Another poll supports medical cannabis

A UMR poll commissioned by cannabis lobby group Start The Conversation shows strong public support for medical cannabis, in line with other polls.

“Should Parliament change the laws of New Zealand so that patients have safe legal access to affordable medicinal cannabis and cannabis products when prescribed by a licensed doctor?”

  • Supported 76%
  • Opposed 12%
  • Undecided 12%

Only 15% of National voters were opposed.

“Should Parliament change the laws of New Zealand so that natural cannabis and medicinal cannabis products are treated as herbal remedies when used therapeutically?”

  • Supported 61%
  • Opposed 24%
  • Undecided 15%

NZ Doctor: New UMR poll shows overwhelming support for medical cannabis law change, says NORML

The poll was conducted by UMR for Start the Conversation from 29th July to 17th August 2016.

The poll will be used by the group, which includes representatives of NORML, to decide whether to proceed with organising a cannabis law reform referendum to coincide with next year’s general election.

URM’s previous cannabis poll in March 2016 reported that 72% of respondents agreed with “the use of marijuana being allowed for medical purposes”.

Chris Fowlie, spokesperson for the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML NZ Inc:

“John Key thinks cannabis law reform sends the wrong message, yet NORML’s message is getting through. Most New Zealanders now know cannabis is not only safer than alcohol but is also an effective remedy for a variety of conditions, and they want the law to change.”

“The message John Key needs to hear is that very few people support the status quo, including National Party voters, and he ignores them at his own peril,” said Mr Fowlie.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

  • Start The Conversation is a group representing cannabis and community activists, researchers and policy analysts throughout New Zealand, including NORML, Helen Kelly, Prof Max Abbott, Dr Geoff Noller, The Cannabis Party, Medical Cannabis Awareness NZ, It’s Medicine (Rose Renton), MildGreens and more. Start The Conversation organised a cannabis debate at the Auckland Town Hall in June, which led to this poll, and is holding its next community forum in Whangarei on Saturday 17th September.
  • Chris Fowlie is NORML’s spokesperson and a candidate for the Waitakere Licensing Trust in this year’s local body elections. He is running on a ticket of “Regulate Cannabis Like Alcohol”, and says under the current law the Trust could run Cannabis Social Clubs for medicinal and/or research purposes. As with West Auckland liquor sales, any profits would be returned to the community.
  • The UMR poll is available here: Changing Marijuana laws Jul-16.pptx

NZ Herald: Another poll shows strong support for medicinal cannabis reform

The poll was commissioned by Start the Conversation, a medicinal cannabis lobby group. The group includes Helen Kelly, a former CTU president who has been campaigning for medicinal cannabis after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Kelly said the campaign group would use the poll to decide whether to try and force a Citizens Initiated Referendum on the issue during the election in 2017.

“Politicians now have the choice. Force those who are mainly unwell to collect signatures simply so the public will be believed or act quickly and with mercy and fix this mess up so people like me and many others have safe and legal guaranteed access.”

Dr Geoff Noller, an independent cannabis policy researcher who is part of Start the Conversation, said the poll showed there was little political risk involved in making a change because New Zealanders were ready for reform.

Parliament impeding social reform

An advantage of MMP and it’s moderating effect on policies can turn into a disadvantage when it comes to social reforms that have a lot of popular public support. There are several current reform issues that our Members of Parliament (our representatives) are very reluctant to deal with.

Barry Soper points out that Parliament the problem stopping social reform.

The problem with Parliament and social reform is that is that it’s wrested in the hands of too few people. And there’s a lot of reform itching to get out of the political starting blocks.

Cannabis law reform’s one area that’s unlikely to see the light of day with the current crop.

Labour’s Andrew Little appeared recently to warm to the idea in an interview with student radio but then appeared to back track when it made it on to the mainstream media platform indicating it wasn’t a priority.

There’s no way it’s going to be a starter with John Key who’s vehemently opposed and his associate health spokesman Peter Dunne’s not disposed either.

