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When three bills become one: why cross party support is needed for medicinal cannabis law reform

By   /  July 26, 2018  /  11 Comments

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With three bills before Parliament this year, and patients continuing to suffer, it’s clear we need cross-party support for enduring sensible solutions.

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With three bills before Parliament this year, and patients continuing to suffer, it’s clear we need cross-party support for enduring sensible solutions.

Changes to the Government’s medicinal cannabis bill don’t go far enough for most patients.

The National Party’s proposed new bill could mean only expensive pharmaceutical-style products are available.

The Green Party’s bill was defeated earlier this year.

Parliament should work together and put the needs of patients first. Both bills now on offer are better than the status quo, but neither deliver what patients really want.

In the red black and green corner, the Government 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.

Amendments to the bill announced today include:

  • Allowing licences for commercial production, first proposed by NORML and PharmaCann
  • Permitting limited promotion of cannabis-based medicines, such as providing information to health practitioners
  • Removing CBD and all non-psychoactive cannabinoids from the Misuse of Drugs Act, potentially lowering costs for patients and increasing the range of available products
  • Repealing the defence for terminal patients after 5 years

Although the report says 99 percent of submitters supported the intent of the bill, it was also widely criticised for doing too little, and for taking too long.

Submissions were overwhelmingly in favour of allowing medicinal cannabis use for chronic pain and other conditions, allowing patients or caregivers to grow their own, and for products to be more affordable and widely available.

In the blue corner we have the National bill, also announced today, which would create a different medicinal cannabis scheme.

  • Doctor-issued Patient ID cards would be used at pharmacies to obtain cannabis-based medicines
  • No “loose leaf”: medical cannabis products would be restricted to “liquids and pills” and regulated like pharmaceuticals by Medsafe
  • Products would be given a five-year window to perform clinical trials and other tests needed to gain consent as medicines
  • There would be no provision for compassionate access, or any exemptions for terminal patients
  • National would prohibits any advertising, ban anyone with a criminal record from working in the industry, and prevent producers from being within 5km of a residential area or 1km of sensitive sites such as schools and wahi tapu

National’s new-found support for medicinal cannabis mirrors the surging support shown in recent opinion polls.

The latest poll, released this week by the New Zealand Drug Foundation, found 87 per cent support for allowing medicinal cannabis for chronic pain relief.

The poll confirmed a significant upward trend for public support of cannabis law reform.

The National Party’s bill marks an incredible shift from just a year ago, and shows how the strong public support is getting through.

There are merits to National’s proposed scheme, but regulating medicinal cannabis like pharmaceuticals could keep products unaffordable – forcing patients to continue turning to the black market.

As well as pharmaceutical products, we need cheaper, food-grade cannabis products to be available here, as they are in other countries.

And while National’s proposals could allow local producers to overtake Australia by bringing products immediately to market, their restrictions could also hobble our budding industry before it’s even begun.

It’s also important to remember that as a private member’s bill it might never be drawn, whereas the Government bill will pass. That’s a certainty.

There will also be a referendum soon that we can confidently expect will make cannabis legal for all adults.

Parliament now has an opportunity to improve the Bill, and it’s great to see National apparently calling for the same thing.

The Government could even adopt the best aspects of what National is calling for as a Supplementary Order Paper, and put it before the House with their bill.

Both bills have good aspects. Parliament should work together to do what is best for patients.

  • Patients will be holding a rally supporting sensible solutions. NORML and Auckland Patients Group present “Pots for Patients”, 2pm on Saturday 4th August. Queen Street, opposite Aotea Square.
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About the author

Chris Fowlie

Former editor of NORML News, Chris Fowlie is president of the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, manager of The Hempstore, and court-recognised expert witness for serious cannabis charges.


  1. CLEANGREEN says:

    Yes Chris;

    You was right to point out the obvious; – that National was always out to promote “only expensive pharmaceutical-style products are available.” and that shows that ‘National are in the deep pockets of the pharmaceutical industry.’

    “Changes to the Government’s medicinal cannabis bill don’t go far enough for most patients.

    The National Party’s proposed new bill could mean only expensive pharmaceutical-style products are available.”

  2. dave brown says:

    These moronic self-serving politicians hav’nt even seriously looked at the research results from legalization of cannabis overseas.
    So they chose the false MOH ‘science’ which makes cannabis a killer over the experience of the vast majority of NZers who know that cannabis is being used as a scapegoat for an unequal and unjust society.
    If they had bothered to do the most basic literature review they would have realized that it is not cannabis that is harmful but prohibition.
    When prohibition is lifted, none of the harms claimed turn out to be true (eg Colorado).
    The most alarming ‘harm’, excessive THC use in youth, fails to show up.
    Moreover, far from causing ‘youth psychosis’, THC has positive benefits for treating mental illness.
    And the hysteria about THC limiting it so 2% ignores the increasing evidence that all the components of Cannabis operate together making the ‘whole plant’ the best for curing cancer.

  3. Rickoshay says:

    psychoactive cannabinoids, a fukin joke, no one yet knows which part of the plant is effective medicine, current research suggests that its a combination of all ingredients that is the most effective for curing different cancers and treating Alzheimers, which is the real problem with pot, it works, fake farma drugs do not.
    My own Doctor told me modern medicine is in the “business” of prolonging illness, is it any wonder us everyday citizens want to be able to grow our own medicine and make our own remedies, look how many people die every year in NZ bye prescription medicine overdoses,seeing how the Government is determined to protect there deadly child Farmac, makes me sick, fake drugs for everyone, crap drugs that dont even work.

  4. Gosman says:

    If medicinal cannabis works as well as people suggest then it can come under Pharmac and receive subsidies to make it affordable.

  5. The Toxic Avenger says:

    I’d say the hijack is over before its already begun.
    Everyone wants full legal recreational now, even conservatives see its potential to revitalise NZ. Especially regarding rural economies where rural stoners can finally show themselves, lift their chin’s and be treated with respect and dignity instead of scorn and derision.
    Beyond economics and medpot mumbo jumbo, its a dire human rights position that needs to be addressed now and the psycho-social impact will push NZ’s economy forward.
    Its almost like abolishing slavery, and any half measure is meh.

  6. adam says:

    A left leaning government they said, more like just the same shit, but, with a pretty smile.

  7. Michal says:

    National should have and could have put up a bill when they were in office they have enough years to do this, but yeh, nah, why would they bother. Just leave it try and out do the Labour party who are when all said and done gutless themselves. Anyone should be able to grow this for their own use!

  8. Glenn says:

    Are National and National Lite working for the drug gangs? Certainly looks like it. Must keep dope illegal to keep the profit margins as high as possible.

    Corruption or just stupidity. Guess the results will be the same.
    The will of the majority being ignored. Legalize the bloody stuff!

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