Medicinal cannabis: good news, bad news


Good news! The Labour-led Government will introduce legislation to “legalise medicinal cannabis”, this side of Christmas.

Bad news! Based on early hints about the content of the reform, patients are fearful about whether the changes will go far enough and whether they will have to continue to resort to criminal activity.

During the election, Labour used an image of herbal or botanical cannabis to illustrate their promise.

Instead of supporting an existing Green Party Bill in the House, reports indicate the Government will introduce its own legislation, which is expected to take a a pharmaceutical-based approach. This includes:

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  • Streamlining the process for doctors to prescribe cannabis-based products to patients with terminal illness or in chronic pain;
  • Allowing access to some imported botanical cannabis products in certain circumstances;
  • Licensing domestic production of refined products, but not herbal cannabis;
  • Making CBD (a non-psychoactive cannabinoid) available over the counter.

These are all very welcome moves in the right direction – but they don’t go far enough, and will leave many patients disappointed.

One in twenty New Zealanders uses cannabis medicinally, and patients say they find pharmaceutical options like Sativex to be expensive, difficult to obtain and less effective than herbal cannabis.

It appears no patients or advocacy groups have had any input into the new legislation. Good policy making would put patients at the center of the process.

Patients have called for self-provision or home growing, creating a patient ID card or register, creating a legal defense of medical necessity, and a moratorium on arrests.

Not allowing herbal use will leave thousands of medicinal cannabis users in the same position they are currently in – criminals for just trying to manage their illness. We should not put administrative ease ahead of patient-focused care.

The test of any proposed law change should be: What would Helen Kelly do? Helen Kelly didn’t campaign for pharmaceutical-only access. Helen wanted patients and caregivers to be able to grow their own, like a herbal remedy.

According to UMR polling NORML conducted with Helen Kelly last year, 76 per cent agreed when asked “Should Parliament change the laws of New Zealand so that patients have safe legal access to affordable medicinal cannabis and cannabis products when prescribed by a licensed doctor?”

NORML now has a 4-point model for medicinal cannabis law reform:

  • Patient focused: safe legal affordable access to botanical cannabis;
  • Immediate effect (not just a long-term development pathway);
  • Domestic production: via licensed providers, including small scale providers (families & individuals);
  • Self provision: choice to grow your own as a herbal remedy.

What do you think? Tell us, and tell your MP.


  1. are labour and the greens going to sell us out – again/still..?

    they are doing what dunne worked for for so long..

    to give big-pharma control of this nascent domestic-industry..

    this fucken sucks…!

    • The Greens aren’t selling cannabis users out. They have limited power as they aren’t part of the government. The bottom line is that the Greens only got six percent of the vote so they have limited ability to effect change.

      • The Greens are MIA.

        The Greens are failing to utilise their position to speak out, thus take lead, build and apply public pressure.

        Not one press release on the matter on their website.

        Just because the Greens only secured 6% doesn’t mean voters now expect them to throw in the towel and give up the fight.

        • Technically no, they are not. They have a supply and confidence agreement. They are not part of Cabinet, and most of the leverage their disappointing 6% election result gave them was used up in their negotiations with Labour. Much as I would love to see the Greens tail wagging the Labour-NZ First dog on this issue, it’s not realistic to expect it to happen. But if enough Labour and NZ First supporters put their MPs feet to the fire and demand the kind of medicinal cannabis reform Labour implicitly promised in their election imagery, I suspect more progress could be made.

  2. There’s not really any good news here when what the are proposing is only expensive synthentic cannabis products

  3. I’m not going to jump to any conclusions because most of what I read in the newspaper is BS but how do these speculations differ from the previous govt?

    They might think that pharmac will pay but then pot will cost the country millions instead of making and saving us money.

    • Cannabis reform was a play by minor parties at relevance. Major parties really didn’t touch cannabis reform in terms of research so it’s no surprise they know very little about it and fall back along conservitve lines to demistify it with lab coats.

  4. Woohooo, corporate greed wins again. This is all we can expect for the followers of liberalism. No matter what form it takes, neo or otherwise.

  5. Good to see NORML campaigning for med pot patients, but let’s keep our eye on the ball; the recreational cannabis referendum the new government has promised at or before the next election. If herbal cannabis becomes legal for recreational users, it will be a no-brainer to make it legal for medical use too. Then we can get on with the more complicated policy jobs of preparing Aotearoa for regulated commercial supply to recreational users, and a separate medical-grade supply chain for patients.

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