That’s perhaps unfair to Dunne who seems intent on pushing things as far as he can within the current laws (especially with medicinal cannabis) that National seem to have no intention of allowing and relaxation.

Parliament is at least listening on euthanasia, but whether this will lead to taking a serious look at reform is yet to be seen.

In the meantime people, like the desperately ill former trade union leader Helen Kelly, puffs away on black market weed while the cops rightly turn a blind eye.

And while they’re puffing their way to a less painful death, the politicians are at the moment hearing submissions on whether the desperately ill should be allowed to end it all through assisted suicide.

The death last year of Wellington lawyer Lecretia Seales who was suffering from brain cancer, just after a High Court denied her plea for an assisted death because it was a matter for Parliament to decide, wasn’t in vain.

An inquiry into euthanasia’s underway but don’t hold your breath that it’ll lead to change, again because the power wrests in the hands of too few.

Even though John Key supported the last Parliamentary ballot on the issue 13 years ago, which was lost by just two votes, he’s not willing to promote a Government bill on the topic to allow MPs to exercise their consciences.

Labour’s on the same side with Little instructing one of his MP’s voluntary euthanasia bill to be dropped musing it was about “choosing the controversies that are best for us at this point in time.”

So the two major parties are not willing to step up on considering social reform that is very important to many people.

Now it would seem the only hope for those who want the right to die with dignity, at a time of their own choosing, is ACT’s David Seymour’s bill which is sitting gathering dust, waiting to be drawn from a ballot, which of course may never happen.

The terminally ill would argue it’s not a question of when they die, it’s how they die. But at the moment those who have the power to possibly make it easier for them have other more important issues, like the plain packaging of cigarettes, to deal with.

And whether airports have to advertise lost property in newspapers or not. That was a National MP’s bill drawn from the Members’ ballot while Seymour’s somewhat more important Dying With Dignity bill gets nowhere.

Social reform can be very contentious but there needs to be a better way of a dealing with important social issues without them being swept under the parliamentary carpet by gutless, self interested politicians.

It doesn’t mean social reforms will happen, that should depend on proper inquiry and majority public approval, but they should at least be given a decent chance.

The Nation – bad Havelock water, good Helen Kelly

On The Nation today, the bad water in Havelock North:

The gastro outbreak in Havelock North is the worst in 30 years… so who’s to blame and what happens now? talks to Lawrence Yule And Massey University ecologist Mike Joy on how to stop something like this happening again

Yule says the Council has “no idea” how the fecal matter got into the bores, and the bores are still testing postive for e-coli

Yule says it wasn’t clear to him until Saturday how many people had become ill.

And Helen Kelly:

. talks to about her campaigns for workers’ rights, medical marijuana & why she won’t be writing a bucket list

What went wrong in Havelock North’s water supply? talks to Hasting mayor Lawrence Yule

Ecologist Mike Joy on the water crisis in Havelock North. How can we stop it happening again?

on workers’ rights, medicinal cannabis, and much more. Our very special full IV here:

Clear majority supports cannabis change

A poll commissioned by the NZ Drug Foundation on cannabis shows a clear majority supporting growing and using cannabis for medical purposes, including a majority of supporters of all of National, Labour, Greens and NZ First.

Growing or using for a medical reason like pain relief:

  • Keep illegal 16%
  • Decriminalise 16%
  • Make legal 63%

There was slightly more support fro ‘make legal’ – 66% – if a terminal illness was involved.

Results on possession for personal use are more mixed but still with a clear majority of 64% wanting change.

Possession of a small amount for personal use:

 

  • Keep illegal 34%
  • Decriminalise 31%
  • Make legal 33%

Full results:

150816cannabisonline

The poll of 1029 respondents ran from July 18 to August 2 and has a margin of error of 3.1 per cent.

However chances of change look non-existent under a National Government, even though a majority of National voters support change.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has said that the Government is clear on its position – that leaf cannabis would remain illegal.

This is political speak for ‘National refuse to go there’.

