The New Zealand government has unveiled regulations that will govern its new medical cannabis sector from April 1, 2020.

Today’s announcement sets out the quality and licensing requirements for manufacturing and distributing medicinal cannabis. The regulations will come into effect on April 1 and the government expects to begin issuing cultivation, domestic sales, and export licences by mid-2020.

“These regulations mean New Zealand companies will be well placed to manufacture for both the local and international market,” said Minister of Health Dr. David Clark.

He added that medical cannabis products can make a real difference to people’s quality of life and said the scheme will include a range of products that can help ease patients’ suffering.

New Zealand currently has 20 companies licensed to produce cannabis for medical research purposes. Another 238 are growing industrial hemp, and Clark expects some of these firms to apply for sales and distribution licences.

It has taken two years or more in some countries for domestically grown medical cannabis to become available after legalization. However, Clark believes it will be a quicker process in New Zealand because firms are already cultivating cannabis for research.

Right now New Zealanders must spend large sums on importing medical cannabis to treat their conditions. Clark said he appreciates that this is an issue and acknowledged that people cannot wait for local dispensaries to open, so as a compassionate measure anyone who is eligible to receive palliation from cannabis will be exempt from prosecution if they source marijuana on the black market.

The government believes that increased competition from local manufacturers will drive prices down over time, making it more economically viable for Kiwis to source safe, legal cannabis from the regulated market.

A Medicinal Cannabis Agency is being established to oversee the scheme. It will be tasked with increasing domestic supply of affordable products, while upholding high standards in quality and safety.

Next year New Zealand will hold a referendum on whether recreational cannabis use should be legalized. Voters will be able to have their say when they go to the polls to choose a new government at the general election.

The draft bill would impose a minimum purchase age of 20, while public consumption would be prohibited. There would be a purchasing limit of 14 grams per day, and only brick-and-mortar retail sales would be permitted.

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