Coleman on the medicinal cannabis bill

Opposition spokesperson on health (and ex Minister of Health) Jonathan Coleman spoke on the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill in it’s first reading in Parliament yesterday.

 

As an electorate MP in the Northcote electorate, I’ve had extensive contact with people from a wide range of backgrounds with a wide range of views on medicinal cannabis, but there is no doubt that this is becoming much more of a mainstream issue and that people have an interest in being able to access these products when they are experiencing, sadly, a terminal illness.

There’s also, of course, people who are wanting to access it for a wider range of medical complaints as well. It’s also been an issue that’s had a great deal of public exposure through the sad illnesses of Helen Kelly and Paul Holmes and Martin Crowe—three very public figures who all said in their latter days that they had accessed medicinal cannabis.

So there’s no question that this is an issue that the Parliament has to deal with and that it’s of great import to tens of thousands of people across the country.

A Curia poll last year showed that 78% of people supported making medical cannabis is use legal.

I can say that he must have his officials tearing their hair out, because he was out there around New Zealand, campaigning big on medicinal cannabis. He said to people that the Labour Government would increase access to medicinal marijuana for the terminally ill and those with chronic pain and chronic conditions. Of course that created a huge wave of expectation, and there will be many people who, when they read this bill, will be bitterly disappointed. As Bill English has said, this is a Government long on intentions but actually poor in the delivery.

That’s what we’re seeing in this bill. It’s a hollowed-out, weak bill that goes nowhere close to delivering on what Labour had promised.

That’s a fair description – Labour promised, but then blamed NZ First for not delivering on the expectations that Labour had built up.

There’s a change there in this bill. Of the three changes, we’ve talked about two of them. There’s the regulation-making power. There’s the effective criminalisation for possession of marijuana, although it’s silent on the quantity for terminal patients who are using it for their own use. But then there’s this thing that the Minister has been heralding—how they are changing the classification of cannabidiol.

It’ll be really interesting to understand how that is any different to what the last Government did under the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act 2016 Commencement Order 2017, passed in about June 2017, where cannabidiol was no longer a controlled drug. All this is, from what I can see in the legislation, is just a tidy up of the legislation to reflect the regulations and existing practice. So, when you take that away, what you’re looking at is a pretty hollowed-out bill.

Labour promised something they haven’t been able to deliver on, and deserve criticism for that.

But much of the responsibility for this hollow shell of a bill must rest with Winston Peters and NZ First.

The last Government had already taken some action on medicinal marijuana. Peter Dunne did a very good job as the Minister then, and I want to acknowledge his contribution. In December 2016 he removed some of the bureaucratic restrictions around access to marijuana, and Sativex, one of two products available in New Zealand, no longer needed ministry approval for sign off. He then in February 2017 signed off non-pharmaceutical grade medical cannabis. That delegation was moved from the Minister to the Ministry of Health.

Arguably that was as significant progress in some respects as the current bill.

But David Clark has said, and this is pretty much from his press release actually, “We wanted to make sure that medicinal cannabis is more accessible to people with terminal illness or chronic conditions and the piece of legislation [here] will make progress.”

Well, I can tell you, it absolutely doesn’t, because when you look at people who are using medicinal cannabis for a terminal illness, this is not going to result in one more person accessing medicinal cannabis. The other thing is he’s got a half-baked scheme here. He’s legalising possession, but where are these people—the middle-class, elderly, terminally ill patients of Northcote—meant to get their cannabis from? So it’s a half-baked scheme, which doesn’t go far enough.

David Clark and Jacinda Ardern have as good as admitted that it doesn’t go far enough.

It’s very clear, it’s the result of that political pressure to get this over the line within 100 days. If you don’t believe me, have a look at the regulatory impact statement (RIS), because that’s very clear about what this bill does and doesn’t do. It actually says there’s been massive time pressure here. It actually says the legislation has had to be rushed to get it under the bar for 100 days.

On other 100 day promises Labour stepped them back and delayed them, to do more work and consultation, saying that it was more important to have good legislation than rushed legislation.

It says there will be a paper in March 2018 that will lay out the description of this medicinal cannabis scheme, which the Minister was talking about as if it’s actually in the legislation. It’s not. The scheme has not been designed. All this gives is a regulation-making power. So you can see this is a heck of a long way from perfect, and there are some major weaknesses in the bill.

Although this is a poorly designed, politically-driven bill, on balance we have to be mindful of the needs of those terminally ill people. So, in the end, compassion has to win out over a very poorly designed piece of legislation.

National will be supporting this bill but we’re expecting to see some big changes, some big improvements, and we will have some very big questions when this comes to the select committee.

With the Swarbrick bill apparently doomed (in large part by National’s decision not to allow a conscience vote for most of their MPs) then the only chance of a decent bill will be getting big changes and big improvements via the select committee stage.

6 Comments

  1. Zedd

     /  January 31, 2018

    Tiptoe through the ‘tulips/herbs’.. eh Doc. He said the Govt. bill was a ‘none event’ & the current law/Natl ‘reform’ (under Dunne) already does what it is supposed to change; “B-S” sez I 😀

  2. robertguyton

     /  January 31, 2018

    Coleman – cigar-smoker, blowing smoke.

    • Zedd

       /  January 31, 2018

      Yes it was interesting listening to the debate yesterday.. one Natl MP (Reti ?) going on about ‘smoking the DRUG’, was against the ‘Smokefree Aotearoa’ thing.. As if thats the only way to ingest it !
      Im guessing only a small number/zero of patients are told, by GPs that this is the preferred option, but Natl would have us believe it. “Believe it or NOT” :/

  3. Zedd

     /  January 31, 2018

    “Three Cheers” to the 73 MPs who just WON & again voted down Greens (Chloe’s) med-use bill. You must feel really proud, of defeating it.. led by fear-mongering mostly from 2 Natl Doctors, who went on about all the harm & the lack of ‘evidence’ (reinventing the wheel again)

    One of the best speeches was from Mr Seymour (ACT) who stated Prohibition is a failure & it forces sick people to deal with Black-market gangs to get access to cheaper cannabis than is legally available.

    It seems that Nat’l & NZF were denied ‘conscience votes’ & were ‘whipped by their exec.’ to vote “NO !” WHY ????

    • PartisanZ

       /  January 31, 2018

      I have to say this … I can’t think of anything else to say … FUCK THEM!!!

      • PartisanZ

         /  January 31, 2018

        Was this INCREDIBLY, UNBELIEVABLY bad timing or something more sinister? The government’s ridiculous, watered down ‘Claytons’ excuse for a Bill was used by several MPs as their ‘out’ of Chloe Swarbrick’s, saying they hoped the government Bill could be improved at Select Committee ….