The Government has been forced to act on the urgent advice of the scientists who warned about the dangers of cannabis.
The warnings were sent to the then minister for agriculture, Simon Coveney, and senior officials, but they were ignored.
The warning about the effects of cannabis on human health was published in the New Zealand Medical Journal in September 2016.
It was the result of a study led by Dr David White, a specialist in human health at St Vincent’s Hospital in Wellington.
The study found that cannabis could cause liver damage and increase the risk of death.
It also suggested that there was a link between the increased incidence of cirrhosis in people who smoke cannabis and a rise in their liver disease.
Dr White’s research was published alongside a review by the New Plymouth University.
He was also a co-author of the National Institute of Health review.
A senior New Zealand Health Service (NZHS) scientist who led the review, Dr Richard Smith, said the findings were the first time the Government had acknowledged the scientific evidence.
He said the review highlighted a “growing body of scientific evidence”.
“This is the first government that has recognised that cannabis is a very bad idea and it’s important that we move on from this.”
The NZHS is now undertaking a review of its policies on cannabis and the role of the police.
Dr Smith said the Government was not considering any changes to its approach on cannabis.
He welcomed the Government’s recent decision to ban cannabis in pubs and clubs, but said it had not taken into account the potential for harm to people who use cannabis recreationally.
He added that any change would need to be carefully considered by the Government.
The government has also been criticised for failing to respond to a request from the Health and Human Services Department to investigate the role played by the Ministry of Health in the decisions that led to the publication of the New Pharmacopeia and the subsequent delay in its introduction.
It is understood the NZHS had recommended a review into the decision not to make the drug more widely available.
The NZH has also faced criticism for not taking into account public health concerns about the use of cannabis, particularly for those with chronic conditions.
Health Minister Kelvin Davis said that had been the case throughout the process.
“The NZH did not do a good enough job, in the process, to make sure that this information was available to all health professionals, because they were all trained on cannabis,” he said.
The Government had also failed to respond adequately to the growing body of information about the potential harm to the public.
Dr Coveney has since appointed a panel of experts to review the Government position and ensure that it is taken into consideration when making policy decisions.
A new review of the country’s cannabis policies was announced last month.