Cannabidiol (CBD) can now be prescribed by doctors

A small but important step towards making it easier to access the medicinal cannabis extract cannabidiol (CBD), which is a non-hallucinogenic extract and believed to be beneficial for a number of ailments and for pain relief.

There are very few products available in New Zealand, but was they become available the way is clear for doctors to prescribe them. Currently approval has to be sought through the Ministry of Health.

Australia has already dome something similar so it will allow New Zealand to access the same CBD based drugs that become available in Australia.

Peter Dunne has driven this, getting the approval of the National dominated Cabinet.

Beehive notice:


Government to ease restrictions on Cannabidiol

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne says New Zealand is to remove restrictions around cannabidiol (CBD), in line with international developments.

CBD is a substance found in cannabis that has potential therapeutic value. It has little or no psychoactive properties, yet it is currently a controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

“At present CBD products for therapeutic use are only available if approval is given by the Ministry of Health.

“I have taken advice from the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs (EACD) that CBD should not be a controlled drug and am pleased Cabinet has now accepted my recommendation to make this change.  Therefore, I am now taking steps to remove restrictions accordingly.

“In practical terms, the changes mean CBD would be able to be prescribed by a doctor to their patient and supplied in a manner similar to any other prescription medicine.

“Australia has already taken a similar step while other countries are also responding to emerging evidence that CBD has a low risk of harm when used therapeutically.

“This change is about future-proofing access to CBD products, as the reality is that there will continue to be barriers beyond New Zealand’s control to people accessing such products from overseas,” says Mr Dunne.

Currently there is a limited range of CBD products made to a standard where prescribers can be sure the products contains what is claimed – and strict import and export restrictions on products sourced from other countries, which will continue to impact the supply of CBD products in New Zealand.

“However, we do know of at least one CBD product in development made to high manufacturing standards that will contain two per cent or less of the other cannabinoids found in cannabis,” said Mr Dunne.

The changes will include removing requirements for:

  • Ministerial approval to prescribe;
  • pharmacies, prescribers, and wholesalers to have an import licence, and to meet certain requirements for storage, and the maintaining of controlled drug records and stock keeping.

Prescriptions would be allowed for up to three months’ supply, rather than one month. These measures can be achieved by amending the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 1977 in the first instance, pending any future amendment of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

English dumps on cannabis proposals

Last week Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne suggested that the poorly working laws on cannabis need to be changed.

Stuff: Peter Dunne says ‘Class C’ drugs like cannabis should be made legal and regulated

Our current law isn’t stopping New Zealanders from using drugs.

This year’s Global Drug Survey quizzed 3795 Kiwis about their drug habits. Of them, 70.8 per cent said they’d used illegal drugs in the past, with 42.7 per cent using them in the past 12 months, and 13.6 per cent in the last month.

For some time now, Dunne’s been talking up the merits of Portugal’s drug laws, where every drug is decriminalised – albeit with a caveat: If you’re caught with less than 10 days of any drug – cannabis, heroin, methamphetamine, or anything in between – you won’t be prosecuted. Instead, you’ll be fined or sent to treatment.

While some dump on Dunne whenever he mentions cannabis he has been doing more than any other politician in trying to fix drug laws that are clearly failing.

The main impediment has been the dominant National Party position on cannabis.

Rather than creating a free-for-all, Portugal saw its people’s drug use slump: in the 1990s, one in every 100 people in Portugal was addicted to heroin; since then, overall drug use has dropped 75 per cent.

Dunne wants to see that replicated in New Zealand.

“I think the full Portuguese solution, personally, might be the way for us to go long term. That might be where we head,” he says.

“I don’t think that’s necessarily where it ends, because you still have the problem – particularly in New Zealand – of the production and distribution being by the gangs, which is illegal, and all that sort of conflict.”

This is supported by experts.

Medical anthropologist Geoff Noller explains why Portugal’s model works: “I think it removes the sexy factor, because [drugs become] just another thing, and it allows people to be educated about it”.

“Because it’s not illegal anymore, we can actually talk about it. It’s very hard to have rational, truthful education and information about safe use [when] you can’t. If you remove it from this big shadow of evilness, then you can actually start talking about it.”

While a “complete rewrite” of the Misuse of Drugs Act is expected over the next three years, it’s not clear whether that kind of shake-up would feature – although the Drug Foundation would hope so.

“The sky doesn’t fall in when you do a Portugal-style reform,” executive director Ross Bell says.

