National’s drug conscience

Written By: - Date published: 7:06 am, January 31st, 2018 - 35 comments
Categories: greens, labour, national, Nikki Kaye, nz first, Politics, same old national, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags: , ,

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.

If she wanted opiates no problem.  If she wanted something that allowed her to think clearly and deal with the pain and still live then she needed Ministerial agreement.  And the Minister at the time was not cooperating.

So the time for a real debate about drug reform is now.  And the Greens have the opportunity to seek meaningful change to the current law.

Chloe Swarbrick has inherited Julie Ann Genter’s Medicinal Cannabis Bill and it is up for debate today.  The bill is somewhat simplistic and lawyers could drive busses through it.  But it is a bill drafted by a smaller party and the intent is to put the issue on Parliament’s agenda.  Sure it can be tidied up and refined but this is what the select committee process is for.  Let the public see what is being proposed and comment on such things as the drafting.  Then see if Parliament can improve what is being proposed, if this is the wish of the majority.

And most do.  Even Grey Power wants Chloe’s bill to proceed to select committee.  From Radio New Zealand:

Grey Power president Tom O’Connor said the government’s bill was too restrictive and had too many hoops to jump through.

But he said the Greens’ effort went too far.

“It would be just tempting fate far too much to allow people to grow cannabis at home for their own medication amongst the tomatoes and spuds.

“They’d never harvest it for a start. People would be over the back fence to steal it anyway.”

Regardless, Mr O’Connor hoped both bills would pass so they could go before a select committee and be debated.

“These things need to be discussed in the public and we’d like to see that discussion be as wide-ranging as possible.”

But National is afraid to allow a real debate to occur and will allow only a token number of MPs to vote for the bill’s introduction.

They are well and truly on the wrong side of public opinion on this issue.  From National’s pollster:

It is worth reflecting that there is overwhelming public support for cannabis to be available for pain relief. A poll Curia did for the Drug Foundation last year had 78% support for medicial use of cannabis not to be a criminal offence and only 17% opposed.

The net support for not having medical use of cannabis being a criminal offence by party vote is:

  • National voters +60% (78% to 18%)

  • Labour voters +61% (78% to 17%)

  • NZ First +54% (77% to 23%)

  • Greens +77% (88% to 11%)

National has made the call that it cannot whip its MPs to vote against the bill.  That would be too obvious.  But it has chosen to whip them enough so that all but those with a compelling electoral argument for have to vote against the bill.

From Henry Cooke at Stuff:

National leader Bill English announced on Tuesday his party would support the Government bill, which already has the numbers to pass.

His party would in general oppose Swarbrick’s bill, but a “small number” would be allowed to vote for it if they wished.

“National will support the Government bill, and will oppose the Greens bill – but the caucus gave permission for a small number of MPs who feel very strongly about the bill to support it if they wish to,” English said.

“I expect it to be less than a handful.”

He pushed back on the idea that this made it a “conscience vote” as the National Party did not see drugs as a conscience issue.

This is paint by numbers stuff.  Have a significant conscience position determined by Caucus fiat but allow a few strugglers such as Nikki Kaye  and Chris Bishop who represents liberal electorates to vote in support.

National supported the introduction of Labour’s medicinal marijuana bill but to be frank Labour’s bill is very timid.  That timid that New Zealand First supported it.  The bill allows medicinal cannabis but only for medications that contain a small amount of cannabis and only those who can be reasonably expected to die within 12 months can safely use it.

If someone is dying why not let them use what is a fairly mainstream drug.  Why put so many complications and difficulties in place?

If you want to understand the situation more fully then Helen Kelly’s post from January 2016 deserves a read.  Here are the first few paragraphs that perfectly summarise what is at stake:

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!

And Helen’s son Dylan Kelly supports Chloe’s bill and thinks Labour’s bill is too timid.  From Benedict Collins at Radio New Zealand:

But Helen Kelly’s son Dylan said the bill was deeply disappointing and would continue to criminalise people.

“It’s woefully inadequate – terminally ill patients are not the only people who need medicinal cannabis.

“But sort of more importantly a lot of people who do need this medication can’t really provide it for themselves, and a lot of the people who supplied my mum’s medicine are putting themselves in really quite serious legal jeopardy in order, not to make money, purely in order to help people with chronic pain,” he said.

“And I think a bill that continues to criminalise those people is insufficient.”

I hope all MPs reflect on Helen’s and Dylan’s words.  It is not proposed that cannabis be made available without limitation, even though this is a debate I think we need to have given our tolerance of alcohol.  What is proposed is that ill people be allowed to use a naturally occurring compound that many have found relieves the worst aspects of their symptoms and their supporters be allowed to provide it.

