Written By: - Date published: 10:47 am, July 27th, 2018 - 82 comments
Categories: crime, death with dignity, Deep stuff, drugs, greens, labour, national, same old national, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags:
So National be getting pretty liberal with the Marijuana stuff.
National’s cannabis announcement reminds me for some strange reason of that infamous Simpsons episode where Chief Wiggums discovers the magic of ganga. It was a scene where not much happened apart from him singing to a Bob Marley song. But I am sure that most baby boomers smiled when they watched it.
Cannabis law reform throughout the world has been a major movement in the past few years. Lets be clear, it is a trojan horse. After you agree that those who are terminally ill and find that the effect of cannabis is much better than the effects of opiates should have a choice it is a slippery slope to decriminalisation. At least this is the fear of conservatives. they are right to be afraid.
And then when you consider the downsides of the use of cannabis and realise that alcohol and tobacco are legal substances but cannabis is not you start to scratch your head.
Over the past few years in Aotearoa New Zealand there has been a vigorous debate about cannabis law reform. Helen Kelly is the reason. That such an intelligent compassionate person had to try and jump so many hoops in a failed attempt to legally get good quality pain relief that did not zap her brain is a sad indictment of the state of the law.
This is how Helen described it:
I am taking Cannabis Oil to manage my pain as my lung cancer takes over my body. It’s sort of as simple as that really. For some people talking about dying is confronting but actually talking about it allows us to think about how it happens – it is actually as much a social event as a physical one and knowing someone is comfortable, getting good treatment and pain relief is very much part of the social dimension as the physical one.
Since I have been public about it I have received so many very very sad emails from families also wanting access. Children with brain tumours, partners in their last stages of life zonked out on morphine and wanting something less brain numbing, people with elderly parents who are suffering from terrible arthritis and can’t cope with opiates so are basically in pain constantly and unable to move etc. It really has been incredible and quite heart breaking. Many are resorting to illegal supplies and this in itself is so far from satisfactory. They have no idea what the strength of the product is or what it even has in it some of the time. In countries which allow medical cannabis these things are sorted – Doctors are trained on its use and products are tailored to kids, elderly etc etc.
I might be able to get permission from our esteemed Associate Minister of Health to access a medical product. I have to apply. This actually requires me to find a product, contact the producer, convince my doctors to support my application (which I think they will do, but they will have to jump through hoops and wouldn’t it be better if they were like US doctors – trained in the various products, able to understand them and prescribe them based on their knowledge not mine) and then meet the Ministry of Health criteria which includes that other available drugs have been tried and don’t work – not that cannabis works better!
This is something I wrote in January:
National has this weird approach to drug reform. They hate the idea of any sort of drugs liberalisation.
Their position is difficult to rationalise. Alcohol is accepted, presumably because there is a good profit to be made if it is done right. But the mention of Cannabis causes all sorts of ructions to occur.
It is hard to understand why. Sure Cannabis can for a small part of the population cause considerable problems. But for most of us it is a coming of age drug. You cannot claim to have been through university in the 1970s or 1980s or 1990s and not have at least a nodding acquaintance with the drug.
And the problems caused by alcohol are legendary. Yet there is this strange double standard. Alcohol is fine but cannabis reform is somehow taboo.
Such is the moral panic associated with cannabis that the last Government thought it better to prohibit the use of the drug for medicinal purposes unless applicants jumped through all sorts of hoops rather than allowing people dying of cancer the ability to use the drug for simple pain relief. According to their view it was better that people die in pain and doped up to the eyeballs on morphine based drugs than actually use something that many have reported provides the best pain relief they can ask for.
Helen Kelly had to go through this. That an intelligent capable woman who understood what was best for her body was not trusted with making a decision on what was best for her still rankles.
This was written at the time that National and New Zealand First voted down Chloe Swarbrick’s private member’s bill seeking to allow medicinal cannabis. The bill was not a stunning effort, but it should have been introduced and sent to select committee for consideration. New Zealand First and National voted against the bill. They gave their more liberal members public cover to support it but then all their members voted against the bill.
At the same time Labour introduced its bill which to be frank was very timid. National allowed this bill to go to select committee but then decided to oppose it.
The select committee report back shows that the parties were hopelessly gridlocked.
The bill was not great. It was weakened by the need to accommodate New Zealand First’s views. It clearly could have been improved. Which is why National’s announced private members bill was such a strange response. Why not seek to improve the existing bill by proposing changes?
The report back is interesting. This is National’s reason for not supporting the bill as it is:
We heard from the public and medical community that there may be a place for medicinal cannabis and we support this being added to the tool set that medical practitioners can utilise. We have heard that current pricing and availability are restrictive and we seek to improve the availability and affordability of medicinal cannabis for clinical indications. Underpinning medicinal cannabis there needs to be a robust regulatory framework for the pathway from cultivation to dispensing. These details and associated parliamentary oversight are absent from this bill.
Addressing the three main aims to the bill, we are supportive of improved access to cannabidiol which we are told has negligible psychoactive properties.
We understand the goals of the terminal exemption and statutory defence for terminal patients but we believe there is too much uncertainty around the logistics of supply. We are uncomfortable that exercise of the terminal exemption and the statutory defence requires the illegal act of supplying cannabis to be committed.
This bill seeks blanket regulation making authority for a full medicinal cannabis scheme for which no details have been presented. We believe issues such as medicinal cannabis manufacture, eligibility, dispensing, monitoring, and reporting are important and we are unable to support a bill that does not submit details of such a scheme to public and parliamentary scrutiny.
So National opposed Swarbrick’s bill that would decriminalise possession for medicinal reasons and also opposed Labour’s bill because it did not provide details on how the supply chain would be regulated.
And maybe Labour does not need the new regulation making power. After all the existing legislation includes the ability to make regulations “providing for the issue of licences for the import, export, possession, production, manufacture, procuring, supply, administration, or use of controlled drugs and the cultivation of prohibited plants”.
Here is the text of the bill. There are significant differences. But National could propose its bill as a SOP. Maybe Labour should put up National’s bill as a SOP. National could hardly refuse to vote for it.
The bill looks like a serious attempt to change the law although the released draft has some holes in it.
Politically National’s stance is quite clever. National is masquerading as if it is the saviour of the medicinal cannabis organisation but if you look at the history it has stifled meaningful change every step of the way.
And here is the reason why urgent law reform is needed. Not only to allow people with serious pain issues to seek respite but also so that young people will stop killing themselves using a manufactured equivalent.
Provisional figures from the coroner show between 40 – 45 people died in the year since last June – in the previous five years there was only one death.
The figures are causing doctors, families and the Drug Foundation to call for swift action to get it off the streets.
Synthetic cannabis was outlawed in 2014, and before that, it could be bought over the counter at the local dairy.
St John Ambulance said it received about 30 callouts a week from people in trouble after taking the drug.
A doctor in the Wellington hospital’s emergency department, Paul Quigley, said deaths were increasing because batches were becoming too potent for the body to handle.
The batches were manufactured from chemicals discarded by pharmaceutical companies, he said.
“The pharmaceutical companies are spending billions of dollars in trying to work out what parts of the cannabis plant could be used as a pharmaceutical drug to relieve pain, stop seizures, help people with a condition known as spasticity.”
Those drugs were then thrown out by the companies, and picked up by the black market.
The people who are dying tend to be young and poor. In West Auckland for instance there have been far too many young people whose lives have been ended far too soon by use of the zombie drug.
If National’s policy is a good faith attempt to improve matters then good on it. If it is a cynical attempt to gain political advantage without any meaningful change being made then shame on it.