And don’t expect much from Labour either. Last week Andrew Little told a student radio station that Labour could hold a referendum but later backed off that position.

Newshub: Where does Labour stand on decriminalising cannabis?

In the interview with Salient FM on Tuesday he was asked to clarify his stance.

Asked “so you will possibly have a referendum?” he replied: “Yeah, we want to make sure that there’s a good information campaign about it and have a referendum about it and let people decide.”

When asked how much of a priority it was, Mr Little said it wouldn’t be in his first 100 days.

“[It] may not even be in the first term but it would be something I’d be happy to see at some point in our term of government.”

But today he’s backpedalling.

“I’ve been very clear, it’s not a priority, I’ve got no commitment to make about it; it’s not a priority,” he told Newshub.

Would Greens force the issue with Labour? How hard Greens pushed Labour for change on cannabis law would show how serious they are. It is Green policy but tends to be ‘not a priority’ with them as well.

‘Not a priority’ is political speak for ‘we want to look like we support it but don’t want to actually do anything about it’.

 

Medicinal cannabis available in NSW

Medical cannabis products can bow be prescribed by doctors in New South Wales.

ODT:  Medicinal cannabis allowed in NSW

Business Insider Australia has more detail in Doctors in NSW can prescribe cannabis from today:

Seriously ill people can be prescribed cannabis-based medicines in New South Wales under changes to the law that come into effect today.

The medicines were only available under clinical trials up until now, but NSW premier Mike Baird says doctors can now consider them for patients who have exhausted existing treatment options.

“This change increases the options available for doctors as it means a broader range of cannabis-based medicines can be prescribed – while we continue our evidence-based research looking further into the role medicinal cannabis can play,” Baird said.

Applications from prescribing doctors will be assessed by the Commonwealth Therapeutic Goods Administration, and by a committee of medical experts on behalf of NSW Health before they can be used.

Applications from prescribing doctors will be assessed by the Commonwealth Therapeutic Goods Administration, and by a committee of medical experts on behalf of NSW Health before they can be used.

More information on what the NSW Government is doing with Cannabis and Cannabis Products for Therapeutic Purposes


The NSW Government is committed to developing a better understanding of the potential for cannabis and/or cannabis products to alleviate symptoms or potentially treat a range of debilitating or terminal illnesses.

Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation

To help further our understanding of cannabis and cannabis-derived substances for therapeutic purposes, the NSW Government has announced the establishment of the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation.

Clinical trials of cannabis products

The NSW Government is investing $9 million over the next five years on clinical trials of cannabis products. The trials will explore the use of cannabis and/or cannabis products in providing relief for patients suffering from severe paediatric epilepsy, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and for symptom relief for those with terminal illness.

Terminal Illness Cannabis Scheme

The Terminal Illness Cannabis Scheme is separate to the terminal illness clinical trial.

The Scheme provides guidelines for NSW police officers to assist them in determining appropriate circumstances in which to use their discretion not to charge adults with terminal illness who use cannabis and/or carers who assist them.

Guidance for medical practitioners has also been developed to assist when patients are seeking medical certification to access the Scheme.

See Terminal Illness Cannabis Scheme for more information.

Treasury: alcohol and tobacco more harm than cannabis

A Treasury document obtained after an OIA request be a Nelson lawyer gives estimated costs of policing cannabis and potential tax revenue, and says that “the harm caused by alcohol and tobacco was much worse than what’s caused by drugs like cannabis”.

NZ Herald: Cannabis tax could be $150m

An internal Treasury document on New Zealand’s drug policy shows the Government could be earning $150 million from taxing cannabis and saving taxpayers $400 million through reduced policing costs.

The brainstorming notes, from 2013, have been publicly released after an Official Information Act request from Nelson lawyer Sue Grey to Finance Minister Bill English.

Grey said the notes confirmed what was well-known in other sectors – that the harm caused by alcohol and tobacco was much worse than what’s caused by drugs like cannabis.