35 comments on “National’s drug conscience ”

  1. gsays 1

    Thanks Mickey.
    Last night on checkpoint, John Campbell interviewed Grace’s mum.
    Grace is a child who suffers from extreme muscle spasms.
    Big pharma has a product that costs this family $1200 a month.
    Mum is forced to give her child less of the medicine the child needs, so that the medicine lasts.
    As Grace is going for surgery, the doctors recommended increasing the dose. That means the family using more of their own supply.

    This is barbaric, wrong and lacks in a basic justice.
    What is the justification for denying Grace and others the medicine they need?

    • Sabine 1.1

      Profit and lack of guts from the current government that simply could legalize use and grow for own possession. Last i checked, National was not in government.

  2. Rosemary McDonald 2

    Yes, thanks Micky.

    The Genter/Swarbrick Bill needs to get over the line and make it to the Select Committee stage.

    Then, those interested/involved can have their say.

    Those already involved in the non commercial supply of medical cannabis products and those who have benefited from the beneficence of these Green Fairies need to be able to make submissions safely.

    It’d be a bugger if one was arrested for exercising one’s democratic right to speak out.

    https://www.radionz.co.nz/stories/2018626410/fairies-at-the-bottom-of-the-garden

  3. shorts 3

    “National has this weird approach to drug reform. They hate the idea of any sort of drugs liberalisation.”

    isn’t that until one of their large supporters is involved/profiting from the trade?

    when cannabis is legal, regulated and big business whose going to be all over it

  4. weka 4

    Lol Tom O’Connor. Where does he think many people already get their cannabis from if not homegrown?

  5. weka 5

    there’s a poll up on Shub,

    http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/shows/2018/01/poll-do-you-support-a-law-change-that-allows-patients-to-grow-their-own-marijuana.html

    Currently 76% of the 2,400 people who have voted have said yes, patients should be able to grow their own.

    • Rosemary McDonald 5.1

      “Currently 76% of the 2,400 people who have voted have said yes, patients should be able to grow their own.”

      It’d be an interesting defense in Court…”But, but Your Honour, 76% of my fellow citizens do not think what I did is a crime.”

      • JustPassingThrough 5.1.1

        Yep, and one of those fellow citizens could be the judge presiding over the case …

    • Rosemary McDonald 5.2

      Checked out your link weka and I’m pleased to see that finally there’s a picture of cannabis leaf, rather than the flower.

      To the best of my limited knowledge, much of the homemade CBD based medicinal products utilise the leaf and stalk of the plant, rather than the flower head favoured by the recreational users.

      Oh, and added my vote which makes it 77%!

  6. adam 6

    Have to say this was what I used in South Australia to keep me sane.

    http://oldtimemeds.blogspot.co.nz/2011/10/topical-cannabis-poultice.html

    Had a nurse who would put on two a week, so my pain levels were constant 1’s.

    Not like nowadays with using Opioid based drugs for pain management. Never get below a 3 , and the weight gain is a nightmare. Exercise is tough, and you have to be careful not to over do it. As the masking effect of Opioid means you can injury yourself.

    And lets not forget the constant fight not to get addicted to your pain meds.

    I’m hoping the Genter/Swarbrick Bill passes for no other reason, that I can actually get some sustained pain relief, and a downsizing of the fatigue that goes with it.

  7. Cinny 7

    I’m still confused as to why only some nat MP’s will be allowed to vote today.

    Is someone able to clarify/explain it to me please? Dosen’t seem very democratic at all.

  8. Bruce 8

    Its another case of catch 22 any poly that is so corrupt or to stupid to over turn bad law should not be in that position.

  9. SPC 9

    Maybe National has Jeff Sessions syndrome?

  10. Cinny 10

    Listening to the debate re medicinal cannabis.

    coleman claims it will be a Dr’s nightmare, personally I’d think that only being able to prescribe highly addictive opiates for pain would be a nightmare.

    https://www.parliament.nz/en/watch-parliament

    Really interesting debate here is the live link.
    https://www.parliament.nz/en/watch-parliament

    Very happy for Julie-Anne that the bill is being read

  11. Sparky 11

    Big pharma hates natural alternatives to them and lobbies hard for corporate stooge parties to put the breaks on…..end of story really….

    • Cinny 11.1

      Yup many are voting no due to lack of regulation on dosage quantity if cannabis is allowed to be homegrown, no big pharma money in that.

