Marijuana Media: Medical cannabis effective but expensive; Vape changes may create another illicit market; Drug law reform next step for criminal justice policy; & more!


Kia ora! More on medical cannabis, vaping, crime and safety, plus Prince Harry and New York ganja this week on Marijuana Media on 95bFM, with hosts Corey from bFM Drive and Chris Fowlie from NORML – thanks to The Hempstore.


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Medical cannabis effective but expensive for New Zealanders

We certainly see this at The Hemp Store, where all day – every day – people come in and are either very happy at having recently gaining legal access to medicinal cannabis (often with our help), or they are very happy at the prospect of doing so.

Pain News Network reported on the NZ study we discussed last week, saying that according to researchers medical cannabis is very effective at relieving pain, improving sleep and reducing anxiety, and they added their voice to calls to change government policies to make cannabis cheaper and more accessible to Kiwis.

It comes as a large observational study, with 3148 Australian patients, reported cannabis can improve quality of life in people suffering from chronic diseases (Arkell et al, JAMA). Chronic noncancer pain was the most common indication for treatment (69%), followed by cancer pain (6%), insomnia (5%), and anxiety (4%).

Researchers from the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne found that after commencing treatment with medical cannabis, patients reported significant improvements relative to baseline on all 8 domains of a questionnaire in health-related quality of life and these improvements were mostly sustained over time.

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Another new study from Australia (Cairns et al) found patients with unmet mental health needs are turning to medicinal cannabis. Australian healthcare practitioners are often prescribing medicinal cannabis for psychiatric conditions where the evidence for effectiveness is unclear – but researchers at the University of Sydney who delved into the prescription data say the behaviour of these doctors has the potential to unlock avenues of new research. Dr Elizabeth Cairns from the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics said:

“These data confirm many Australians have unmet needs around their mental health and that medicinal cannabis is now frequently being trialled as an alternative to conventional therapies. Medicinal cannabis is not typically prescribed as a first-line therapy, so those using it for conditions such as anxiety and depression likely have not had success with other treatments. This provides us with new leads for our clinical trials that will hopefully produce high-quality evidence to support or discourage current patterns of use.”

Stuff/The Spinoff: All your questions about legal prescription weed, answered

In related news, Chris Shultz talks to Natalie from Green Doctors with answers to frequently asked questions about accessing legal medicinal cannabis – such as what if someone just said, ‘I just want to get high’? how much does it cost? and why can’t they advertise?

Regular listeners of Marijuana Media & readers of The Daily Blog will probably know this but it’s great to see some mainstream coverage as I’m constantly surprised how few people realise how straightforward medicinal cannabis now is (and much more affordable than it used to be). The ban on marketing is behind a lot of the confusion as it makes it difficult for patients to learn about products, prices and availability. For more information check my guide about how to access medicinal cannabis in New Zealand.

This week’s medicinal cannabis roll-up

NewstalkZB: Over 75,000 medicinal cannabis prescriptions issued since scheme launched. That’s according to Te Whatu Ora figures released today. Dr Waseem Alzaher of The Cannabis Clinic says the figures are lower than he’d expect, because people still aren’t aware its an option.

NZ Herald/Whanganui Chronicle: Career change for NZ Hempress founder Lisa Gadsby. The founder of the hemp wellness company, which was ordered to cease trading by Medsafe because of concerns about the way hemp products were being marketed, is now the Business Development Manager for The Cannabis Clinic.

Gisborne Herald: Local medicinal cannabis company Rua Bioscience reports first revenue from sales in Germany. In the first month of sales, Rua has sold 13kg or 28 pounds of Australian-grown dried flower product. Rua Bioscience chief executive Paul Naske said “This is a significant milestone of the strategy that Rua put in place in 2019 to create sustainable revenue and a positive return to shareholders.”

CannaSouth (NZX:CBD) reports their first commercial export of locally grown high-quality cannabis flowers to Australia. On 1 June 2023 Cannasouth merged with Eqalis Group, enabling Cannasouth to operate end-to-end with GMP approval for producing dried cannabis flower, and manufacturing cannabis-based ingredients and products.

1News: New York is growing too much marijuana, leaves farmers worried. The 136,000kg stockpile of unsold cannabis is directly tied to the bumpy launch of the state’s recreational pot market, with only a handful of stores instead of the intended openings of 20 stores per month. Regulators have failed to open the market in a timely way, allowing illicit providers to run hundreds of stores around NYC while bankrupting licensed growers.

Call to ban vapes may create lucrative illicit market

Much discussion this week about the evils of vaping and teens (sounds familiar?), with the Greens welcoming the Government joining them to deal with disposable vapes. New Zealand has a relatively open vape regime because we are seeking to go ‘smokefree’ by banning tobacco with increasing age limits which mean people currently aged 16 and under will never be able to legally purchase tobacco.

Vapes are less harmful than smoking and have played a huge role in New Zealand’s massive reduction in smoking tobacco, with rates half what they were ten years ago.

I’m concerned banning all vapes – or making them prescription only – would create another lucrative illicit market. Nicotine is as addictive as heroin, so people can’t just stop overnight simply because of a policy change.

Importing untested and substandard liquid nicotine would be “easy as” for Organised Criminal Groups already importing meth and coke, or they could grow illicit patches of baccy in the bush like they already do with weed. Tobacco and vapes are so lucrative people are doing ram raids for them, so this is not fearmongering. It has all the hallmarks of creating a new market for gangs.

