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The legislative changes to allow medicinal cannabis in New Zealand are outpacing the medical and legal frameworks doctors work in, according to researchers from the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand writing in the New Zealand Medical Journal.

They say most cannabis-based products do not have enough information about safety or how they are made to be licensed as medicines here, which could mean doctors will be conflicted between what their patients want and what they can confidently prescribe. 

The editorial outlines how the proposed legislative changes to improve patient access to cannabis-based products for medical reasons are outpacing the medicolegal environment in which prescribers are required to operate.

The authors say that many cannabis-based products do not meet the definition of a medicine under the current Medicines Act.

Medsafe, who approve medicines for use in New Zealand, will develop processes that will allow access to cannabis-based products that would not currently meet their licensing requirements. To prescribe products that do not meet the current Medsafe standards is not in accordance with the guidelines of the Medical Council of New Zealand.

The authors say a mis-alignment of legislation and professional standards in establishing a medicinal cannabis scheme means that prescribers will find themselves in the position of denying access to these products in order to meet their legal and professional obligations, or potentially in medicolegal jeopardy as they concede to legislated pressure to prescribe cannabis-based products. Doctors will find themselves caught in a conflict between patient demand and professional obligations.

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