Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Media Take: Medical cannabis on the media agenda

25 Responses

  • Andrew Geddis,

    A case in which a judge discharged a woman who had mailed herself medical cannabis from the US, which might have slipped by, instead became the subject of serious legal debate.

    Peter Dunne has confirmed in an interview with RNZ that my (and Sue Grey’s, the lawyer who argued the Nelson case, ) interpretation of the law is correct – if lawfully obtained overseas and used for therapeutic purposes, you can bring one months supply of medpot into NZ on your person (but not by mail, or for another person).

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2007 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Andrew Geddis,

    So you just need to make an international flight to the USA once a month as part of your pain relief...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Geddis, in reply to BenWilson,

    Yeah - it's just that simple!

    Caveat, but. In that interview Dunne mentioned that it may not be "lawful" to take medpot out of the US due to Federal law. Not sure if that was a warning to travelers ("you may be busted in the US") or an indication that NZ may not see it as being "lawfully obtained" overseas (and thus within the Misuse of Drugs Act exemption).

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2007 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Andrew Geddis,

    Caveat, but. In that interview Dunne mentioned that it may not be “lawful” to take medpot out of the US due to Federal law. Not sure if that was a warning to travelers (“you may be busted in the US”)

    He does seem to be correct, according to Airsafe:

    Can I fly with medical marijuana if I have a prescription? – No. Federal law does not allow any kind of marijuana, whether it is medical or recreational marijuana, on airliners or in the secure parts of the airport terminal (beyond the TSA screening stations), and it does not matter if you have a prescription for medical marijuana.

    This advocacy group says there are “marijuana friendly airports”, including Oakland and San Francisco, who will let people fly with medical marijuana if notified in advance, but also cautions against international travel.

    Mind you, they both seem to be talking about raw plant. I doubt you'd be stopped with Sativex.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Geddis,

    Of course, the Misuse of Drugs Act refers to controlled drugs being "lawfully obtained" in overseas jurisdictions, not "lawfully removed from" or "lawfully carried out of" them. So it isn't clear what the effect of these rules would be on people who take the risk of carrying medpot out of the US and then try to bring it into NZ!

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2007 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    up to $1400 for three 10ml bottles

    How long does that last? It sounds like a tiny amount at face value, but if it's essentially pure cannabis oil, then it sounds like quite a lot. But I have no idea how much someone in chronic pain would be consuming. I'm guessing that they take it pretty much continuously?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • mpledger,

    The Netherlands' "Cannabisbureau" might be an alternative. They seem willing to supply
    https://www.cannabisbureau.nl/english/import-and-export
    ... at a cost.

    I'm guessing it would take a lawyer to make it all water tight at both ends.

    Since Oct 2012 • 97 posts Report Reply

  • bob daktari, in reply to BenWilson,

    according to http://sativex.co.uk/

    A new vial of Sativex contains about 90 sprays. Therefore, for someone taking four sprays a day, a vial should last around 22 days. Every pack of Sativex contains 3 vials.

    the site says 12 sprays a day is the maximum daily dose

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 540 posts Report Reply

  • mpledger, in reply to bob daktari,

    @bob daktari
    A person need only apply to the Ministry of Health to get sativex. To get raw cannabis or any other cannabis product, that needs approval of the Minister of Health (but in effect it's delegated to Peter Dunne).

    Since Oct 2012 • 97 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to bob daktari,

    the site says 12 sprays a day is the maximum daily dose

    Yeah, four would be a low-ish dose. Part of the problem is that it only sells in the 3 x 10ml pack, so it's quite an outlay for someone who may well be on a benefit.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to mpledger,

    A person need only apply to the Ministry of Health to get sativex.

    Where officials will probably approve it. A recent OIA showed 105 approvals out of 120 applications. It's unusual for the use of an approved product to require so much jumping through hoops, but advisors are convinced it's "desirable and divertible".

    To get raw cannabis or any other cannabis product, that needs approval of the Minister of Health (but in effect it’s delegated to Peter Dunne).

    There's zero chance of raw cannabis being approved, but the category is "non-pharmaceutical grade", which includes products that are merely sold as medical cannabis in US states.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to bob daktari,

    So about $700/month for the lowest dose and 3 times that much for maximum dose? With a minimum of $1400 per purchase. Expensive, definitely.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Huhana Hickey has some interesting things to say on the show about costs. Great constructive discussion all round. Worth a watch Tues 10.15pm.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    So about $700/month for the lowest dose and 3 times that much for maximum dose? With a minimum of $1400 per purchase. Expensive, definitely.

