The CBD market in NZ is still in its infancy, and has significant barriers to entry. What can you take, how do you take it, and where can you get it?
In 2017, the NZ government passed legislation to make access to medicinal cannabis safer and more accessible. But, there were strict rules about CBD products and a very small number of suppliers and users. Since then, the rules have slowly been changing and adapting as new products, new uses, and a broader range of users have started realising the benefits of CBD.
The Medicinal Cannabis Scheme (MCS) regulations to support that bill was launched on April 1st, 2020. This allows a selected range of cannabis-based medicines to be prescribed by a doctor. However, these products are still relatively inaccessible for many Kiwis. The cost is excessive, and many doctors are reluctant to prescribe the products.
Why Is CBD So Expensive?
There are a number of reasons that CBD is still expensive in NZ. It’s a new piece of legislation, and the products that are legally allowed must undergo stringent quality controls and checks. That means that it will take time for products to either be developed here, or to source and assess overseas-sourced products.
There are also only a few licenced providers at this point, so there is a lack of competition.
Cannabis products are not subsidised by the government either (yet). There is no immediate relief from Pharmac on the horizon either.
This situation will only be eased by time, and acceptance of the products by more people. It’s also been suggested the government could:
- Reclassify CBD as a health food or dietary supplement rather than prescription medicine
- Offer subsidies for people suffering from problems where evidence is strong and there is a wide understanding that CBD and THC can offer relief. For example, chemotherapy side effects, seizures caused by Dravet or Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and MS sufferers who experience spasticity
- Ensure people growing cannabis for their own personal medicinal use are provided a medical certificate allowing them to grow their own until supply issues are resolved
However, for now, this is the situation.
How CBD Can Be Taken in NZ
There are three main ways that medicinal cannabis can be taken.
Taking medicinal cannabis via mouth is an easy and efficient method. There are a number of different forms of oral CBD, including:
- Sublingual, where you place drops under your tongue. This is a fast way to get CBD oil into your body as it is quickly absorbed by mucus membranes. This method also allows for easy dose increases or decreases if required. Some people do find it challenging to accurately count the right number of drops, however.
- Capsules are a great option if you struggle with the taste of CDB, or if you can’t accurately count the number of drops. It’s very accurate as there’s no measuring or counting involved, and you can add or subtract the number of capsules in order to find the most effective dosage.
- Cannabis tea is another form and is brewed similar to herbal tea.
Inhalation. There are two main ways to inhale:
- Dried cannabis flower can be inhaled via an approved vaporiser. The Mighty Medic Vaporiser is available via The Pain Clinic
- Smoking marijuana is not recommended in general as there can be unpleasant side effects and it’s difficult to manage dosage accurately. There is evidence that smoking cannabis can damage lungs, causing breathing difficulties and is linked to many respiratory conditions. While these studies are complicated by frequent use of nicotine, it’s best to avoid smoking until more evidence exists.
This could be in the form of a patch, cream, or gel. It’s applied topically and is a great option for those wanting relief in a specific area, or who don’t wish to ingest CBD.
Synthetic CBD Products
There are a number of synthetically produced CBD products manufactured. As yet, none of these have been approved by Medsafe.
How Should I Take Medicinal Cannabis?
Simply, the best way to take it is the way your doctor recommends, after a conversation about why you’re taking it, and if there could be any problems (such as interactions with other medicines).
Some people are sensitive to cannabis, while others need more to produce the same effect. Also, products have different ratios of THC and CBD, and these affect different people in different ways. This means that often there needs to be a trial-and-error approach to finding the right dose and ratio.
There can also be problems with tea or vaporiser-based cannabis methods, in that dosage is not an exact science.
Generally speaking, it’s best to start at a low dose, and slowly work your way up. This is called dose titration. This reduces the chance of side effects and allows you to find the optimal balance between efficacy, any negative outcomes, and cost.
Some forms of ingestion work best for certain outcomes. For example, inhaled powder, which appears to deliver more regular absorption than gastrointestinal methods, was more effective in treating epilepsy. These methods of delivery vary for different symptoms, and your prescribing doctor should be able to explain these to you.
If you have any questions or concerns, ask the prescribing doctor. They need a full picture of your health concerns and medications you’re already taking in order to safely prescribe an effective dose, so most of your concerns should be answered in the initial consultation. We advise our patients to contact us if they have any questions or problems as they arise; we want you to be happy, healthy, and experience relief from your symptoms.