After hearing from hundreds of patients and caregivers, as well as medical groups and patient advocates, the Health Select Committee reports back today on possible changes to the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill.
The bill creates an exemption for terminally ill people to obtain and use cannabis, removes cannabidiol (CBD) from the Misuse of Drugs Act, and allows new standards for cultivating, manufacturing and distributing medicinal cannabis products.
Submissions were overwhelmingly in favour of allowing medicinal cannabis use for chronic pain, and for locally-made products to be more affordable and widely available.
The bill passed the first reading unanimously. National MPs told parliament they saw the bill as “a tentative step in the right direction” and that they would work with Government MPs to “provide greater access.”
“National supports greater access to high quality medicinal cannabis products to ease people’s suffering but we must have the right regulatory and legislative controls in place.
“Among other things, our bill is going to make clear who can buy medicinal cannabis, who can sell it, and exactly how that will work.”
However, there is no guarantee their new bill will ever be heard by parliament, as it may never be drawn from the ballot.
To be clear: it is great National are now competing to have the best law.
This represents a massive shift from just a year ago, when National were dragged kicking and screaming – by Peter Dunne of all people – into accepting only minor changes in response to public demands for medicinal cannabis law reform.
And it’s possible the changes now being mooted by National will be even better than the Government’s bill.
But we need to keep the focus on patients, and that means no more delays.
MPs need to work together now to fix the proposed legislation and give patients urgent protection. While they squabble patients are still getting busted, or dying without medicine.
The latest shenanigans over medicinal cannabis follow a Curia poll, released this week by the New Zealand Drug Foundation, which found increased support for all options, including 87 per cent support for allowing medicinal cannabis for chronic pain relief.
The message MPs should take from this poll is: Don’t panic, and do what is best for patients.
Patients, caregivers and advocates will send their own message to MPs on Saturday 4th August. Auckland Patients Group and NORML are organising “Pots for Patients”, a rally supporting medicinal cannabis law reform, at 2pm on Queen Street (opposite Aotea Square). I’ll be there, and you should too.