Swarbrick medicinal cannabis fails, promises made

As expected MPs failed to represent the majority of New Zealanders and voted against the Swarbrick Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis and Other Matters) Amendment Bill.

Even the few National MP’s who were granted special permission (in a fucking conscience vote!) to vote for the bill decided not to back a dead horse – but some of them  have made assurances they will work on fixing the pathetic Government bill that purports to address the issues.

In her opening and closing speeches in the first reading Chloe Swarbrick tried to promote the bill but seemed to resigned to failure.

A number of MPs pointed to the Government bill, already past it’s first reading, as a way of trying to get something decent and compassionate for the people of New Zealand, but that will require some work.

Ex Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman (National):

So much as I’m critical of this current Government and much as they also left a lot out of the bill that was before the House yesterday, what that bill yesterday had was a regulation-making power, and that regulation-making power in the Government bill sets the groundwork for a regulatory scheme to create a market place that will increase the access for people who need medicinal cannabis products, and it will mean that they can get products that have been approved on the basis of the available evidence to help relieve their debilitating conditions. That is the way to go.

The other thing about the Government bill is the select committee process will allow all those who have an interest in this particular bill to submit to the select committee and have their case heard. So I think—much as I’m no fan of this Government—that the bill that the Government brought to the House yesterday will enable that public discussion that thousands of New Zealanders wish to have.

I hope MPs listen to the people far better than they have on the Swarbrick bill.

Greg O’Connor (Labour):

What the Government bill that went to select committee yesterday has done is it has bought us time, which will allow us to address many of the issues that have been brought up here today.

Actually the Government bill was rushed to beat Labour’s 100 day deadline and addresses the issues poorly.

But it will mean that when we move forward, we get it right. We don’t have to recreate. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It’s been done. We pride ourselves on being world leaders on this, and we can.

New Zealand doesn’t lead, it trails Australia, it trails the US, it trails Canada, it is badly behind progress elsewhere in the world on cannabis law reform.

What I implore the House and my fellow members to do is don’t send this to select committee. Let’s get it right, let’s start with a blank bit of paper, and let New Zealand end up with a highly workable cannabis regime that makes it safe for our children and for all those in the future, and, most importantly, that gets it out of the hands of criminals.

Odd comments. The Government bill is already in place, and it’s screwed paper. But at least it’s a toe in the Parliament door.

Dr Liz Craig (Labour) supported the bill, but expressed some concerns.

So why am I supporting it to select committee? I think the first thing is that so many people around the country have been in touch. There’s a real sense out there that people want their voices heard, and I think select committee will allow us to do that.

The other thing is that we saw that the Government’s own bill passed its first reading yesterday and will go to select committee. I think that bill will address a lot of the issues that people in the community are raising, but what I would like to see is some formal discussion about whether and how much further we can go beyond people that have got a terminal illness. So that’s why I’d like that looked at in that select committee process.

So for me I think we need to have that debate. We need to have people to be able to put forward their views, and we need to think about the broader extension, but I think a lot of those other issues need to be sorted out at select committee so that we’ve got a safe, high quality product and we know who’s going to get the benefit from it, but we’ve got to step back from causing further harm.

Nikki Kay (National):

So I’m faced with two bills that have come before this Parliament. Both of them are flawed. One goes too far and one does too little. So that is the dilemma that I have, and I actually believe there are many members of Parliament in this House that have the same dilemma. And this is why I am conflicted. I want to acknowledge the work that you have done.

I will not be voting for the legislation this evening, but what I am committed to doing, with other members of Parliament—and I know from the conversations that I’ve had in the last 24 hours. I’m not going to cross the floor on a bill that I know, even with my vote from the National Party, we don’t have the numbers for.

It shouldn’t have been necessary to ‘cross the floor’, it was supposed to be a conscience vote. Not allowing National MPs a conscience should weigh heavily on Bill English’s conscience.

But what I will do is I will work with Chlӧe Swarbrick, I will work with the Prime Minister, I will work with those other members in New Zealand First that want change around those people who have chronic pain or debilitating conditions to provide greater access for either cannabis products or loose leaf.

And I think we can do that with the existing Government bill, and that is what I will be campaigning for, and I commit to working with you, Chlӧe, and other members of the House—to try and deliver that. It has been one of the toughest political decisions that I have ever had to make. But I want to then finally speak to the people in the gallery but also the people that are watching tonight. It’s very easy to look at parliamentarians and think they don’t care. That is not my experience of this place. People do care. And there is a pathway through, and I’ll be fighting for that.

I hope she does fight for that.

Nicky Wagner (National):

So, in summary, National certainly supports the use of the therapeutic cannabis-based products for their patients, but we cannot support this bill. Yesterday we voted for the Government’s bill as a stop-gap, but with the clear expectation that the Government will work efficiently, well, and urgently to set up the medicinal cannabis scheme as promised—a scheme that can deliver secure access for patients, that can deliver consistent and assured quality control for the product, affordability, and a safe, well-managed supply chain.

