HiveMind Report: Medical Cannabis In Aotearoa

Article – Hivemind

Medical Cannabis is a complex and often polarising issue. However, it was highly encouraging that there were some very strong areas of consensus among the 133 participants in this HiveMind exploration. It appears that a clear majority of respondents to …
Medical Cannabis is a complex and often polarising issue. However, it was highly encouraging that there were some very strong areas of consensus among the 133 participants in this HiveMind exploration. It appears that a clear majority of respondents to this poll agree that there is a need for better policy around Medical Cannabis in New Zealand. Even more importantly, there is also a clear majority that agree on many of the specifics of a potential future Medical Cannabis policy.

We discuss the results below by focusing on those statements that were agreed upon by over 60% of respondents to this HiveMind survey.


Human Right to Access Medical Cannabis

A clear majority of respondents were of the view that patients have the human right to grow or choose cannabis (and other natural plant based medicines) as a medical treatment.

86% of respondents agreed with statement #02:
Patients should have the right to determine their own natural treatment and the substances they use including cannabis.

84% of respondents agreed with statement #03:
We should follow countries with more robust human rights and constitutional protections in affirming the right of citizens to access or grow plant-based medicines of choice including cannabis.

84% of respondents also agreed with statement #23:
We should introduce a suitably regulated ‘grow your own’ cannabis provision to allow approved patients to grow cannabis for personal medical use.


Evidence Base For Medical Cannabis

A significant majority of respondents were also of the opinion that policy on medical Cannabis should not be held up simply because of a lack of conclusive evidence on medical benefits.

88% of respondents agreed with statement #08:
Patients should be able to access affordable cannabis-based medicines without waiting for lengthy testing and approval processes.

73% of respondents also agreed with statement #15:
It is very hard to conclusively prove anything in the medical and brain science realms so waiting on conclusive evidence for medical cannabis seems to be excessively cautious.

Meanwhile 65% of respondents disagreed with statement #17:
Anecdotal evidence of medical cannabis success stories is meaningless, we should only rely on hard science around the benefits of medical cannabis in discussions on legalising it.


Indirect Medical Benefits

Related to the above section, a significant majority of respondents also agreed that there are certain indirect medical benefits to cannabis use that may not be taken into account by current government standards.

81% of respondents agreed with statement #19:
Many complex modern physical and psychological conditions have a stress component, therefore cannabis (as an accepted stress reliever) offers potential indirect benefits in the treatment of such illness.

77% of respondents also agreed with statement #12:
A THC high can help patients with chronic health issues to perceive their reality differently and more positively and can help emotional recovery. Patients should not be denied this so long as it is not harming anyone.


Pharmaceutical Cannabis v Non Pharma Cannabis

A majority of respondents also clearly disagreed with the current approach of the New Zealand Government to only allow cannabis products that are certified as pharmaceutical grade despite the fact they are unaffordable to patients.

78% of respondents agreed with statement #01:
Total ‘big pharma’ control of New Zealand’s Medical Cannabis system must be avoided as this will never provide safe, effective and affordable products for those in need.

71% of respondents disagreed with statement #04:
We should only allow certified pharmaceutical grade cannabis products with successful New Zealand clinical trials regardless of the cost to consumers.

68% of respondents on the other hand agreed with statement #22:
We should find a compromise on the quality of cannabis-based products that better balances the cost to the end patients against the cost overheads associated with pharmaceutical cannabis.

63% also agreed on statement #09:
Taxpayers should not be required to fund pharmaceutical grade cannabis products if there are more affordable, yet safe and standardised ‘near-pharmaceutical’ products that do the same job.


Developing a Local Industry

As an alternative to the pharmaceutical approach favoured by the current Government, a clear majority of respondents favoured an approach that would allow a regulated local industry to develop for medical users in NZ and for export.