“Decriminalise all drugs, stop it from being a law enforcement issue, make it a health issue and invest in health. We should be able to do this by 2020.”

But not by all experts.

However, Otago University psychiatry lecturer Dr Giles Newton-Howes is on the fence.

He says the idea of being rehabilitative instead of punitive “makes a lot of sense”, but he’d want to see more evidence of the treatment outcomes before signing New Zealand up.

“I would be cautiously interested in seeing how that Portugal experiment evolves. I wouldn’t want New Zealand to be running down that road yet, because there are lots of drugs which are really not very safe, especially for the developing brain.

“I’m not convinced that that’s a safe road for us to be going down just yet, but I do think it’s something we should be keeping a really close eye on.”

But New Zealand is lagging other countries in addressing a failing ‘war on drugs’, especially drugs causing less harm than alcohol.

Cannabis lobby group Norml welcomes the idea of putting the drug under Psychoactive Substances Act: in fact, it came up with it.

“When we were making our views known when the law was being drafted, that was always our objective, to have it so natural cannabis and other low-risk drugs can go through there too,” Norml president Chris Fowlie says.

While he says “any form of law reform” would be better than the current law, Norml would prefer legalisation to decriminalisation.

Bell agrees Dunne’s plan for cannabis “has a whole lot of merit”.

“The classification of low-risk drugs like cannabis, with a real strong public health focus, I think, is an inevitability.”

Newshub: Expert backs MP’s call for rewrite of drug laws

A drug expert is urging the Government to seriously consider an MP’s case for legalising Class C drugs.

United Future Leader Peter Dunne wants drugs like cannabis to be legalised, saying this might actually help cut down the nation’s use.

“The test is evidence based around the risk posed to the user… there are clear controls on the manufacture, sale and distribution of any such products that might be approved.”

Associate Professor Chris Wilkins of Massey University says it might not be a bad idea.

“I think New Zealand needs to start having a serious discussion and develop some evidence and get some expert opinion about where we should be heading, rather than just taking a kneejerk reaction that might come out of an election or a particular politician’s approach.”

Prof Wilkins says he’s been working on a draft regulatory model that will be released in the next week.

“It’s important that some of the money from the cannabis industry gets earmarked for drug treatment, for drug prevention. The model we’ve been working on goes down that route.”

Other countries are looking at reform.

New Zealand wouldn’t need to reinvent the wheel either, with several other countries years ahead in decriminalisation.

“Eight states in the US have legalised the supply and use of cannabis. Canada will legalise use and supply this year. There are a lot of innovative approaches out there, so I think it’s something definitely we could discuss and debate.”

But, while some younger National MPs support drug law reform, the current Government under Bill English is digging it’s toes in, and keeping it’s head in the sand.

From @TheAMShowNZ

Bill English says they don’t support Peter Dunne’s idea for licensed manufacturers to test and sell class C drugs like marijuana.

“we don’t want to create more damage”

It’s hard to see how more damage can be created by the current mess of law and police practice.

So the prospects of drug law reform in New Zealand don’t look good. Even if National loose the election Labour have said “it is not a priority” meaning they don’t want to propose anything that could be controversial or contentious (that approach has failed them so far).

Unless something can be negotiated as part of a coalition arrangement.

Dunne may not be an MP after the election. If he survives his one vote is unlikely to hold much power.

ACT don’t look like having more than one voter either at this stage.

The Maori Party have said they would consider drug law changes but I doubt they would make it a part of any coalition agreement.

The Greens are possibly the only party that are likely to have enough votes and enough sway to force the issue – if they are willing to back many years of supposed support for drug law reform.

Misuse of drugs is a major factor in ‘poverty’ and imprisonment problems, things the Greens think need addressing.

That’s for sure.

Drug policy proposals

Drug policy proposals that the NZ Drug Foundation responded to with “This aligns with our thinking (which we are going to canvass at the symposium).


The 2015 National Drug Policy introduced a number of specific actions to reinforce the central message that drug issues are primarily health, not legal, issues, and foreshadowed a major rewrite of our creaking 1975 Misuse of Drugs Act during the next term of Parliament, once these actions have been completed.

…now is the time to be looking at what that next set of steps might be. I envisage a two-stage process.

