Half of New Zealanders using medicinal cannabis have never discussed it with their doctor out of fear of being judged, and very few use prescribed products. Reports the NZ Herald
That was just one of the findings from new research published in the New Zealand Medical Journal (NZMJ) today.
It comes before New Zealanders will have their final say on September 19 on whether cannabis should be legalised to use or grow for recreational purposes.
Data was collected via an anonymous online survey promoted on Facebook between May to August 2019, which questioned 3,634 last-year Kiwi medicinal users of cannabis.
Researchers found that despite some relaxation in access to cannabis-based products in New Zealand in the last two years, only 14 per cent of people surveyed had asked their health professional for a prescription.
And only one in three patients who requested a cannabis prescription were successful.
Medicinal cannabis users said barriers included price and the limited range of cannabis-based products available on prescription.
However, many respondents also explained they were reluctant to ask for a prescription due to the fear of being judged, researchers said.
The paper said this was in line with other recent New Zealand research where about two out of three surveyed GPs did not prescribe a cannabis-based product at the time of patient request.
Under the planned reforms there is currently no list of eligible conditions and the decision about prescribing was left to treating clinicians, researchers said.
Despite the limited engagement of medicinal cannabis users with the current legal access route, most respondents indicated their willingness to engage with the new Medicinal Cannabis Scheme (MCS).
Researchers said the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use, pending results of the September 2020 referendum, may also provide an alternative way of supply, with the convenience of price and access but at the expense of medical oversight.