Police want delay in cannabis legislation

The medical cannabis legislation introduced by the incoming Government would give people who are dying a legal out clause from using cannabis, but would keep it a crime to grow or supply them with cannabis, posing some legal difficulties.

There were signs the bill was rushed to fir within Labour’s 100 days commitment.  It is now being reported that the police opposed this approach.

RNZ: Police asked for delay on cannabis legislation

The Health Minister pushed ahead with giving full legal protection to the terminally ill to use cannabis, despite advice from the police asking for that particular provision to be delayed.

The legislation currently before Parliament, means anyone terminally ill will not have to rely on the discretion of the police or the courts if they’re caught with cannabis.

If their case gets to court they can present certification from their practitioner to avoid prosecution.

Under the Bill the definition of “terminally ill” is that someone is likely to only have about 12 months to live.

Official papers obtained by RNZ show there were conflicting views among government agencies about how far the medicinal cannabis bill should go.

They show while the police supported giving terminally ill people “reassurance” they would not be prosecuted, in principle, they wanted the statutory defence deferred.

Police wanted to “ensure any legislative provision was workable” and that it would not create “unintended consequences”.

The proposed legal situation would be messy.

However, Health Minister David Clark disagreed.

“The police suggested deferring because they’re concerned about how these things are to be policed – that’s their job – we of course are concerned to be compassionate in our response.”

Futhermore, the Justice Ministry said it was a “concern” there was not legal protection for other people getting cannabis on behalf of someone who was terminally ill.

Clark dismissed this, saying he expected the Police to turn a blind eye to supplying, but that would put the police in a difficult situation.

Dr Clark said it was too difficult to extend the defence further, including defining exactly who would be supplying the cannabis in the broader network.

“And we preferred to favour the terminally ill and try to restrict, where possible, the supply of cannabis.”

More likely it was too difficult for Labour to get NZ First to agree to extend the defence further.

Nelson lawyer Sue Grey has represented many people charged with obtaining or possessing cannabis for medicinal purposes, and argued friends and family should also have the full legal protection.

“Because the sickest people can’t supply themselves and to put their family under that intense pressure of prosecution for helping a dying or sick person is just completely unfair and unjustified.”

The proposed ‘solution’ is poor.

…the Health Ministry opposed the defence for friends and family saying that would “significantly broaden the proposal”.

And it argued it could have unintended consequences:

“A person could set up a business supplying illicit cannabis to terminally ill people and argue that the exception and statutory defence cover this activity.”

So instead, people on their death bed are supposed to wish that some cannabis to relieve their suffering will fall out of the sky into their laps.

Yes, an unintended consequence of sensible legislation could mean that some non-dying cannabis users may find it a bit easier to source some product for relief. That would hardly be calamitous – cannabis use is unlikely to significantly change with sensible law changes, except for those who are suffering and want some relief.

All they can do now is suffer, or load themselves up on prescription drugs or alcohol, which cannot be any worse than a bit of cannabis.

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.

Medicinal cannabis bill passes first reading, doesn’t pass the compassionate test

The Government Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill passed it’s first reading in Parliament yesterday, but it has failed to pass muster as a decent, compassionate bill.

Minister of Health, David Clark, introduced the bill.

This bill makes three key changes: it provides people who have a terminal illness a statutory defence to the charge of possessing and using cannabis, it will allow us to make regulations to set quality standards for medicinal cannabis products, and it removes cannabidiol from the Misuse of Drugs Act so that it is no longer a controlled drug. This bill does not make any changes to the recreational use of cannabis.

Making regulations to set quality standards for medicinal cannabis products will in time be worthwhile.

The last Government effectively already removed cannabidiol from the Misuse of Drugs Act so that it is no longer a controlled drug – it can now be supplied on prescription.

And the first change is a crock. It will remain illegal for cannabis to be grown or supplied, so people who are terminally ill will have to rely on someone breaking the law.

This bill will make medicinal cannabis more readily available and will help bring relief to people suffering a terminal illness or those in chronic pain.

That is very poorly worded (Clark read from a prepared speech).

The bill will do little to make medicinal cannabis more readily available (in the main it will be illegal to make it available).

And it provides no legal or medical relief for those in chronic pain or suffering from a debilitating illness if they are not certified as dying (within 12 months).

