New Zealand commences medical cannabis scheme

Key guidance material and forms for New Zealand’s medical cannabis program have been published, and the Medicinal Cannabis Agency says it is ready to accept business applications.

“The Medicinal Cannabis Scheme has now come into effect,” the agency wrote in an email to stakeholders.

The commencement of the program is consistent with the government’s projection that the COVID-19 pandemic would not seriously impact the key dates.

However, the agency warned that New Zealand’s lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic might cause delays.

Agency employees are currently working from home as part of the government’s physical-distancing measures, meaning all applications and documents should be submitted electronically.

“We will be assessing license applications during the lockdown, but our assessments may take a little longer than if we were all in the office,” according to the email.

“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.”

As of April 7, New Zealand health authorities reported 943 confirmed COVID-19 cases and one death.

As part of the new cannabis program, New Zealand is enabling the import of vaporizers that have been approved as medical devices by an overseas regulator.

The move could open up a market for legally compliant vaporizers, since local regulations prohibit cannabis being sold in a form intended for smoking.

Rua Bioscience co-founder Manu Caddie said the health ministry is being flexible with applications.

For example, “waiving the need for official witnesses until after lockdown; they expect site audits won’t be necessary until after the lockdown is lifted,” he said.

Until the country’s domestic producers are licensed and operational, New Zealand will rely on imports to meet demand.

The health ministry published several parts of the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme guideline, including:

  • Part 2, which details information for manufacturers and packagers.
  • Part 3, providing guidance for new medical cannabis product applications.
  • Part 4, which offers guidance on applying for a medical cannabis license.

Sections 1 and 5 have not been published yet.

A declaration form to declare illicit seeds and plants has also been published.

More information for businesses, including application forms, can be found here.

Matt Lamers is Marijuana Business Daily’s international editor, based near Toronto. He can be reached at

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