Government’s medicinal cannabis bill “woefully inadequate”

Dylan Kelly, son of Helen Kelly, staunch Labour party supporter and campaigner for allowing the legal use of cannabis for pain relief, has described the Government medicinal cannabis bill “woefully inadequate”.

Labour had said they would honour the memory and efforts of Helen by promising a medical cannabis bill within 100 days of taking office, but they have rushed it and made a very poor job of it.

Associate Minister of Health Jenny Salesa referred to the Helen Kelly legacy in her speech on the introduction of the bill in Parliament yesterday.

Indeed, as I alluded to before, and other speakers have also, we have examples of people who have spoken really strongly about the use of medicinal cannabis. Helen Kelly is one such example of a person who lived so bravely, so openly, with terminal illness, and she devoted the last part of her life to campaigning for her fellow New Zealanders to make their lives better. She felt for ordinary people for whom medical cannabis might make a real difference.

In July of 2016—I want to just end with a quote from one of many interviews that she made, and this is something that Stuff actually covered. At that stage, she was suffering from tumours, she had a broken back, and she had only a few months to live.

I quote her: “I’ve still got all the symptoms of coughing and being weak but living without pain is sensational.” She was taking 10 milligrams of slow-release morphine twice each day, but by bedtime the morphine had stopped working and she was aching.

I quote her: “If I took nothing I reckon my pain would be seven or eight out of ten. If I just took the morphine my pain would be about five out of ten but if I take both my pain is nothing. [It’s only the cannabis] that gives me relief, it lets me sleep all night.”

Labour MP Dr Liz Craig also mentioned Kelly in her speech:

In speaking, I would like to acknowledge a wonderful colleague known to many of us, and that was Helen Kelly. In the months before she died in 2016, of cancer, she shared her journey with many of us in New Zealand.

In that way, she became a very powerful advocate for medicinal cannabis, because what she found is that, even though she was on strong opiates, it was really only with cannabis that she could become pain free.

Helen Kelly in April, 2016: Why I take an illegal dose of marijuana every night

“I’m getting it from a circuit of people in this country who are supplying sick people with cannabis.

“Brave, brave people, they’re not charging. People who believe in the product and don’t think it should be unlawful.”

Every night, she mixes up an illegal dose to ease her pain and allow her to sleep through the night.

Ms Kelly says she doesn’t want to be “arrested and charged and criminalised”, and is calling for a referendum at the next general election on legalising cannabis for both medicinal and recreational use.

Jacinda Ardern in May 2016:  ‘The pain behind the medical marijuana debate’

It was sometime in the middle of last year when the political suddenly felt personal. It wasn’t a party, it wasn’t even a social occasion. I was visiting my friend who had spent the evening periodically flinching, doubling over, and rocking, and was now reaching for a form of cannabis as she tried to deal with her pain.

My friend was dying.

I think that’s what gets me most about the medical marijuana debate. It’s the perfect example of the brutal reality of people’s individual situations, and the layers of complexity that emerge as soon as you dig into it as a politician.

This is not a new debate – it came up when I first came into Parliament. At that time it was in the form of a member’s bill. It’s fair to say that it had a few holes in it, but those were all details that we had time to fix. I voted in favour of it, others used the drafting as an excuse to turn it down. The bill failed.

And here we are again. Same problem, different political cycle.

My friend will never benefit from change in this area, she passed away. But in reality I doubt she ever really cared too much. She was too busy living every single day to the fullest right up until her last breath. Surely we owe it to everyone to give them the best chance they have to do the same, despite the pain.

In an election debate in September 2017 both Ardern and Bill English were asked if they would consider legalising cannabis for medical purposes. Both were given thirty seconds to respond.

“I don’t need 30 seconds, Mike. The answer is absolutely, yes.”

Dylan Kelly, Helen’s son, on the bill before Parliament now (RNZ):

“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”.

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

The bill passed it’s first vote in Parliament yesterday. Can it’s inadequacies be fixed at Select Committee?

3 Comments

  1. PartisanZ

     /  January 31, 2018

    Indeed, it is so woefully inadequate it is almost non-legislation …

  2. Zedd

     /  January 31, 2018

    We shall see whether the MPs are really ‘representing their consistuents’ today (78%+ in support of broader use, more inline with rest of OECD).. Greens bill comes for 1st reading.. I hear only 3 Natl MPs ‘have been given permission’ to support it, the rest are NOT ?
    I thought that a conscience vote was supposed to be the MPs decision, not ‘with permission from caucus’ ?
    Still reminds me of the 2009 bill when Natl voted “NO !!” in a block. with ‘NO conscience’ allowed ?? 😦

  3. Pickled Possum

     /  January 31, 2018

    They said No Cannabis for pain relief but your friendly pharma of toxic death drugs
    offer you the following.

    codeine (only available in generic form)
    fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic, Fentora, Abstral, Onsolis)
    hydrocodone (Hysingla ER, Zohydro ER)
    hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Vicodin)
    hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo)
    meperidine (Demerol)
    methadone (Dolophine, Methadose)
    morphine (Kadian, MS Contin, Morphabond)
    oxycodone (OxyContin, Oxaydo)
    oxycodone and acetaminophen (Percocet, Roxicet)
    oxycodone and naloxone

    Stepping outside of the opioid range to use for pain,
    the Justice Dept will offer you a bed for anything up to 2 years for
    growing and using one of the best analgesics know to man.