The New Zealand Drug Foundation today released its policy on medicinal cannabis, supporting the medical use of cannabis under a trial regime.
The policy urges the Government to implement a 'compassionate regime' to allow the use of cannabis in limited circumstances.
"The evidence from around the world is now well-enough established to show that cannabis does have a therapeutic value in treating certain medical conditions," said Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell.
"The government should lay the policy groundwork to initiate a compassionate regime, to allow patients to use cannabis when it is recommended by an approved medical practitioner.
"Cannabis is being shown to be effective at treating a range of conditions, from chronic pain, neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy side-effects such as nausea and vomiting and helps stimulate appetites.
"In addition, cannabis lacks many of the side-effects of currently available medications, and often people are prescribed even more drugs to alleviate the side-effects. The government must seriously consider the benefits of medicinal cannabis."
Mr Bell said that the Drug Foundation policy was cautious about the adverse effects of smoking cannabis, but until other treatments such as cannabis-derivative sprays became available it was the best delivery method for cannabinoids.
"Let's be clear on this," said Mr Bell. "This is not a backdoor for decriminalisation of cannabis, these are entirely separate issues. We are only interested in providing a compassionate form of pain relief for thousands of New Zealanders.
"Although there is the legislative ability for the Health minister to approve the use of cannabis on an individual basis, this has never happened. Our policy would establish a tightly-controlled regime to investigate each individual's circumstances."
The Drug Foundation's policy would establish an Expert Advisory Committee on Medicinal Cannabis, which would monitor the evidence and research, and evaluate the effectiveness of the compassionate regime after a three-to-five year period.
Drug harm experts say funding for a nasal spray that reverses opioid overdoses is critical in the face of an increasingly toxic drug supply and the emergence of powerful synthetic opioids.
Survey participants also reported that barriers to accessing services, resources and information were high.
A group of powerful synthetic opioids that were first detected in the country just a year ago may have already been linked to several deaths.