(This story has been updated with more information from New Zealand’s Ministry of Health.)
Businesses will be barred from marketing cannabis edibles under New Zealand’s medical program, which kicks off in April, the government confirmed to Marijuana Business Daily, eliminating for now the opportunity for companies to capitalize on what could be a sizable market.
Some businesses had believed that doctors would be allowed to prescribe edibles.
A Health Ministry spokesperson said medical cannabis products are prescription medicines under the Medicines Act 1981. But the law effectively bars edibles.
“Section 3(1)(c)(ii) of the Medicines Act 1981 specifically states that medicine does not include any food within the meaning of section 2 of the Food Act 1981,” the spokesperson noted.
The upcoming change will allow for the import of dry herb and oil vaporizers that have been approved as medical devices by a national health body.
New Zealand’s medical cannabis scheme allows for the prescription of finished products intended for administration by inhalation that meet a minimum quality standard.
“This includes cannabis plant material – dried product – that is intended to be vaporized but does not include medicinal cannabis products intended to be smoked,” the spokesperson said.
Under New Zealand’s medical marijuana regulations, which were finalized in December, medical cannabis products are not allowed to be sold in a form intended for smoking.
Paul Manning, co-CEO of New Zealand marijuana producer Helius Therapeutics, said the omission of edibles leaves businesses with other options.
“From Helius’ perspective, we’re not too concerned about the omission of edibles. Whilst edibles are a popular format elsewhere, our regulations in New Zealand require a doctor to prescribe each specific product to a patient,” Manning told MJBizDaily.
“The likelihood of a doctor prescribing a gummy bear or a cookie to their patient would have been slim, even if they were allowed. So, we weren’t planning to manufacture products of that type anyway.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said medical cannabis “must not be represented as a food.”
The country’s medical cannabis regulations, which take effect in April, stipulate that products may be sold in the form of dried cannabis – so long as it’s not smoked – or a “dosage” product.
Dosage products may include tablets and capsules, including lozenges.
“A dosage product is required to be in a pharmaceutical dosage form for which there is a monograph in the European Pharmacopoeia and comply with the requirements of that monograph,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to MJBizDaily.
“There are monographs for lozenge and pastille dosage forms in the European Pharmacopoeia, therefore a dosage product could include a form such as a lozenge as long as the requirements of that monograph are met, in addition to meeting all other requirements of the minimum quality standard,” the spokesperson noted.