89% of respondents agreed with statement #05:
A system must be developed to allow Medical Cannabis to be grown and trialled in NZ as a commercialised product without excessive costs in order to develop a local and export industry.

83% also agreed with statement #07:
New Zealand should follow best international practice to develop a robust and suitably regulated Medical Cannabis regime including licensed producers and retailers.


Double Standards For Cannabis

A clear majority of respondents to this survey also appear to be of the opinion that there are double standards at play when it comes to medical cannabis policy in New Zealand when compared to both pharmaceutical drugs and substances like alcohol and tobacco.

93% of respondents agreed with statement #18:
It is inconsistent to deny cannabis on the grounds of risk of dependence, as cannabis is less likely to lead to dependence or addiction than other legal drugs such as prescription opioids and painkillers.

91% of respondents also agreed with statement #06:
Many pharmaceuticals have known side effects and potentially unknown long-term effects so it is a double standard to claim that cannabis products cannot be allowed due to potential side effects.

89% of respondents agreed with statement #00:
Cigarettes and alcohol are more addictive, more harmful and have less health benefits than cannabis so it is a double standard for Medical Cannabis to remain illegal on public health or social costs grounds.

And, 89% of respondents agreed with statement #28:
THC has a far better safety profile than many other GP prescribed options, so it is inconsistent to prevent GPs from prescribing cannabis-based products.

72% of respondents even agreed with statement #24 suggesting a conflict of interest:
I believe certain powerful groups with an interest in maintaining the prohibition on Medical Cannabis are influencing policy on the issue.


Safety of Medical Cannabis

There was clear agreement among a majority of respondents around safety issues. The majority agreed that legalising medical cannabis can be done safely and would improve safety, transparency, education and mental health outcomes.

93% of respondents agreed with statement #27:
Legalising Medical Cannabis would allow more studies and help eliminate stigma associated with the drug, paving the way for a better understanding of health potentials and risks.

92% agreed with statement #13:
We must invest in proper education for health professionals so that patients have access to better advice about benefits and risks of cannabis for medicinal needs.

85% agreed with statement #25:
All cannabis-based products should be able to be prescribed by GPs as this would allow for education of GPs in risks and benefits and greatly reduce the barrier to access for patients.

84% of respondents agreed with statement #11:
Legalisation is necessary, as it will allow regulation and transparency around products and potency and better awareness and support around mental health and safety risks of Medical Cannabis.

73% of respondents agreed with statement #26:
Instead of requiring Ministry approval to use Medical Cannabis, GPs should have a simple form to notify MOH of the prescribing, so MOH can gather data and look for unusual prescribing patterns.


Economic Factors in Favour of Legalisation

A majority of respondents also agreed that there are sound economic reasons for NZ to decriminalise and tax medical cannabis.

95% of respondents agreed with statement #20:
Cannabis convictions already create a massive strain on our court systems and prisons, so removing medical users from this system will ultimately save public money.

63% of respondents agreed with statement #21:
Medical Cannabis taxes should be ring fenced for expenses such as further research, education, safety measures and dependence support services.


HiveMind Conclusions

There were very few areas of uncertainty in this HiveMind exploration on Medical Cannabis. The results show that an overwhelming majority of Kiwis are in favour of a more humane and safe Medical cannabis policy in New Zealand. It is encouraging that a high degree of agreement exists around various detailed aspects of potential policy interventions on this issue. We sincerely hope that incoming politicians will take notice of this data and take action to bring policy more into line with public opinion on the issue.


Open Data

Please feel free to download the full report from this HiveMind exploration. It is available here.

Please bear in mind that this is an AI produced summary of the data so HiveMind does not guarantee that the trends or groups selected by the algorithm are correct.

The raw data export of this conversation is also available here and we encourage the public to use this data for their own study, analysis, interpretation or visualisation. If you do make use of this data please acknowledge HiveMind and feel free to send it back to us for publication on Scoop.

Thankyou from the HiveMind Team.

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