A major part of this bill is the development of a medicinal cannabis scheme. This will include an advisory committee to review the current requirements for prescribing medicinal cannabis, setting minimum product quality standards to improve patient safety and give medical practitioners confidence, and allow for the domestic cultivation and manufacture of medicinal cannabis products. In time, this scheme will lead to a greater supply of quality medicinal cannabis products worldwide, including products made here in New Zealand. The bill will allow for quality standards to be set for all medicinal cannabis products, whether produced domestically or imported.

Sounds ok, but this will take time to implement. Years probably.

We know, however, that in the interim there will be people with a terminal illness using illicit cannabis. That is why this bill establishes a defence to the charge of using and possessing cannabis or a cannabis utensil for people who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Giving the terminally ill a statutory defence for the possession and use of illicit cannabis will mean they are not criminalized in their final days. This is the compassionate thing to do while the medicinal cannabis scheme is established.

Someone who is dying probably won’t like being criminalized “in their final days” but it will be of little real consequence. It is unlikely the police would try to prosecute them now anyway, and they would probably die before the court process completed.

This is the compassionate thing to do while the medicinal cannabis scheme is established.

Terminally ill people are likely to rely on family, whānau, and friends to source illicit cannabis for them. We do not propose extending the statutory defence to cover the range of people who could supply cannabis to terminally ill people.

It is not ‘compassionate’ to force family, whānau, and friends to act illegally to supply cannabis. This is an awful aspect of the bill.

This legislation will not please all of the campaigners for medicinal cannabis…

An admission of it’s inadequacies.

…but it goes further than any previous Parliament has gone. It represents real progress in making these products more widely available. This bill is a real step forward that all Government support parties are pleased to sign up to.

In some ways it is a real step forward, or it will be, eventually. But in other ways it is abominable.

If Parliament wants to go further, it has the opportunity when it considers a member’s bill in Chlöe Swarbrick’s name.

When Clark said that he will have known, or at least should have known, that the Swarbrick bill is likely to fail at it’s first vote in Parliament today, so to suggest that as a solution to the inadequacies of his Government bill is embarrassing for him and for Labour.

This bill does offer some progress (in the future) on supply and use of some medical cannabis products, but it is a slap in the face of family and friends of those who are dying and might want some relief, and it ignores the needs and wants of the many people suffering from chronic pain and debilitating illness but not at imminent risk of dying.

Two cannabis bills before Parliament

After a long time of Parliament avoiding dealing with the use of cannabis there are two bills that will be voted on in First Readings this week before Parliament. The Government bill is a cop out with limited and legally contradictory concessions. Chloe Swarbrick’s members’ bill addresses the medical cannabis issue far better and will be of most interest.

RNZ: MPs to vote on medicinal cannabis bills

MPs will vote this afternoon on the government’s plan to make medicinal cannabis more widely available.

The government’s bill lays the groundwork for a regulated medicinal cannabis industry and effectively allows terminally ill people to use illicit marijuana in the last year of their life. It will be considered by MPs today.

Green MP Chloe Sarbrick’s bill would allow patients to grow their own marijuana – with a doctor’s permission – to treat a terminal illness or debilitating condition. It will come before Parliament on Wednesday.

Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill

This Bill amends the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975. The Bill will introduce an exception and a statutory defence for terminally ill people to possess and use illicit cannabis and to possess a cannabis utensil; provide a regulation-making power to enable the setting of standards that products manufactured, imported, and supplied under licence must meet; and amend Schedule 2 of the Act so that cannabidiol (CBD) and CBD products are no longer classed as controlled drugs.

This bill was introduced after a promise by Labour, but it has been widely criticised as being a cop out, and even the Minister who introduced it said that if people wanted more they should look to Swarbrick’s bill.

Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis and Other Matters) Amendment Bill

The purpose of this bill is to make it legal for New Zealanders who are suffering from terminal illness or any debilitating condition to use cannabis or cannabis products with the support of a registered medical practitioner.

This is the bill that campaigners for access to medical cannabis are interested in as it would allow people with chronic pain and debilitating illnesses to use, but there is also some strong opposition, with fears it opens the legal door to recreational use.

Bob McCoskrie, of Christian lobby group Family First NZ, said the government’s more “cautious and researched” legislation should go before a select committee.