Relative harm of alcohol and tobacco compared to cannabis is fairly well known.

Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell agreed, saying the reason there’s been no action is because politicians are too scared to talk about the “taboo” subject of drugs.

He said we should be willing to look at alternatives for New Zealand and admit, as the Treasury notes do, that the current system isn’t working.

Bell said the notes stated prohibition wasn’t working and cannabis was not a gateway drug.

He said while politicians did not like talking about drug policy, they were now misreading the public mood and people were ready to have this discussion.

I don’t think the National party and it’s leaders care about the public mood on cannabis. They simply don’t want to address the obvious issues and public sentiment.

English said the brainstorm notes were merely a discussion and were not official Treasury opinion.

That’s disappointing but predictable fobbing off by English. The document wasn’t anyone’s opinion, it was stating well known facts, and estimated costs and potential revenue.

It was advice that English and National don’t want to hear because they don’t want to do anything about the large cannabis problem.

Both medical cannabis products and recreational use are issues with growing profiles. Ignoring public opinion may be costly for National – as a third term Government they are facing rising dissatisfaction with a failure to take seriously issues of public significance.

It’s quite possible that next election cannabis could be the toke that breaks the Government’s back.

Cannabis as a gateway drug

From Start the Conversation (Facebook):


It is cannabis prohibition which forces users to associate with the illicit drug black market, rather than the use of cannabis itself, that often serves as a doorway to the world of hard drugs.

The more users become integrated in an environment where, apart from cannabis, hard drugs can also be obtained, the greater the chances they will experiment with harder drugs.‪#‎StartTheConversation‬

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The problems with medicinal cannabis

Only minor changes have been made to Ministry of health guidelines for approval of use of cannabis-based products – see Minor MOH changes on cannabis based products.

This leaves medicinal cannabis in a bit of a catch-22 situation – until products can be proven to be effective and safe they won’t be approved, but until they are used and properly assessed their effectiveness and safety will remain unknown.

Stuff reports: Guidelines for applying for medicinal cannabis barely touched following review

The feedback from the review was “unanimously supportive that the guidelines and process are sound,” Dunne said.

His position of a “robust and scientific” approach to cannabis has not changed, which means “identifying the greatest therapeutic benefits and determining the most appropriate ratios, dosage and delivery mechanisms”.

“Otherwise we are essentially flying blind and hoping for the best, an approach that flies in the face of evidence-based medicines policy.

“The consistent feedback from experts in their field was that cannabis-based products should be treated no differently to other medicines – evidence-based principles should and will continue to be followed”.

New Zealand will have to wait until adequate testing of cannabis based products has been done overseas.

In general this is a sound approach, the Ministry should not approve untested or unknown products.

However cannabis is already widely used in new Zealand, and cannabis based medical products are legally available in other countries and notably in some states of the USA, like California and Oregon (where all cannabis use is legal).

It has also been found to be legal to bring a month’s supply of prescribed cannabis based medicine into New Zealand.

So annoyance and frustration and anger here are easy to understand and empathise with.

This situation has left Helen Kelly, like others, in a situation where she is openly breaking the law.

Terminally ill Helen Kelly says the Government has made her a “criminal” after a review of medicinal cannabis guidelines ended with little change.

Kelly continues to illegally source her own drugs after her bid for medicinal cannabis was withdrawn – the result of a “complicated” application process, which required information that was “impossible to access”.

“I’ve been left to buy my own cancer treatment and take illegal cannabis – the whole system is stuffed.”

I can understand why she thinks the whole system is stuffed, I’d probably feel the same way if I was in a similar situation to her.

And I’d probably break the law too if I thought that illegal but available products would help easy pain and discomfort better than legal products.

The Police appear to be turning a blind eye to  Kelly’s use of cannabis product despite her openness, and it would look awful if they arrested a dying person, but it but this leaves the law looking like an ass.

It’s also understandable that the Ministry of Health and Dunne are unwilling to approve unproven medical products – it would look bad (and would be bad) if they approved one that turned out to be inappropriate or unsafe.

