Report - New Zealand Health Committee

"Inquiry into the public health strategies related to cannabis use and the most appropriate legal status"

Report of the Health Committee

Forty-Seventh Parliament, New Zealand
Aug. 2003, Steve Chadwick, Chairperson
Presented to the New Zealand House of Representatives

Background: "In 1998, the Health Committee of the 45th Parliament conducted an inquiry into the mental health effects of cannabis, and made 18 recommendations to the Government. One recommendation suggested that the Government review the appropriateness of existing policy on cannabis and its use and reconsider the legal status of cannabis.

Partly in response to this, in late 2000 the Health Committee of the 46th Parliament resolved to initiate an inquiry into public health strategies related to cannabis use and, as a result, the most appropriate legal status."

Mission Statement/Terms of Reference: "To inquired into the most effective public health and health promotion strategies to minimise the use of and harm associated with cannabis and consequently the most appropriate legal status of cannabis."

Recommendations to the Government [New Zealand] related to the medicinal use of cannabis:


  • "that the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs give a high priority to its reconsideration of the classification of cannabis." (Page 49 of report)


  • that it pursue the possibility of supporting the prescription of clinically tested cannabis products for medicinal purposes. (Page 57 of report)


  • "that it ensure provision of harm reduction information designed to minimize lung damage resulting from the smoking of cannabis." (Page 21 of report)

Discussions of medical use are found more specifically on pages 54-57. Following are some excerpts from this discussion:

  • "We believe that the issue of medicinal use should be dealt with independently from the legislation regulating general use, so have chosen to separate this section in the report."


  • "Cannabis has been shown to be effective in providing relief for some medical disorders, and this option is consistent with the United Nations drug conventions.


  • "There is evidence that cannabinoids [active ingredients in marijuana] may be useful as anti-nausea agents, as appetite stimulants in patients with AIDS-related wasting, as anti-spasmodic agents in neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis, and as analgesics for pain that is unrelieved by existing analgesics."


  • "There is a difference between a pharmaceutical form of cannabis preparation and raw cannabis plant material. A standardised cannabis cigarette or other cannabis plant product might theoretically be able to be approved for prescription for research or study, if it is manufactured to the standards required under the Medicines Act. The Ministry of Health does not support the use of raw cannabis plant for medicinal purposes, as there are no controls over its quality, dose or effectiveness."


  • "The Medicines Act and the Misuse of Drugs Act both contain exemptions that would enable a doctor to lawfully prescribe or administer cannabis, a controlled drug, to a patient, provided ministerial approval is given. There is provision in the law for medical practitioners to prescribe cannabis for their patients without the need for cannabis being gazetted as an approved medicine."

To see the full report, in pdf format, click here.