But he said Ms Swarbrick’s bill should be “chucked in the bin”.

“There is no redeemable factor in it. It’s a grow-your-own-dope bill.”

That is a dopey claim devoid of compassion. There must be a redeemable factor in allowing people to legally alleviate pain and to try to reduce symptoms of awful illnesses, including terminal illnesses where death can’t be certified to be imminent.

1 News: Helen Clark backs Chloe Swarbrick’s medicinal cannabis bill ahead of Labour’s legislation

Former prime minister Helen Clark is backing Green MP Chloe Swarbrick’s bill to improve access to medicinal cannabis, ahead of the Labour-led Government’s own bill.

Ms Clark is now on a global drug policy commission which promotes the reduction of harm from drugs.

So Helen Clark has ignored David Clark’s bill and is promoting Swarbrick’s.

NZ Herald: Grey Power urges MPs to support Green’s medicinal cannabis bill

Grey Power is urging MPs to support the Green MP Chloe Swarbrick’s bill on medicinal cannabis, which is set to have its first reading on Wednesday and potentially pave the way for greater access.

Grey Power president Tom O’Connor said MPs should support Swarbrick’s bill at the first reading so it can be explored by a select committee.

“Those with chronic pain should also have access to medical cannabis, if it offers them some relief.”

He said health professionals, not politicians, should decide who should be allowed to use cannabis for medical purposes.

O’Connor said Grey Power supported cannabis-based pharmaceuticals, but not home-grown cannabis for self-medication.

“Self-medication is hazardous at best and, for as long as recreational home grown cannabis is illegal, we cannot support its use for self-medication as it would be too easy to abuse.”

It is widely abused already, it’s hard to see that getting any worse with more liberal laws.

Unlike David Clark’s bill the Swarbrick bill will be a conscience vote. It will be interesting to see who votes for and against it – especially NZ First MPs, given the Grey Power support.

The Clark bill is a bit of a waste of time so I don’t care much about what happens with that. It should pass it’s first vote, but with a more comprehensive bill also coming before Parliament it is hardly necessary.

I hope that Swarbrick’s bill at least passes it’s first vote and goes to select Committee, where the public will be able to make submissions on it.

All Green MPs will probably vote for Swarbrick’s bill, and most Labour MPs should too – both Clark and Jacinda Ardern have said they will support it.

NZ First MPs could be mixed on it.

There will be definite opposition from some National MPs, and some will support it. The bill may depend on enough enlightened and compassionate National MPs supporting it.

Recently from Medical Cannabis Awareness NZ: Medical cannabis: Terminal vs Severe and Debilitating?

David Farrar at Kiwiblog:

The sensible thing for MPs to do is vote for both the Government and the Swarbrick bill to go to select committee, so the select committee can hear evidence on both bills, and work out which regime would be best to provide relief to those suffering from chronic pain.

It is worth reflecting that there is overwhelming public support for cannabis to be available for pain relief. A poll Curia did for the Drug Foundation last year had 78% support for medicial use of cannabis not to be a criminal offence and only 17% opposed.

The net support for not having medical use of cannabis being a criminal offence by party vote is:

  • National voters +60% (78% to 18%)
  • Labour voters +61% (78% to 17%)
  • NZ First +54% (77% to 23%)
  • Greens +77% (88% to 11%)

Medical cannabis: Terminal vs Severe and Debilitating?

Medical Cannabis Awareness NZ wants the Government’s medical cannabis bill to be expanded to cover people suffering from ‘severe and debilitating’ illness. It currently only allows an exemption from prosecution for using cannabis for people certified to have less than a year to live (but growing is still illegal, as is the supplying of cannabis to them).

Terminal vs Severe and Debilitating?

The exemptions outlined for the terminally ill by Labour’s Medical Cannabis bill do not go far enough, and have been universally panned by patient advocates and policy experts.

MCANZ Coordinator Shane Le Brun:

“David Clark’s excuse for failing to deliver on Labour’s election promise is that there is a high portion of New Zealanders with chronic pain, many of those however would not be severe such as those who suffer from comparatively mild conditions such as osteoarthritis”.