    Huhana said she’d been able to source for as little as $1100, a month but that was still a lot more than the tramadol-morphine-etc cocktail she gets funded by the government.

    The thing that annoys me is that appears that a significant influence on Pharmac’s decision not to fund was the expert advisory committee’s poorly-founded advice as to its potential for diversion.

    People. You’re funding morphine.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Shane Le Brun,

    All this talk of getting raw cannabis out of the states,(it cant be done, kids in Colorado cant even leave the state, let alone travel international) when we have 2 Canadian citizens lined up to test this....... stay tuned.....

    Since Mar 2015 • 47 posts Report Reply

  • chris fowlie,

    Thanks for having me on Russell!

    I'd say "lawfully obtained" is the key, as this is what the Misuse of Drugs Act actually says, even if MOH officials wish it doesn't. Alternatively patients can avoid international travel by having their lawfully obtained medicinal cannabis mailed to them, like Rebecca Reider. I'd advise having a copy of any prescription enclosed with it, to avoid confusion. There are some doctors who do consultations over the internet but you'd still need to qualify under their local state law (eg California says you must be a US citizen or resident, whereas Colorado does not). We have some more info on the Norml NZ website.

    Re Sativex - I'm told some patients go through a vial in as little as 3 days, it depends on their individual need, tolerance for pain etc. Others may last a month. A few may qualify for ACC coverage but most will not. Pharmac can also be approached to fund either individual patients on a case-by-case basis, or a class of patients (eg everyone who has X). Pharmac could be directed by the government to do this.

    Re chances for raw cannabis: Like the travel exemption, the mechanism to approve the use of non-pharmaceutical grade products is no "loophole". It was deliberately included when the law was written in 1975 so there must have been a presumption it would be used. Raw cannabis is available in 26 of the US states, and just a few years ago that would have seemed very remote. Bedrocan is pharmaceutical grade raw cannabis that is available in almost all of the EU. It now comes in 5 strains with different, standardised, cannabinoid levels. It would qualify under the 2nd mechanism described here. If anyone wants to give it a go, please contact me.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2010 • 14 posts Report Reply

  • chris fowlie, in reply to Andrew Geddis,

    Andrew, why do you think it has to be "on your person (but not by mail"?
    I understood Sue Grey argued that for the purposes of the Act they were one and the same.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2010 • 14 posts Report Reply

  • Greg Soar, in reply to BenWilson,

    I use Sativex and the maximum permitted dose is 12 sprays per day. At that rate the three pack of bottles ( only sold this way ) at 10ml per bottle lasts only 22.5 days not a whole month. It works great for nausea. For other uses I have no experience. It is simple tincture based on alcohol and peppermint with a steong cannabis taste. It does not have much of a high effect if any. Perhaps because I was used to cannabis prior to Sativex use. I obtain the relief needed but would be pissed to pay the $897.00 per 22.5 days ( govt currently does for me )

    Feilding • Since Mar 2016 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Greg Soar,

    Re sativex..see if your DHB wil onsale at no mark up = 897.00 per 22.5 days at max dosage

    Feilding • Since Mar 2016 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Greg Soar,

    It sometimes burns tongue and under tongue...wonder if spraying strong alcohol on membranes can lead to cancer :/

    Feilding • Since Mar 2016 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Geddis, in reply to chris fowlie,

    Because the defendant in Ms Grey's case was convicted of importing a class B drug after mailing the medpot to herself. Ms Grey then was successful in winning a discharge without conviction ... but I wouldn't count on this being the outcome every time (plus you still have to pay for a lawyer to defend you, and you lose the medpot!)

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2007 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • mpledger,

    @Greg Soar
    Who pays for your sativex? Pharmac? Your DHB? The Ministry of Health? Or is it unclear?

    Since Oct 2012 • 97 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to mpledger,

    I can't speak for Greg and he has no obligation to say, but a few people have had success via Work & Income and ACC.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    There's also 20 year-old Alisha Butt, who has hers funded by the Northland DHB as of last month.

    The whole thing needs sorting out, frankly.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Katita,

    The whole thing needs sorting out, frankly

    Not only does it need sorting out, ensuring that terminally ill people can access the medications that make getting to the end bearable is our duty. End of.

    On a tangent ... I have been wondering why we aren't turning the argument on its head? NZ is an agricultural country. We are a nation of gardeners and pot users. Not only should it be legal, we should be supplying to the world's markets. Got to be more stable than dairy ... just saying.

    But seriously - can't say enough how much I admire Helen Kelly for her sheer will to take this into the public arena at a time when I'm guessing she'd rather do anything but.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 67 posts Report Reply

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