First, we should move to an overall approach similar to the full Portuguese model, where the cultivation and possession of all drugs remains illegal, and all drug users are referred for assessment and treatment, but where there is a tolerance exercised for the possession of what are essentially Class C drugs under the current Misuse of Drugs Act. In that event, persons caught with – say – no more than the equivalent of one week’s personal supply would be referred directly to treatment rather the Courts, in an extension of our current diversion scheme.

This would require significant additional investment in the provision of assessment and treatment services, but that makes far more sense than investing similar amounts more in the Courts and prison services for the same purpose. At the same time, it would free up more Police resources to concentrate on catching the criminals behind the New Zealand drugs scene.

The second stage of the process, when the Misuse of Drugs Act is rewritten, would be to transfer the current Schedule of Class C Drugs from that Act to the Psychoactive Substances Act.

This would mean that they would be regulated the same way as synthetic substances, where the test is evidence based around the risk posed to the user, and where there are clear controls on the manufacture, sale and distribution of any such products that might be approved.

For its part, the Psychoactive Substances Authority would be required to determine an alternative to animal testing – the prohibition of which is what currently prevents that Act from working fully.

One issue that is often properly raised in the context of drug law reform is the role of the gangs as producers and distributors of drugs like cannabis. It is argued with some validity that legalising cannabis would legalise the criminal activities of the gangs and deliver them total control, something none of us are in favour of.

But, the Psychoactive Substances Act provides a way of resolving this issue. Under the Act, before a product can be submitted for testing, the producer first has to have been granted a “fit and proper person” licence.

No criminal organisation will be ever meet that standard or be granted such a licence, which would completely exclude the gangs. Instead, we would have a regulated market for all drugs, synthetic or otherwise, that the Psychoactive Substances Authority considers pose a low risk to users. The possession and supply of all other drugs would remain illegal, and the law would take its course.

The approach UnitedFuture proposes therefore has three key components:

  • mandatory and comprehensive treatment for everyone caught with drugs;
  • a pragmatic approach to anyone caught with minor amounts of low level drugs;
  • shutting the criminals out of the cannabis industry.

As such, it fits four square with the compassionate, innovative and proportionate approach drug policy I have long advocated.


It should be obvious now that this proposal is from Peter Dunne – I left his name out of it in the introduction to try to get people to read this with an open mind.

All options and opinions should be on the table when it comes to reviewing our drug laws, and while Dunne cops a lot of flak from those who want drug laws liberfalised and modernised he has more knowledge and expertise than most on what doesn’t work, what might work and what is possible politically in New Zealand.

Morgan message on J Day

The annual J Day was held on Saturday.

Norml: J Day this Saturday 6 May, nationwide cannabis law reform events

J Day is a worldwide protest against prohibition and a celebration of Kiwi cannabis culture, held on the first Saturday in May every year. This Saturday is the 26th Annual national day of action supporting cannabis law reform, including safe legal access to medicinal cannabis.

To mark the occasion NORML and our cannabis law reform colleagues organise free events nationwide. J Day is where supporters of cannabis law reform can meet like minded people, relax without fear, learn how they can help make cannabis legal, join their local group and meet other cannabis advocates.

“With an election soon it is important people show their support,” said J Day’s national coordinator Chris Fowlie, of Auckland. “For the first time there are multiple parties contesting the election who advocate for cannabis law reform. The Greens have been joined by Labour and the Maori Party, as well as ACT, TOP and the Cannabis Party. Even United Future is on the side of reform!”

“We agree cannabis should be a health issue, not a crime, and there are too many cannabis users to arrest.”

Gareth Morgan of TOP (The Opportunities Party) has given a message to mark the occasion:

Sorry I can’t be with you on J Day, which is a bit of a shame because it’s very significant one this year for us.

We are about to produce a policy on cannabis law reform.

We have looked at the issues around this subject and the big one is harm.

We have to minimise harm and it’s pretty clear from all the evidence that, particularly internationally, that prohibition is not the way to go if you want to minimise harm from use of this drug. be produced and under what restrictions, what pricing, all that sort of stuff.

Pretty exciting times and I look forward to being back with you in a couple of weeks when we do produce this policy and I think you will find that it’s both exciting and a big step forward in terms of minimising the harm of cannabis. All the best.

There is growing pressure on Parliament and on parties to address the problems caused by current laws and current application of laws on cannabis.

Morgan and TOP will help to promote that pressure.

Prohibition has driven synthetic drugs

Prohibition of drugs, especially the relatively low-harm natural cannabis, has driven the creation of a huge number of ‘legal highs’ or ‘novel psychoactive substances’ (NPS) – the European Drug Monitoring Center has identified more than 602 different NPS, with 101 new NPS emerging during 2014.