“The Ministry of Health’s Non-pharmaceutical application guidelines have a terminology of  “severe or debilitating condition” using that definition instead of terminal would be a far more effective way of protecting patients. If such terminology is good enough for prescribers it should be good enough for police and the courts.”

“If such a change creates any extra administrative load for the courts to determine ‘severe or debilitating’ it would be short term only, as police would be on the receiving end of an attitude adjustment, the cost in administration pales into comparison against the significance of what it offers a very ill and vulnerable cohort of New Zealanders”

MCANZ Feels that the best solution to the criminalization of patients is to disrupt police prosecution
habits directly, before they get to court.

“The Solicitor General’s prosecution guidelines could be easily reviewed and updated to include a specific clause in the public interest test section. Such a clause counting against prosecution could be worded along the lines of ‘where the Misuse of Drugs Act has been breached for a significant therapeutic benefit”.

“Intervention before prosecution is critical to the safety and wellbeing of patients, most of whom are on benefits who can ill afford costly legal battles, and the seizure of what for many is an essential medicine”.

MCANZ Spokesperson Dr Huhana Hickey MNZM”

“The contradictions in allowing terminally ill to access but not providing them with a way of doing it, is as bad as denying all with pain the chance of taking a medicine that works. We need to educate society over the benefits of medicinal and how it can change lives.”

“To deny Medical Cannabis any longer is to show a disregard for people in chronic pain and who are in effect suffering at the hands of government policy. Change it now, it’s need not be complex, it can be simple, but they need to work with those of us who can no longer take opioids and other strong drugs who want our quality of life back.”

Outspoken and Dunne on medical cannabis

RNZ:  Outspoken – Medicinal Cannabis

The government’s medicinal cannabis policy released in December drew howls of protest from critics who argued it didn’t go far enough.

The policy would make medical cannabis more available for people with terminal illnesses, and protect them from prosecution for possession of illicit marijuana. But Health Minister David Clark insisted the policy was cause for celebration.

“It is real progress, it is a big step forward.”

It was widely seen as timid and barely any change. Even Clark said that for real change people needed to look at a Member’s Bill rather than his.

The bill proposes

  • Introduce a medicinal cannabis scheme to enable access to quality products
  • Introduce a statutory defence for terminally ill people to possess and use illicit cannabis
  • Remove cannabidiol from the schedule of controlled drugs

The most contentious aspects are that while terminally ill people will have a defence for using cannabis it is illegal for them to grow it or for anyone to supply it, and it excludes a defence for people suffering from chronic pain but not deemed to be at imminent risk of dying.

The executive director of the Drug Foundation Ross Bell said the Drug Foundation has always maintained you need a two-stage medicinal cannabis market.

“One, ultimately you need a gold standard medical cannabis system just as we have with other medicines where things go through trials. Once that has happened doctors know what to prescribe and at what dosage and how it interacts with other medicines,” he said.

“The second track is a compassionate scheme where you do allow people to grow, or have it grown for them, without fear of arrest – and again I don’t think the government’s proposal quite does that either.”

Bell speaks softly – Clark’s bill doesn’t come anywhere near that second track.

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick has a separate members bill that would also amend the Misuse of Drugs Act, due to come before Parliament.

“Where we would like to see the government’s bill go further would be on that issue of chronic pain … those who, for example, have cancer but it’s not terminal.

“There has been a thorough meta-analysis of all the research to date which has shown that [for] nausea and vomiting symptoms, there is a lot of evidence around how medicinal cannabis and CBD oil can help … and also with the likes of Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis.”

Clark says he will support this bill and has said that it offers people something significant the his bill doesn’t.

RNZ:  Medicinal cannabis bill will send ‘clear signal’ to police

Health Minister David Clark said while the law did not allow people to grow cannabis, police were using a “huge amount of discretion” and the government’s legislation sent a strong message that was the right thing to do.

“The police are using discretion currently for personal use, and I expect this will send a clear signal that for the terminally ill it would be completely pointless to be prosecuting them for using it.”

People wanted legal changes, not ‘clear signals’ to the police to ignore law that is not fit for purpose.

Pearl Schomburg has been using cannabis to manage her pain for the past two years. She suffers from inflammatory pain, PTSD and nausea, but access to her chosen medicine won’t be any easier under the planned law change.

