The purpose of this bill is to make it legal for New Zealanders who are suffering from terminal illness or any debilitating condition to use cannabis or cannabis products with the support of a registered medical practitioner.
Last week Julie-Anne Genter’s private member’s bill on medicinal cannabis was drawn from the ballot for consideration by parliament. The Greens have aimed the bill at making medicinal cannabis accessible to all eligible people, not just those with good cash flow or physical ability to grow a limited supply.
The bill is an amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 and would enable medically supported people to grow their own or have someone grow it for them as well as being able to buy regulated commercial product.
It looks well designed for people who are ill and need access and support rather than structural or financial hoops to jump through. This is a marked difference from other proposals which seek to hand cannabis to commerce for production and regulatory containment and to limit use with higher minimum pricing. All of which would make access harder for many. Needless to say, people who are terminally ill or have serious pain and disability need things to be easy.
The rules would be,
The definition of which illnesses would be approved is sufficiently broad as to allow usage for a wide range of people in need, and would essentially be leaving the discretion to GPs. Again, this is well designed for people managing chronic health issues. Russell Brown points out that GPs would provide a doctor’s note not a prescription for cannabis, and that while many would be willing to do this, some GPs might be reluctant and see this as de facto prescribing of an untested drug.
The day of the bill’s drawing Brown wrote about the legislative process in the context of the already scheduled rewrite of the Misuse of Drugs Act (due to start later in the year). He suggests that this would not be a fast process and that drug policy would be an election issue this year.
The amendment Bill sits within the Green Party’s general Drug Law Reform Policy principles,
The Green Party recognises that:
- Drug policy should be rational and based on credible and scientifically-valid evidence.
- There can be adverse health, social and economic consequences from the use of drugs for both individuals and society.
- Not all drug use is problematic.
- Some individuals in society will choose to use drugs, regardless of their legal status.
- Prohibition of drugs can cause more harm that it prevents.
- Drug policy should have a primary focus on improving public health instead of trying to punish users.
Progress of the bill can be followed here.