An organisation looking to fundraise for New Zealand's medical cannabis users has become a registered charity.
Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand (MCANZ) launched this week with the goals of raising awareness and advocating for the treatment, along with getting together funds for those already using it.
The charity, the country's first for medical cannabis, says about 30 Kiwis currently have a prescription for one cannabis treatment, Sativex, but it can cost more than $1000 a month to acquire because it's not Pharmac-funded.
"The cost of Sativex is a huge barrier. Already, many people have had successful crowd funding campaigns for this medicine, and MCANZ will promote and assist such fundraising through its tax-deductible status," says MCANZ co-ordinator Shane Le Brun.
The group wants to initially raise enough money through its Givealittle page to support treatment for 10 new patients.
According to MedSafe, Sativex is currently only prescribed with ministry approval as an add-on treatment for symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis.
It's a mouth-spray that contains cannabis extracts.
Mr Le Brun says while the charity couldn't legally lobby for specific legislative changes, it would aim to increase public awareness and would help doctors access a reputable American online course on the subject.
Improving knowledge on medical cannabis will empower and assist the medical profession to use current legal options for prescribing or requesting access to medical cannabis for their patients, he says.
The charity will also assist individuals' research and apply for access to Sativex.
"Our long term goals are to become a recognised centre of knowledge on medical cannabis in New Zealand, to promote the research and development of MC products here," says Mr Le Brun.
The group, with a postal address in Nelson, was initially registered as Marotiriti te Atawhaitanga in February and renamed itself in April, according to Charities Services.