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New Zealand reviewing restrictions on medical cannabis

WELLINGTON, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- The New Zealand government is reviewing its guidelines for the approval of medical cannabis use following a series of controversial cases around the narcotic.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said Friday he would also be raising the issue with counterparts in Australia.

Medical cannabis was a new policy area for New Zealand's Ministry of Health and the wider medical profession, so there would inevitably be fine tuning as the process developed, Dunne said in a statement.

The guidelines were set up after a teenager, whose family and doctors had appealed for medical cannabis treatment, died following a severe epileptic seizure last year.

That was so far the only case where ministerial approval had been granted, but former head of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions Helen Kelly, who is dying of lung cancer, has raised the issue again after doctors applied to use medical cannabis.

"While I am satisfied that on the whole the guidelines are sound, they were prepared as guidance only," said Dunne.

"Nonetheless, some further review would be beneficial and I have asked officials to undertake further consideration of them."

He would also be discussing the issue in Canberra next week at the Australian Drug Foundation's National Drug Summit.

Cannabis-based prescriptions for medicinal use are not available in Australia or New Zealand, which are committed to standardizing regulations as they move to greater economic integration.

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