Martin De Ruyter/Stuff
Stephen Taylor says he benefits from taking CBD oil but he sources it illegally as no GPs will prescribe it to him and the script is more than twice the price of what he can buy it for from his supplier.
Doctors have been able to prescribe CBD oil for more than a year, but one man says accessing the cannabis product is still so difficult, he has been forced to get it illegally – and he’s not alone.
Steve Taylor was diagnosed with encephalitis, inflammation of the brain, at 17, which he said led to epilepsy.
“I used to have seven to nine fits a day and no one could do anything to control my seizures.”
What followed was years of trying different medications and specialists. A trip to an American clinic gave him some reprieve after extreme treatment that included putting more than 100 wires on his brain and an induced coma. But some years after returning to Aotearoa, the seizures ramped up again.
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Zoe Reece is a young entrepreneur who has started a medicinal cannabis business in the Waikato, after returning home from the US.
Years of research led to Taylor discovering that CBD oil could help his condition, but while medicinal cannabis was legalised in New Zealand in April 2020, he said getting hold of cannabidiol (CBD) products obtained from cannabis was impossible.
“I’ve been to doctors, but no doctor will prescribe CBD for me.”
He said even if he was able to get a prescription, the cost would be out of his reach at around $300 per month.
The Ministry of Health states a patient must have a prescription from a registered doctor in New Zealand before they can be supplied any medicinal cannabis product, including CBD products.
Taylor was at a loss until he discovered he could obtain CBD oil without a script at more than half the price of the over counter product, he said.
“The person I get the CBD off, I only pay $120 a month.
He said the oil, administered as drops under the tongue a few times a day, had eased the seizures, which were brought on by stress, worry and frustration.
“It gives me a better quality of life and I can actually relax. It has fixed me. It has fixed my life.”
He said GPs should take heed of his experience.
“Look what it does for you, why are you not allowing people to be on CBD?”
But Nelson GP spokesman, Graham Loveridge says doctors had good reason to be practising caution.
Green Fairy Rose Renton helps supply thousands of New Zealanders with cannabis and hemp products they’re unable to access due to cost and GPs reluctance to prescribe it.
He said quality evidence lacked for the benefits of CBD and the price was expensive due to only one form of it having Medsafe Approval in New Zealand.
There hadn’t been any rigorous, controlled trials carried out on CBD oil and he said most of the “so-called evidence” was anecdotal.
“It sounds awfully cautious, but there is good reason for that. One of the principles of medicine is at first, do no harm.”
But Loveridge said he had prescribed CBD on occasion.
“Some of those people felt the benefit was significant enough to pay for ongoing prescription; others did not get enough benefit, couldn’t afford it or sourced it from underground sources.”
Nelson resident Rose Renton is a supplier who is part of a national Green Fairy group which she said produced products made from cannabis and hemp.
“We can’t be hard on the doctors about [not prescribing] it, they’re not going to prescribe something they don’t have an education around”
She said “thousands” of people from all over the country ordered products from her, including hemp drops, CBD drops and a root balm.
“They can be doctor referred, specialist referred, chiropractic” and she said they came from lots of different areas of New Zealand recommended by word of mouth and family members.
MARK TAYLOR / STUFF
Jason Tong is currently facing one charge of possession of cannabis with intent to supply, and two charges of supplying a class C controlled drug.
Renton said people with a variety of conditions including neurological, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, arthritis, crohn’s disease, menopause and cancer patients, were taking medicinal cannabis with “astounding” results.
CBD relieved chemotherapy patients of their nausea and the THC qualities in CBD oil stopped the shakes in people with Parkinson’s, she said.
“We’re keeping very busy, and I think that in itself tells you the urgent need.”