Transform: Prohibiting drugs has ironically only created more drugs: the world against the NPS problem

The ‘legal’ NPS market has largely emerged in response to demand for the effect the drugs provide in the context of historic prohibitions on such products. When legal products arrive that compare favourably to their illegal counterparts in terms of effect, risk, quality and price—it is unsurprising that they become popular, and can, to some extent, displace some illegal drugs.

This phenomenon, and the specific challenges created by the rapid emergence of multiple NPS with unknown risk profiles occurs largely because of the lack of legal availability of more familiar and well understood drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy/MDMA and even cocaine.

Drug prohibition has pushed the creation of legal alternatives, which are a safer way to make money but generally a less safe way to use drugs.

There would have been, for example, no demand in Western markets for the synthetic NPS cannabis mimics if their(much safer and less potent) natural cousin had been legally available.

If the last 50 years teach us anything it is that whilst demand remains for a particular drug (or drug effect), the profit opportunity created means that the market will always find a way to meet it—whether legal or illegal.

Most countries have been slow to recognise this and deal with it more effectively.

Just as the emergence of NPS is an unintended consequence of historic prohibitions, so prohibiting a particular NPS can then have significant unintended consequences. Especially when demand for a given substance has been established, a ban is likely to have one or more of the following impacts;

  • Creating a void in the legal NPS market into which one or more new substance will move (the net health impacts of which are impossible to predict);
  • Diverting users back to the illegal substances the NPS are likely to have been a substitute for (exposing users to the risk of the illegal market and criminalisation over and above the risks of the drug use);
  • or leading to the emergence of criminal market for the formerly legal NPS—in which it is likely that the quality (in terms of purity and reliability) of the product decreases and the cost increases.

All of these phenomena have been witnessed with attempts to ban successive waves of NPS in Western markets.

Attempts to ban new variants as they appeared was tried unsuccessfully in New Zealand.

The NPS phenomenon therefore presents a huge challenge for policy makers. The unregulated legal markets for NPS are clearly not acceptable, but at the same time it seems clear that prohibitions will, as so often before, only make things worse.

There is, therefore, an urgent need to explore regulated market options that occupy the middle ground between total prohibition and unregulated free markets.

We tried to do this in New Zealand with a new approach that was observed with interest by other countries.

This is the road taken by New Zealand which in 2013 passed the ‘Psychoactive Substances Act’, which allows certain “lower- risk” NPS to be legally produced and sold within a strict regulatory framework.

The new law puts the onus on producers to establish the risks of the products they wish to sell, as well as mandating a minimum purchase age of 18; a ban on advertising, except at point of sale; restrictions on which outlets can sell NPS products; and labelling and packaging requirements.

But after passing legislation the Government buckled under public and media pressure.

The New Zealand government stated: “We are doing this because the current situation is untenable. Current legislation is ineffective in dealing with the rapid growth in synthetic psychoactive substances which can be tweaked to be one step ahead of controls. Products are being sold without any controls over their ingredients, without testing requirements, or controls over where they can be sold”.

The new law remains in place, but has run into a number of technical challenges – crucially, how to establish ‘“low-risk” harm thresholds without using animal testing – as well as political opposition. As yet no NPS are regulated under the system – but it has at least demonstrated that another way is possible.

After the legislation came into effect, leaving some NPS legally available media publicity about the perceptions created by concentrating availability in much fewer outlets led to political pressure and the Government wimped out.

But this only came about because successive governments and just about every political party (with the exception of the Cannabis Party (ALCP) have kept wimping out over addressing the bigger problem – that continuing prohibition on far less risky drugs, especially cannabis is driving the use of NPS.

And prohibition of cannabis is likely to be a factor in the increased use of harder and far more addictive drugs like methamphetamine.

Methamphetamine is an extremely addictive, powerful stimulant. It produces wakefulness, hyperactivity and a euphoric effect. Methamphetamine is also known as speed, pure, P, burn, goey, crank, meth, crystal, ice and yaba.

Importers, producers and distributors of illegal drugs are taking a risk, so it figures that they will try to make as much money as they can to make the risk worth it.

And drug users are also taking a risk. With cannabis being illegal it will make it easier to push susceptible people onto harder drugs like P – profit margins are far higher, with the bonus of it being easy to addict customers to the products, so casual users become regular self abusers.

