Breaking news! Cannabis!

Imagine my surprise yesterday when I opened my browser and found red banners at the top of news sites saying ‘BREAKING NEWS: Dunne allows doctors to prescribe medicinal cannabis.’  You’re having a big first week here on Cannabis News Central, Mr Dunne!

That’s right.  Well, partially right.  Yesterday, on advice from the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs (EACD) and with approval from cabinet (nearly wrote ‘approval from cannabis’ by mistake) Mr Dunne removed CBD from the list of controlled substances.

This is not a change to medicinal cannabis wholesale as some news publications somewhat misleadingly stated.  I think when people hear medicinal cannabis they think of the plant and nothing has changed here.  Patients, or anyone on their behalf, will not be able to grow their own cannabis and prepare their own cannabis-based medications.  Thankfully now it appears most have re-jigged their headlines to read ‘cannabis-based products’ or ‘cannabis oil’ or even ‘cannabidiol’.

The headlines are a problem because they mislead the public into thinking National have solved this issue.  Yes, this change is a good step forward but it is still far from the comprehensive and compassionate system medical users need and other countries have, as Green Party MP Julie Ann Genter recognises.  “It’s good seeing policy change that will help some of the people who are currently suffering, but the high cost of importing these medicinal products continues to be a barrier,” says health spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter.

Products with THC in them are still controlled substances and will require approval from the Ministry of Health.  That will presumably include Sativex, currently the most prescribed, cannabis-based medicine.  As medicinal cannabis campaigner Rose Renton says, CBD is “only half the plant.”  THC itself has been proven to have a range of medical applications, related to pain relief, appetite stimulation, and nausea relief.  On top of this, what is known as the ‘entourage effect’ – the positive effects that result from the full range of cannabinoids working together – is receiving increasing study.

Until a proper regulated system is in place where people can grow their own cannabis and access a range of medicinal products easily, there will be a large number of medicinal users who will continue to have to access the black market.  This move is a step in the right direction though and for that Peter Dunne deserves a pat on the back.