Chris Bishop (National):

So when we come to the two bills that have come to the House on successive days, we talk about David Clark’s bill. That does one very worthy thing and one thing the previous Government had already done, and is utterly silent on the very worthy thing it purports to do…

What the bill doesn’t do is establish a regulatory scheme to actually establish medicinal cannabis in New Zealand. It says it does, but it doesn’t. We have to wait at least two years for that to happen.

So then we come to this bill. Now, it, too, is inadequate. Members have canvassed, on this side and the other side as well, a lot of deficiencies. It does not set up any sort of regulated market for medicinal marijuana. There are no controls on production and supply. It will not give doctors any confidence—and this is a very important point—about prescribing medicinal marijuana. The qualifying criteria, as my colleague Shane Reti pointed out, are too broad. So it was a difficult decision, but I have decided to vote against the bill.

Ultimately, I want a conversation about wider access to medicinal marijuana and how we can design a world’s best practice regulatory regime for New Zealand. The appropriate place for that is at the select committee, the Health Committee, that considers the Government bill that purports to establish that scheme.

I also, and this is very important, want the voices of those with chronic pain to be heard and listened to. Again, the right place for this is at select committee, and as part of designing a good regulatory regime we must listen to the thousands of New Zealanders out there who get therapeutic value from medicinal cannabis.

I thought Greg O’Connor made a very important point in his contribution to the debate. Let’s get this right, through the Government bill that sets up at least the starting point to, over the next couple of years, and I suspect beyond as well, through Government consultation and through engagement with this side of the House—because I think there is good-hearted support, as you’ve heard from members on the National side tonight, for a robust regulatory regime that allows people who gain therapeutic value from medicinal marijuana products to use them. But let’s get this right.

I’ll be looking to Bishop, Kaye and others to work hard on at least improving the Government bill. It’s the least they should do after failing to support the Swarbrick bill at least to Select Committee.

Full transcript of the first reading



  1. It’s worth noting that no NZ First MPs spoke either for or against the bill. The party copped out.

    • PDB

       /  February 1, 2018

      NZL First is the anchor around this new govt’s neck & elsewhere their support has slumped in the recent poll. Winston’s last term in parliament – best he make the most of it.

      As for the bill I think Kaye, Bishop etc sum the current situation up well.

    • Zedd

       /  February 1, 2018

      Actually their new NZF female MP (name ?) did speak on the bill.. mostly ‘For God’s sake think of the Children’ type rhetoric.. BUT I remember hearing another senior NZF MP on ‘back-benches’, last year saying she supported broader use & access. Obviously the ‘piss weak’ Govt. bill was more, what she had in mind ?!! 😦

      • Kevin

         /  February 1, 2018

        Someone should tell this MP that legalisation will actually *decrease* teen use.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  February 1, 2018

          How ? It wouldn’t have when I was a teenager !

          • Kevin

             /  February 1, 2018

            Because most people in their right mind would avoid selling to a teenager when there is a *legal* adult market they can sell to.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  February 1, 2018

              What about someone who’s 18 or 19 ? I was smoking dope at that age, as an undergraduate.

        • Griff

           /  February 1, 2018

          Teen Marijuana Use Down In Most Legalized States, Federal Data …

          Dec 11, 2017 – Contrary to fears raised by marijuana opponents, teen use of cannabis is trending downward in most states that have legalized it for adult use. According to new data from the federally-funded National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the percentage of Colorado teens who used marijuana in the …

  2. robertguyton

     /  February 1, 2018

    “Not allowing National MPs a conscience should weigh heavily on Bill English’s conscience.”
    Dream on, Pete. He’s a millstone around the country’s neck. Gone soon.

    • Ray

       /  February 1, 2018

      Good to see you have worked your way through your “John Key Syndrome ” Robert, just a bit worried you might have just swopped it for a “Bill English Syndrome “.

      Your guys are in charge now, enjoy your 3 years in the sun!

      • robertguyton

         /  February 1, 2018

        Key’s so “gone”, Ray. So’s English 🙂

  3. Gezza

     /  February 1, 2018

    Disappointed at Greg O’Connor. He’d indicated before the election that he’d been to the States to have a look at how a couple of their cannabis laws were working. The impression given was that he was more open to discussion about cannabis law reform. Turns out that was bullshit. Unlikely he’ll get my vote sgain.

    • Zedd

       /  February 1, 2018

      fyi Gezza

      G O’connor is still supporting ‘his union buddies’ (Police) who reportedly do not want a change to the status quo.. 15-20% rely on it for employment (The DRUG Squads)

      • Gezza

         /  February 1, 2018

        Well, I wasn’t too impressed with the way he got himself photographed gleefully smashing down poor old Andy’s election hoardings as soon as The New Queen was enthroned by Labour. And now this. I expected better of him. He’s a silly old duffer.

  4. Kevin

     /  February 1, 2018

    Obviously our politicians are still taking the red pill and think that keeping cannabis illegal is actually preventing misuse….

  5. Zedd

     /  February 1, 2018

    methinks; besides Chloe’s opening speech (to rapturous applause from public gallery), the next best speech, came from D Seymour. “Prohibition is a failure & forces sick people to resort to black-market/gangs’.. because ‘legal cannabis drugs’ are not funded by pharmac & cost >$1000/month currently.
    Will the Govt. bill really do anything, to address this ridiculous situation.. Illegal Herb, is cheaper than the current Legal alternative(s); Sativex (oral spray) & often much easier to source.