“There’s nothing in it for me today except hope that this is just the beginning.

“There’s a lot of disappointed people in the community, some of them are quite angry as well because they feel like they’ve been quite let down by Jacinda [Ardern].

Mr Clark said he would support Green MP Chloe Swarbrick’s bill allowing people to grow cannabis for medicinal purposes at its first reading so it can go to a select committee and be tested, reviewed and receive submissions from medical experts.

But the government was not adopting the bill.

Peter Dunne is very critical of the Government approach.

NZH: Peter Dunne says the Govt’s medicinal cannabis bill will bring no immediate relief to patients

The former minister responsible for drug law reform is calling the Government’s bill on medicinal cannabis “half baked” and “a pretty sad gimmick” that fails to give sick people immediate access to good products.

Peter Dunne, who used to be associate health minister, said the bill was underwhelming and the product of a naive 100-day pledge.

If it wasn’t naive it was deliberate voter duping.

“It’s a pretty sad gimmick. It doesn’t really change anything. It doesn’t improve immediate access to people and it doesn’t do anything about the cost of medication.

“They allowed an impression to be created, whether they intended to or not, that they could solve the problem with the wave of a wand. A lot of people who were suffering believed that, and they feel pretty let down.”

From what I’ve seen the Government bill has disappointed many people.

He said the bill was “half-baked”, adding that it would have been more honest to say that the work simply needed longer than the 100-day timeline.

It’s less than half baked – Labour left out key ingredients as well.

“When they actually got to grips with the subject and found that wasn’t really possible (to fix in 100 days). So they said, ‘What can we do? I know. We will put in this stuff about compassionate use.’

People are not being prosecuted for compassionate use now.”

So the bill changes very little immediately apart from sending police ‘a clear signal’.

Helen Kelly openly flaunted the law when suffering from cancer, and Labour promised to honour her memory. Instead they have passed the parcel to the Greens while pretending to do something themselves.

This has been weak leadership from Jacinda Ardern.

Health Minister David Clark has said New Zealand will monitor the situation in Australia, where medicinal cannabis was made legal in 2016 and companies are preparing to deliver domestically made products within a few months.

Clark’s inexperience is showing. ‘Monitor’ is like ‘have an inquiry’ or ‘form  committee’ – avoiding responsibility. Worse, Labour are not delivering on what they promoted as an urgent (100 day) solution.

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt announced a law change last week to allow Australian companies to export medicinal cannabis products, saying: “We would like to be, potentially, the world’s number one medicinal cannabis supplier.”

Dunne said rather than monitoring Australia, New Zealand should be “piggy-backing” so quality products would be available to New Zealand patients at the same time as they are to Australians.

“Working with the Australians is likely to produce the quickest and best benefit. We have a free trade agreement. The medical safety standards in Australia and New Zealand are pretty much identical. So anything that would get the tick there should get the tick here.”

Maybe once the Australians are actually producing products Clark will escalate from ‘monitor’ to ‘form a committee of experts’.

The Government’ bill was softened to gain the support of New Zealand First, and should pass with the support of the Greens.

It does not go as far as Green MP Chloe Swarbrick’s member’s bill, which would allow anyone with a qualifying medical condition to grow, possess or use the cannabis plant or cannabis products for therapeutic purposes, provided they have the support of a registered medical practitioner.

The Government has said those wishing for medicinal cannabis to be more widely available will have a chance to have their say when Swarbrick’s bill has its first reading, expected to be a conscience vote.​


Ministry cannabis advice based on definition difficulties

The Ministry of Health advised against making it easier (and at least semi-legal) for people suffering from chronic pain to access cannabis products for relief because of claimed difficulties with legal definitions.

That sounds like a cop out to me. It’s up to Parliament to work out the law and legal definitions, and helping people shouldn’t be refused based on departmental definition difficulties.

It has also gave Labour an excuse to cop out of it’s campaign promise to make medical cannabis available.

NZH:  Medicinal cannabis: Ministry of Health advised against decriminalisation for those in chronic pain

The Ministry of Health advised against decriminalising medicinal cannabis for those in chronic pain, saying it would lead to major issues over its legal definition.

The advice is contained in a regulatory impact statement, released at the end of last year, on the Government’s Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill.

The impact statement said decriminalising for those in chronic pain would be problematic.