Hard drug addicts often resort to crime to finance their habits. Pushers don’t care about this, just as they don’t care about ruining people’s lives so they can make money.

Even cannabis is a problem when illegal, because in an uncontrolled illegal market suppliers push for maximum use for maximum profit.

If relatively safe drugs like cannabis were not illegal and could be obtained in a controlled market, or self produced, then more people attracted to psychoactive substances could use them with far lower risks.

It wouldn’t be a simple solution, because those accustomed to making money off other people’s misery would try to expand their hard drug markets if their soft drug markets were stripped away. But it would provide a less bad (and legal) option for those who want to use drugs other than alcohol.

It’s not just cannabis that is a safer alternative.

More dangerous addictive drugs have become prevalent after earlier safer hallucinogens were replaced.

Remember LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide). It had adverse side effects, but compared to other drugs it was relatively benign – it isn’t addictive, and:

Of the 20 drugs ranked according to individual and societal harm by David Nutt, LSD was third to last, approximately 10 times less harmful than alcohol. The most significant adverse effect was impairment of mental functioning while intoxicated.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysergic_acid_diethylamide#Adverse_effects

We have ended up with LSD and cannabis illegal, a scourge of far more dangerous and addictive drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine being pushed for profit, and huge societal and health problems with the promotion and overuse of our one legal recreational drug, alcohol.

But this situation looks unlikely to change markedly. On drugs our governments, our politicians and our political parties are wimps.

Genter v Dunne on medical cannabis

In Parliament yesterday Green MP Julie Anne Genter questioned Associate health Minister Peter Dunne on the ease of access to medical cannabis.

Dunne said that the Australian system of registering medical users wasn’t working well, and the way the police are supposed to be ‘compassionate’ when deciding whether to charge cannabis users in New Zealand is ‘pragmatic’ and more effective.

But it means many medical users of cannabis products are still acting illegally.

Dunne suggests that those wanting to use medical cannabis should visit the Ministry of Health website for information:

Prescribing cannabis-based products

Please note that the Government does not support the use of unprocessed or partially processed cannabis leaf or flower preparations for medicinal use.

There are three types of cannabis-based products that may be considered for Ministerial approval:

  1. Pharmaceutical grade products that have consent for distribution in New Zealand. Consent for distribution means that the product has been determined by Medsafe to meet acceptable safety and efficacy requirements for distribution in New Zealand. The only product meeting this criterion currently is Sativex® for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. It may also be prescribed as a non-consented product for some other medical conditions.
  2. Pharmaceutical grade products that do not have consent for distribution in New Zealand, for example a product that has been manufactured by a pharmaceutical company overseas.
  3. Non-pharmaceutical grade products, that is products that are not manufactured to internationally recognised pharmaceutical manufacturing standards. They may, or may not, have been intended to be used as medicines.

The MoH has Guidelines to assess applications for Ministerial approval to prescribe, supply and administer

It looks very unlikely that National will even consider any possible law changes on cannabis, which means that under the current Government the current limitations are likely to remain at least until after the election.

Draft transcript:


Drugs, Illegal—Medical Cannabis

12. JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green) to the Associate Minister of Health: Will he recommend his Government change the law so that New Zealanders with terminal illnesses using medical cannabis are not at risk of being raided by the Police and prosecuted.

Hon PETER DUNNE (Associate Minister of Health): Patients using approved cannabis-based products, such as Sativex and other approved non-pharmaceutical grade cannabis products, are not at risk.

For those choosing to use raw cannabis or unapproved cannabis-based products, I have received a number of assurances from the Commissioner of Police that small-scale use by the terminally ill is not a priority, and that approach is consistent with the emphasis on compassion set out in the Government’s 2015 National Drug Policy.

I have considered the compassionate access scheme implemented in New South Wales. However, following very frank discussions with the Australian delegation at last month’s United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting about the workability of such a scheme, I have concluded that New Zealand’s more pragmatic approach based around the pillars of compassion, proportion, and innovation that underpin the National Drug Policy is the more appropriate course to follow

Julie Anne Genter: So rather than changing the law to reflect the fact that we think that it is acceptable for sick people to use cannabis to alleviate their suffering, is he suggesting that people should continue to break the law hoping that the police will not pursue them?

Hon PETER DUNNE: I make two points in response. Firstly, there is huge distinction to be drawn between raw cannabis and cannabis-based medicinal products. The Government has no interest in making any legal change, nor does any other party in Parliament, as far as I am aware, to the status of the raw cannabis plant.