    In light of ‘Grey Power’ coming out, in support of Chloe’s/Green bill, why is it that the so-called ‘defenders of the Aged’ (NZF) voted against the bill & effectively stopped any further debate or public input (select committee) ? 😦

    The elephant in the room; recent polls 78% of kiwis support more access to cannabis/extracts etc. & yet 61% of MPs (the ‘house of Reps’) voted “NO !”

    some one famously said ‘for the answer to this & more.. follow the money’ (Big Pharma ?)

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  February 1, 2018

      I wish that people would find another cliche; the elephant one has been done to death.

  6. Zedd

     /  February 1, 2018

    btw; during the ‘debate’ I kept hearing the ‘naysayers’ attacking other jurisdictions (Canada, USA, EU, Aust, Israel etc.) who do have much better access & even ‘home grow’ option.. by saying ‘We need to learn from all their MISTAKES & be more cautious’ meanwhile these countries are getting on with allowing their citizens to get the relief they need, from Cannabis/cannabinoid extracts. The estimates are that under the Govt. bill nothing will likely change, for at least 2 years here.

    I was also annoyed to hear the attempts to ‘muddy the waters’ by saying ‘Cannabis is SO harmful & we dont want to make things worse, than they already are’
    They need to wake up & realise the current situation is a result of Prohibition & the Black-market, not cannabis use, which is totally unregulated & dominated by gangs etc. NOT ‘licensed medicinal growers’ as in other OECD countries.. most recently Australia

    • Griff

       /  February 1, 2018

      ‘We need to learn from all their MISTAKES & be more cautious’

      We dont care that the war on drugs is a massive failure that only serves to fund criminals and bring both the law and te police into disrepute .
      We are not doing anything to change because …..we are not yet forced to.

      • Kevin

         /  February 1, 2018

        The Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs so much as admitted that psychedelics such as LSD shouldn’t be Class A drugs. But because LSD has been a Class A drug for so long they can’t be bothered advising it be rescheduled.

        Kind of like finding out all those clinical trials were either wrong or flat-out fraudulent and cannabis doesn’t rot your brain if you use responsibly. But hey, we can’t be bothered descheduling it.

        An example of an erroneous study:


        This study resulted in harsh legislation aimed at punishing owners of venues where drugs such as ecstasy were used. And as far as I know the legislation was never repealed even after the study was found to be bogus.

        That’s Prohibition for you.

  7. Alan Wilkinson

     /  February 1, 2018

    The ancient art of politics – sound sympathetic while doing nothing.

  8. PartisanZ

     /  February 1, 2018

    They ain’t no ‘representatives’ of mine … nor of about 78% of the population …

    What little remains of ‘democracy’ in this system was dealt a real body-blow last night …

    National and NZFirst are totally gone-burger as far as I’m concerned … It will be very interesting to see the results of the next round of opinion polls …

    It’ll be “interesting” too see whether anything of any real substance can be resurrected from the Labour-led government’s Clayton’s MC Bill … somehow I doubt it …

    • Strong For Life

       /  February 1, 2018

      Labour did not back the Swarbrick bill either. Unfortunately, for the Greens they hitched their wagon to the wrong horse. They were not included in coalition talks and now have little say and will largely be ignored by Labour and NZ First… just like days of yore. When will the Greens learn? They sold out over the Kermadecs to Winston’s fishing interests. They are going to sell out over the Waka Jumpers Bill. Hypocrites all.

      • robertguyton

         /  February 1, 2018

        Hypocrites? Bullsh*t.

      • Zedd

         /  February 1, 2018


        ‘Labour did not back the Swarbrick bill either.’

        I understand 38 of 46 Labour MPs did vote for the bill, plus 8 Greens & 1 ACT = 47
        MEANwhile; 56 Nat’l MPs plus 9 NZF MPs & only 8 Lab. MPs =73 voted “NO”

        enuf sed ! 😦

  9. Robert

     /  February 6, 2018

    How else can I contact you Chloe? Hoping my story might help pass the bill a little

  10. Robert Perham

     /  February 6, 2018

    Ok I may as well put it out there and deal with the backlash later. My daughter suffers from Nerofibromatosis, scoliosis and noonan syndrome. Neurofrbromatosis being the dominant condition and the one that causes the most pain. She has 3 tumours attached to the base of her spine which are attached to a nerve in her left leg and it’s here where she experiences the most pain. She is on Gabapentin and Amytriptiline, these are common among those with NF but they don’t actually work and now they want to increase her dosage? Have tried many alternative medicines but to no avail. A few months ago I was given CBD cream for her to try and for the first time in a few years we found something that has stopped the pain. We stopped for a while just to make sure it wasn’t just a coincidence but the pain came back not long thereafter. It may well be illegal but I don’t really care. Maybe those who do care about what I’m doing if you could spend the night with my 12 year old when she’s in agony and keeps asking me what else I can give her to stop the pain and I don’t have an answer maybe you can tell her what the best course of action is. Kiaora