It’s therefore a relief the proposed changes will apply only to disposable vapes, and ‘enticing’ flavours like cotton candy. And good on Chlöe Swarbrick, the only MP in the House to consistently raise drug law reform as it intersects with other policies. The discussion on vaping gave Chlöe an opportunity to remind MPs about cannabis law reform and drug decriminalisation:

They’re the same kinds of regulations that were proposed in the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill, stripping back commerciality while recognising the need for legal regulation to remove potential for the black market.

“The Greens thank Minister Verrall for her work and collaboration on this kaupapa – and look forward to all the more evidence-based drug harm reduction. Next stop, the Frankenstein Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.”

The Greens want the votes of those who voted Yes to the cannabis referendum, plus one third of Nope voters who would have supported decriminalisation. It’s a huge voting bloc, with the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party now showing up in polls here.

Recent Aussie elections have shown the canna-vote can change election outcomes with Legalise Cannabis reps so far elected to three state Upper Houses.

According to recent research performed by the Australian Parliamentary Budget Office for the Aussie Greens, cannabis legalisation there would bring in A$28 billion in taxes and allow the government to increase benefits by AU$80 a week or build 88,000 social housing units.

It will be interesting to see if any NZ parties want the canna-vote or if they’ll let the Greens take it all.

Crime and Safety debate: Drug law reform next steps for criminal justice policy

With discussions of crime and safety set to dominate this year’s election campaign, Max Harris in the NZ Herald writes the debate is going round in circles – but the next steps for criminal justice policy must include drug law reform:

“The referendum on legalising cannabis failed in 2020 but there are reasons for a future government to revisit drug regulation. The introduction of greater police discretion in prosecuting drug-related crimes in 2019 continues to be used disproportionately against Māori. Legalisation and resourcing of drug-checking is an undoubted positive, but drug offending still makes up almost 1 in 10 of people in prison.”

Also in the NZ Herald: Is Labour really soft on crime? The numbers reveal a surprising story. This takes a deep dive into the data and is well worth reading. They note one reason for a perception of being ‘soft on crime’ is an apparent reduction in arrests – but that’s actually a good thing when it comes to police focusing on crimes that matter instead of chasing victimless crimes like cannabis.

“In 2019 the Misuse of Drugs Act was amended to give Police the discretion to prosecute for minor drug offences. Since then police have recorded far fewer actions against people for illicit drug offences. The decline in court action and convictions has been more consistent and gradual since 2009.

Image: NZ Herald/supplied

However, the reduction in arrests for cannabis possession and use (which don’t tend to be imprisoned – although still 182 jailed for possessing pot last year!), has meant net imprisonment rates have gone up:

… The imprisonment rate for drug offences compared to convictions remains historically high — this is likely due to a drop in convictions for use and possession.”

Image: NZ Herald/supplied

While drug laws are most often used against those on the bottom of society, sometimes the Toffs experience it too. The NZ Herald this week reported Prince Harry’s drug use cited in push to release his US visa records. Perhaps, when our drug laws are used as leverage against MPs and other elites, we might finally see significant change.

Coming up:

  • Substance Testing @ The Hemp Store this Saturday 10th June, 11am-3pm
  • J Day has a new date! Postponed from May, J Day will now be on Saturday 2nd December 2023, after the election and the beginning of summer. We’ll also organise some rallies and events prior to the election.


Marijuana Media airs every Thursday at 4:20pm on 95bFM, with your hosts bFM Drive’s Jonny and Chris Fowlie from The Hempstore. Stream or download the pot-cast for this show here or hundreds of previous Marijuana Media shows at (or via iTunes / RSS feed). Thanks to The Hemp Store!



  1. Chris – Cool article…the Green Fairies network could be a go (via Facebook) for providing cheaper cannabis care

  2. Been to hospital about 3 times in the last 2 months, its getting more frequent as time passes. I have a mass growing next to my bladder, at the stage of a needle biopsy but Im trying to battle a run down hospital system, the speed is a crawl. Had one failed biopsy done a month ago and I now have to wait till the 20th of this month to see an anesthetist to get an acute elective slot to have it done again, and then they decide how to get the mass out and what comes with it.
    Every visit I tell them Im using medicinal cannabis, they accept it but the common reply is that they can’t afford it. They dont have what I need anyway, I mean the dosage methods used in hospital it would have to be in pill form and there isnt THC in a pill option yet.
    It isnt until I leave hospital that I get access to medicine again. I made a 2 ounce to a litre of coconut oil rather than the usual 1:1 and its doing a reasonable job but when the pain goes acute I am forced to take morphine, Im also taking gabapentin which Im finding very useful for nerve pain, I do have to watch it when this is all fixed that I withdraw correctly, they say you just cant stop taking it, fuck…..
    Be so glad when all this is over and I can go back to just the weed, so much easier and less hassle.

  3. Personally and I’m a vaper the disposable units like fag butts are a littering issue but it says more about kiwis pissy behaviour than it doesm abount actual vaping.
    other than that it’s the usual NZ moral panic, I’ve e-mailed successive ministers asking for the scientific basis for their opposition….no replies because they know all they have is anecdotes…but dungeons and dragons are a direct portal to hell, and satanic abuse is rampant…yes their position is on exactly that level


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