      An absolute crap excuse, its fine for me to grow valerian main ingredient in valium, just an example re their dosage quantity when home grown example

      national no balls, none of them appear to be crossing the floor for it, bishop and kaye both said they won’t vote for it.

      Meanwhile opiates seem to be handed out willy nilly. NZ deserves MPs that listen to the people.

      Voting underway

  12. Incognito 12

    Their position is difficult to rationalise. Alcohol is accepted, presumably because there is a good profit to be made if it is done right.

    Not to mention tobacco.

    National’s position is entirely irrational; they’re against medicinal cannabis because it doesn’t feel right and nowadays you can ‘feel’ the truth and this feeling even can (and does!) Trump facts.

    Nats associate cannabis with lazy “pretty damned hopeless” beneficiaries, unemployed, and youth, for example. BTW, very damning coming from a Catholic MP and former PM, don’t you think?

    Nats associate cannabis with gangs & crims (and no, they’re not one and the same thing) and anything that goes against their orthodox ideas of Law & Order.

    National’s antagonism is emotional and an emotional ploy in the same way that they cannot get their heads around the fact that were “robbed’ of winning the election and the way they behave in (not as) Opposition.

    National needs to grow up and stop being so selfish and acting like a spoilt toddler who lost his favourite toy because nobody wanted to play with them anymore.

  13. Nick K 13

    This is absurd. The argument that the Bill is flawed, or lacks detail, or whatever is facile. The whole point of sending it SC is to fix these problems. So MPs who use this argument are just finding a way out. They’re gutless.

  14. The Chairman 14

    Seeing as the Green’s medicinal cannabis bill failed to get over the line and Labour’s medicinal cannabis bill falls short, isn’t it time the Government moved forward the referendum and let the people have their say?

    PS
    Thanks Mickey. Good post.

  15. rhinocrates 15

    Come on Wayne, you’re the “reasonable” National party scion. You’ve always got so much to say on what reasonable people should think. What do you have to say now? Or is having an opinion going to endanger your prospects of a knighthood from your mates whenever they regain power?

  16. Son of Don 16

    What a fuckin Joke, CoL can’t get one of its OWN politicians bills over the line and it’s the oppositions fault?

  17. solkta 17

    Are you the son of a donkey?

  18. Kay 18

    Bunch of spineless whimps. I hang onto the prospect of karma. Statistically at some point people close to the Nay voters will be in dire need of the said treatment and they will have to explain to their loved ones why cannabis for their pain/disease is such a terrible evil but big pharma drugs that aren’t working and with horrific side effects are quite alright.

    But of course they won’t, it’s do as I say, not as do with these people. Suffering is for OTHER people.

  19. Rosemary McDonald 19

    “….in dire need of the said treatment and they will have to explain to their loved ones why cannabis for their pain/disease is such a terrible evil but big pharma drugs that aren’t working and with horrific side effects are quite alright.”

    There will have been no small number of ‘support people’ of ill and disabled Kiwis who put their heads down and wept as the Bill of One Less Burden was killed in the House last night.

    One less “burden” because despite the fact most ‘support people’ provide the support entirely for love, there are considerable costs associated with significant ill- health and disability which are by no means funded by either the Misery of Health or the Miserly of Social Development. And more often than not household income is fixed and inadequate and sourced through a hostile welfare system.

    When pain, clonic spasm, seizures and nausea are ruining the life of a loved one and the ‘treatment’ prescribed by the doctors are stop gap at best and debilitating at worst, it can be life transforming to stumble across a remedy that eases the symptoms without side effects, and is relatively affordable….or indeed supplied by good people for no charge.

    One burden lifted, the loved one’s quality of life is raised and the cost has been nothing…or very minimal.

    And this is probably the crux of the matter.

    Cost.

    Because… it is not as if the Bill of One Less Burden was intending that the State actually fund medical cannabis for those who find it therapeutic, it was going to merely lift the threat of prosecution from those who have taken the initiative to alleviate the pain and suffering of themselves or their loved ones.

    And maybe, just maybe, this is the real reason why those Protectors of the Public Good voted in their droves to kill this Bill….god forbid that folk show initiative and build their own resilience without being dependent on the State for funding.

    I use the word “burden” not in a way that disrespects the person who is ill or impaired, but in the context of having to seek funding from the state to provide support.

    Having to go through the application processes for such funding is an experience that all New Zealanders should have at least one stage in their lives. The ones who can often abandon the process and fund the required supports themselves.

    Most, however, are dependent on state funding, and the very process of applying for what should be entitlements is designed to be humiliating, degrading and disempowering.

    Which is just how our politicians like it.

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