With regard to cannabis-based medicines, the best advice I would give any patient who feels they might benefit from such a medicine is to talk to their general practitioner and their specialist about accessing the pathway that is in place.

They can view that at the Ministry of Health website; it is a very simple pathway to follow and if it is determined that that is the best treatment available to them, then it can be made available to them.

For people who choose to go outside that system, then they do run the risk, particularly if they are using the raw product, but, as I said earlier, I have been assured by the police that they will adopt a compassionate approach.

Julie Anne Genter: Without a clear legal framework or a register for patients, how will the police be able to judge who is a legitimate medical user and who to be compassionate with?

Hon PETER DUNNE: The member raises a good point, and it was one that I pursued with the Australians when I discussed the matter with them.

The absence of a register is actually no salvation in this regard because they find exactly the same problem with the register in New South Wales in determining who is a legitimate name to be included upon it—and bear in mind in the New South Wales case you can include up to 3 other people as supporters.

But they have also found that a number of people who are suppliers, when confronted by the police about being suppliers, say that they only supply to patients with terminal illnesses. So the whole thing has become, essentially, unworkable. I think the pragmatic approach that we have here, provided it is exercised with compassion, is the far more prudent course to follow.

Julie Anne Genter: Without a law change, how can he ensure that terminally and chronically ill patients in New Zealand will not find themselves in court for using cannabis to alleviate their suffering?

Hon PETER DUNNE: I did not hear the first part of the member’s question, but I think what she was seeking was some clarification as to how we can protect people from the potential risk. I come back to what I said in response to the earlier supplementary question.

The very best step that anyone who feels that they would benefit from a cannabis-based medical product can take is to talk to their general practitioner about accessing the pathway set out so clearly on the Ministry of Health website.

People who resort to just growing a bit in the backyard or talking to a mate and getting some from them do run some risks.

If they have genuine health issues, my absolutely strong advice is to talk to their general practitioner about accessing the pathway that is currently available.


For more information on medical cannabis in New Zealand see this support site:

Medical Cannabis Awareness NZ

Cannabis progress in North & South America

 

While the New Zealand government continues to do virtually nothing about addressing cannabis law (apart from allowing limited use of medicinal cannabis extracts) the rest of the world moves on with reforms.

CNBC: Canada to legalize Cannabis from next year: report

Canadians will be free to smoke and grow their own cannabis from next July under new laws which legalize the possession of marijuana for personal consumption, according to reports from Canadian national broadcaster CBC News.

The new freedoms, which were presented to the Liberal government over the weekend by MP Bill Blair, will be announced during the week of April 10 before being written into law in time for Canada Day on July 1, 2018, according to reports from Canadian national broadcaster CBC News.

Under the new law, the Federal government in Ottawa will set a minimum purchasing age of 18 and will be in charge of licensing producers, however, provincial government will have the authority to manage distribution and pricing. It will also be entitled to raise the minimum purchase age. Canadians will also be free to grow up to four marijuana plants per household.

And (ODT): Argentina approves medicinal cannabis

Argentina has given final legislative approval to a bill legalising cannabis oil for medicinal use and permitting the federal government to grow marijuana for research and therapeutic purposes.

The measure will become law once it is signed by President Mauricio Macri, whose Cambiemos party sponsored the bill.

“Thirty percent of epileptics do not respond to traditional medicine,” medical doctor Ana María García Nicora, who heads the Medical Cannabis Argentina group, told local television after the Senate’s final vote on the measure.

“My daughter has had epilepsy for 24 years and this is an option for her,” she said.

And not just in Argentina:

Chile and Colombia have adopted similar laws and neighboring Uruguay has gone as far as to legalize smoking marijuana, seeking to wrest the business from criminals in the small South American nation.

A bill approving the use of cannabis oil is pending in Peru’s Congress.

In January, healthcare regulators in Brazil issued the country’s first license for sale of an oral spray derived from marijuana used to treat multiple sclerosis.

There has also been a lot of changes to cannabis laws in many states in the US.

Meantime here in New Zealand we continue to suffer the consequences of outdated and ineffective drug laws.

Minister of Police on cannabis use

This could be seen as remarkable from the Minister of Police:

It may take a while to swing the National caucus into modern world thinking on cannabis use but their new generation – recently Nikki Kaye also expressed support at least for medicinal cannabis – will gradually take over.

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.