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Covid-19 reach extends to Medicinal Cannabis

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Government’s much anticipated Medicinal Cannabis Scheme was due to start today but Covid-19 has resulted in delays to some aspects of the Scheme being ready.

The head of the NZ Medical Cannabis Council, an industry body representing nearly 30 companies around the country, says a short delay was expected but more critical is Government recognition of pharmaceutical cannabis production as an essential sector.

As the new Medicinal Cannabis Scheme comes into effect today, MoH have done a great job of releasing the bulk of the scheme. The industry acknowledges the Ministry is under critical pressure, however all are keen to see the licensing details clarified as soon as possible. Mr Caddie says "the sector needs the ability to keep moving and needs Government support by recognising the necessity of our products and services".

Manu Caddie is President of the NZMCC and says the industry needs confirmation from the Government that pharmaceutical manufacturers in medicinal cannabis are essential. Most have had to abandon plants and manufacturing facilities while they wait to hear from MBIE.

"It is surprising that sectors like tobacco distributors and nurseries producing grape vines are considered essential industries, so we assume pharmaceutical cannabis producers are too, but we need confirmation before we risk heavy fines" said Mr Caddie. "Given medicinal cannabis has to be produced in high security, sterile pharmaceutical environments, it should be one of the safest workplaces in the country, but we are waiting on MBIE for confirmation."

"Imported products have been intermittent even before the Covid-19 crisis, so Government support for domestic production is all the more essential. The Scheme is world-leading, we are all very proud of what has been achieved in the regulations, we just need to be able to start production!"

The Ministry of Health sent an update to stakeholders yesterday explaining the expected delays. (see below)

Medicinal Cannabis Agency email to stakeholders:

As you are aware, the Medicinal Cannabis Agency has been working towards having all medicinal cannabis licence and activity application forms, and all guidance material, available on our website for the commencement date of 1 April 2020.

However, a large number of Ministry of Health staff are either working on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic or working remotely (or both).

We are doing our best to make the documents available as soon as we can, but the Ministry staff involved are working under extraordinary circumstances.We will let you know as soon as the forms and guidance become available.

The COVID-19 lockdown also means we have to make some adjustments to the way we work, as staff will not be in the office for the time being.

This means that:

- We are not able to answer phone calls, so you should email us atmedicinalcannabis@health.govt.nzif you need to contact us for any reason. We will be monitoring this mailbox remotely; however, as we are already receiving a large number of enquiries it may take a few days for us to get back to you.

- Please do not send hard copies of documents in the mail, as staff will not be in the office to receive them. You will need to scan any documents and send them by email. This includes all applications for a medicinal cannabis licence (once applications open).

- We will be assessing applications during the lockdown period; however, our assessments may take a little longer than if we were all in the office. If the COVID-19 lockdown continues for an extended period, we also won't be able to carry out location inspections. If this is the case, we will review our plans for carrying out location inspections as part of the assessment process.

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