greg Misson believes the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill needs to be delayed for the health and well-being of all Kiwis.
“Cannabis is called a weed for a reason, yes it grows easily, however variation between different plants is significant for a novice grower, and the different components such as CBD and THC all have different medical applications.
“We already know CBD is safe for use and is an effective replacement for opioid-based medicines, but we simply need more time to explore the potentially enormous improvements this complex plant and all its compounds can have on the health and well-being of our community,” says Misson.
Overseas regions that have legalised recreational use have spent at least five years at the medicinal-cannabis-only phase. In their experience, this time is critical to allow both doctors and patients to assess and understand the benefits of the product in a clinical environment.
Research by the New Zealand Medical Journal indicated that 79 percent of general practitioners in New Zealand have concerns prescribing medicinal cannabis.
Elizabeth Plant, Chief Medical Officer at Eqalis says they are not against cannabis reform as such but are very concerned about the timing.
“There is a significant societal benefit in ensuring that doctors and patients have the opportunity and time to engage properly with medical cannabis to make sure they have access to the right formulas for specific conditions in order to get full benefit for their medical conditions.
“THC and CBD are medical compounds with side effects and drug interactions. They are not safe for everyone. There is wide genetic variation with some people having high risk to experiencing psychotic events or impairment while taking THC. This is not restricted just to young adults. Doctors also need to consider the other medications people are taking and dose accordingly to make sure there is no unintended consequences,” she says.
Plant believes a vote for cannabis reform places the significant medical advantages of legalised medicinal cannabis at risk.
“If medical cannabis is not allowed to reach its full potential first, then that will be a loss to New Zealanders, and if recreational use is allowed then patients struggling with pain or complex medical conditions who self-medicate with home-grown cannabis are at significant risk and are unlikely to see the true benefits.”
Mission confirms the firm’s position on the coming referendum.
“We are not against recreational use on any grounds – our position is more practical and based on health and wellness concerns for all New Zealanders.
“We strongly think THC based medicinal cannabis should be prescribed by doctors as they would any other medicine. We’d also like to follow Australia’s lead and see CBD wellness products available over the counter at your local pharmacy.
“A controlled environment best serves those wanting medicinal rather than recreational outcomes of cannabis,” says Misson.
Getting the right legislative framework at the right time for our community is critical believes Misson.
“We only get one chance to get this right. Eqalis wants to ensure all New Zealanders have safe and affordable access to all of the potential benefits of the cannabis plant. We strongly believe that our local medical professionals need more time to grow their knowledge and confidence to be able to prescribe cannabis related products that produce significant health benefits.”
To learn more about Eqalis visit eqalis.co.nz