A third of Kiwis have indicated they could try to access medicinal cannabis products when they become more widely and legally available next year, a survey shows.

Licensed medicinal cannabis company Helius Therapeutics commissioned the Horizon Research survey of 1156 people, 14 per cent of whom said they would definitely try to access the products. Ten per cent each said they would most likely, or were somewhat likely, to do the same.

More than half of respondents indicated they wouldn't seek out medicinal cannabis products, including 23 per cent who said they were most unlikely to do so and 22 per cent who said they definitely would not.

Twelve per cent weren't sure.


Regulations, licensing rules and quality standards around medicinal cannabis are to be set later this year, after Parliament recently cleared the way by passing amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Helius Therapeutics executive director Paul Manning. Photo / Supplied
Helius Therapeutics executive director Paul Manning. Photo / Supplied

The results gave Helius Therapeutics, New Zealand's largest licensed medicinal cannabis company, an understanding of the potential market size, said the company's executive director, Paul Manning.

"Even if we just focus on those who would 'definitely' try accessing medicinal cannabis products, at 14 per cent that represents phenomenal demand ... it's not just the sheer size of the potential market and groundswell of demand, but it's a timely reminder that Kiwis are increasingly seeing cannabis as a mainstream health product."

The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners' medical director, Dr Richard Medlicott, wasn't surprised by the findings - there were always people keen to try new treatments.

"The point of this bill is to make medicinal cannabis more available to people with terminal illness or chronic pain. This bill has had quite a high profile, as has plans for a referendum on wider cannabis issues. This means that a lot of people have being thinking about these issues.

"The End of Life Choice Bill may also have people thinking more about these things."

The survey comes after another Horizon Research survey commissioned by Helius and involving almost 1100 medical professionals revealed last month around two-thirds of GPs and three-quarters of head pharmacists had fielded requests for medicinal cannabis products over the last year.

Eighty-nine per cent of medical professionals also said they would prescribe the products for one or more of 20 medical conditions, if they had enough information, but the survey showed only 6 per cent reported being very well informed about the products.


Almost two-thirds were well or somewhat informed, while the remaining third considered themselves somewhat uninformed, poorly informed or very poorly informed.

It was clear medical professionals needed more information before prescribing the drug, Manning said.

Helius, in partnership with medical cannabis training organisation The Academy of Medical Cannabis, would offer masterclasses in medicinal cannabis for prescribing doctors.

The day-long continuing medical education-accredited training was planned in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch in July.

British neurologist Professor Michael Barnes, director of education for The Academy of Medical Cannabis, would deliver the masterclasses, Manning said.

"Europe's experience in medicinal cannabis is relatable to what New Zealand is now going through, and so his insights and preeminent expertise will be in high demand."


Medlicott said if the bill passed, appropriate training and guidance would need to be made available to all GPs, as it was with any new treatment option.

"As part of our Continuous Professional Development programme, the college assesses education providers to ensure they meet our criteria and standards."

That included checking the provider's learning material was evidence-based and balanced, and their training events were developed in accordance with sound educational principles.

Respondents to the latest survey came from Horizon's nationwide research panels and represent the adult population of the 2013 Census, with results weighted by factors including age, gender, income and party voted for at the last election. The maximum margin of error is +/- 2.9 per cent.