There seems to be no sensible solution in sight in the foreseeable future.

Minor MOH changes on cannabis based products

The Ministry of health has made minor changes to guidelines for medicinal cannabis applications.

Changes to terminology around applications for cannabis-based products

The Ministry of Health has made changes to terminology used in its descriptions of and applications for cannabis-based products.

These changes are visible on the Ministry’s website, where the previously used description medicinal cannabis has been replaced by cannabis-based products.

Additionally, the previously used term criteria has been replaced byguidelines to better reflect how applications in this area are assessed.

Forms used during the application process for such products have been changed to incorporate the new description.

The changes do not impact on the legal status of cannabis or any cannabis-based products.

They have been made to provide more clarity and consistency in describing cannabis-based products, when compared to other products or substances in the area of medicines control.

More information is available on the Prescribing cannabis-based products page.

Additionally, the Ministry is today publishing a document which it believes may be of public interest. The document outlines external consultation which recently took place on the guidelines used to assess applications to prescribe cannabis-based products.

Included is an amendment to the guidelines which means that a patient no longer needs to be hospitalised when treatment with a non-pharmaceutical grade cannabis-based product is initiated:

Stuff reports: Guidelines for applying for medicinal cannabis barely touched following review

Almost no changes have been made to guidelines for people applying for medicinal cannabis –  a process that failed to deliver pain relief for former union boss Helen Kelly.

The guidelines were introduced last year after Nelson teenager, Alex Renton, successfully applied to Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne for a cannabis product, Elixinol.

Those guidelines were subsequently used by Kelly, former Council of Trade Unions boss, who criticised the process for being too complicated and requiring information that is “impossible to access”.

Kelly was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer more than a year ago – she is illegally sourcing her own cannabis for pain relief.

The feedback from the review was “unanimously supportive that the guidelines and process are sound,” Dunne said.

His position of a “robust and scientific” approach to cannabis has not changed, which means “identifying the greatest therapeutic benefits and determining the most appropriate ratios, dosage and delivery mechanisms”.

“Otherwise we are essentially flying blind and hoping for the best, an approach that flies in the face of evidence-based medicines policy.

“It is my hope that by releasing this feedback it will go some way to balancing out the irresponsible and ill-informed messages being passed off as fact, and provide a degree of reassurance to those who are genuinely looking for respite to significant health issues,” he said.

 

 

Labour will legalise medical cannabis

In a Q&A with Tracy Watkins at Stuff today Andrew Little said that Labour would legalise medical cannabis “pretty quickly” after taking office.

We would legalise medicinal cannabis – Labour leader

Labour will legislate for medicinal cannabis “pretty quickly” after taking office, leader Andrew Little has confirmed.

Little said cannabis products should be available to anyone suffering chronic pain or a terminal condition if their GP signed off on it.

Labour MP Damien O’Connor has drafted a bill for Parliament that would shift the onus of decision making on medicinal cannabis away from the minister to GPs and medical professionals.

Little said Labour would pass O’Connor’s law “pretty quickly” after the next election, should it win.

Good news, but it’s not his top priority: “When I’m Prime Minister what I’ll do first? Change a law or something. Ram healthy homes bill through without any further consultation.”

However the wider issue of \recreational cannabis looks to be way down the priority list.

But on the wider issue of decriminalising cannabis, he wanted to see more evidence.

“I don’t have a moral thing about recreational drugs…my own experience of dealing with it as an issue was when I was a union lawyer, when employers started to do drug and alcohol testing and I did a lot of work on that.

“The medical evidence that came back to me overwhelmingly was that a lot of the cannabis available in New Zealand had very high THC (mind altering substance tetrahydrocannabinol) levels. For brains that are still developing in their late teens and early 20s cannabis use even to a modest degree can still cause long term brain damage. So I’d want to know we are addressing that real risk to that issue.”

At least dealing with medical cannabis will be a good start.

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