Terminally ill and chronic pain patients in New Zealand will have to wait a much longer time before they can legally obtain medical cannabis.
According to a document from the Ministry of Health, medical marijuana may not be legally available until at least mid-2020.
The Misuse of Drugs (Medical Cannabis) Amendment Bill
The Misuse of Drugs (Medical Cannabis) Amendment Bill is expected to be signed into law by March 2019. The bill was introduced in December 2017 by Health Minister David Clark under the government’s 100-day plan.
The bill amends the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 and introduces an exception and statutory defense for terminally ill patients to use cannabis and possess a cannabis utensil. This bill also provides a regulation-making power for the establishment of standards pertaining to the license manufacture, importation, and supply of cannabis products. Furthermore, the bill provides for the reclassification of CBD and CBD products so it is no longer considered controlled drugs.
Go-Live Date is unacceptable
The Health Ministry document was released to National’s associate health spokesperson Shane Reti under the Official Information Act. It shows that the Ministry is working to a timeline that assumes a mid-2020 “go-live” date for medical cannabis.
However, Reti pointed out that this go-live date is just for the required regulations. He said that it is very unlikely that they would start dispensing medical cannabis at that point, so it would almost certainly be much later than that.
According to Reti, this is unacceptable.
National supported the government’s medical cannabis bill at first reading, yet withdrew its support in July. Instead, it presented its own bill in Reti’s name.
National stated that its bill set out a well-researched and more comprehensive regime for medical cannabis consumption in the country.
Reti contended that the government should adopt National’s bill as it would make medical marijuana products available in New Zealand with a proper regime in place in just a fraction of the time needed by the current plan.
What Green Party has to say
Chloe Swarbrick, Green MP whose medical cannabis bill was rejected in January, said that her party would like the government’s bill to go live much earlier than mid-2020.
Green Party is advocating for legal and affordable access to medical cannabis. It is also calling for a positive and solutions-focused discussion on the issue.
Swarbrick added that she had been talking to Reti and Clark to get all the parties to work together. According to her, they all think that it is important to ensure that they are getting the best possible outcome for the patients, but it is unfortunate that politics is getting in the way.