“Chronic pain is difficult to define, subjective, and would potentially cover a large patient group (21 per cent of adults experience chronic pain). Extending this proposal to this group would be likely to result in significant dispute around the definition of chronic pain.”

So ‘chronic pain’ would be difficult to define. Chronic pain can be bloody difficult to live with too, but the Ministry and the Government don’t seem to care about people suffering from that.

So the Amendment Bill avoided defining chronic pain. In other words they have ignored the needs of people suffering from chronic pain

As well as this the Bill proposes a flawed means of dying patients using medical cannabis – they will be able to claim a defence against using cannabis but it will remain illegal for them to grow it or obtain it and it will remain illegal for anyone to supply them with it.

Rebecca Reider, who uses medicinal cannabis, said those in chronic pain should also be able to use cannabis without being criminalised.

“It’s great that the Government recognises a compassionate approach to terminally ill patients is needed. But what about non-terminal patients? Why can’t the Government show that amnesty to everyone who has a doctor recommend cannabis?”

Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell also said the provision for those with a terminal illness – defined as someone who can reasonably expect their life to end within 12 months – was too narrow.

“A one-year window simply does not go far enough to cover people with chronic pain and any terminal illness, and needs to be reconsidered by the select committee.”

Labour, and Jacinda Ardern, at least implied that would take a compassionate approach to people who suffered, but instead took a technical approach and avoided addressing it.

Health Minister David Clark has said that the bill, introduced at the end of last month, was a compassionate measure that would ensure no prosecutions while a new prescribing framework is set up.

The bill, which fulfils a 100-day promise, was softened to gain the support of New Zealand First, and will pass with the support of the Greens.

Bullshit. It’s a less than half arsed attempt to be seen to doing something they promised to do without actually doing much.

The Government has said those wishing for medicinal cannabis to be more widely available will have a chance to have their say when Swarbrick’s bill has its first reading, expected to be a conscience vote.

So they are effectively admitting that their own bill is a crock – a crooked attempt to appear as if they are keeping a promise.

So what if some people without major pain manage to use a bit of cannabis less illegally than now? People are still suffering and are putting themselves at legal risk.

Compassion my arse. Political gutlessness.



Cannabis bill – bad medicine

The Claytons Medical Cannabis Amendment Bill has been criticised for doing little but blowing smoke in the eyes of those suffering from chronic pain and illness.

The legal defence the Bill will provide for terminally ill people who use cannabis is bizarre. It remains illegal to grow cannabis, and it remains illegal to supply cannabis, so dying people still have to rely on illegal supply, and Minister of Health David Clark is relying on his calls for the police to act with ‘compassion’.

RNZ: Medicinal cannabis bill will send ‘clear signal’ to police

Some medicinal cannabis users say they can see hope but no material changes for them in the government’s proposed legislation.

The Misuse of Drugs amendment Bill tabled yesterday sets up a regulated domestic cannabis industry, makes it easier to access medical marijuana products and lets the terminally ill use illicit cannabis.

Health Minister David Clark said while the law did not allow people to grow cannabis, police were using a “huge amount of discretion” and the government’s legislation sent a strong message that was the right thing to do.

“The police are using discretion currently for personal use, and I expect this will send a clear signal that for the terminally ill it would be completely pointless to be prosecuting them for using it.”

Access to pharmaceutical-grade medicinal cannabis products was “problematic” and in time the legislation would result in greater supply of quality medicinal cannabis, including products made in New Zealand.

“We want to make available products that have good evidence behind them, that doctors feel safe prescribing.

“In the mean time … this makes it clear that there’s a legal defence for people in the final years of their life.”

Did he say ‘final years’? Yes he did, I’ve just listened to it again. His bill only allows a defence in the final year.


Clark seems to be trying to opt out of compassion himself and put that onus on the police.

Mike Moreu, December 22, 2017

This is actually worse than a Clayton’s law – it suggests that dying people would put others at legal risk in seeking cannabis for their own use.

Clark effectively said in the RNZ interview (I’ll do a full transcript when I get time) that his bill relies on the police using discretion and showing compassion – something which they can and do already, usually but not always.

Clark also contradicts himself, saying he will support Chloe Swarbrick’s Members’ Bill, but argues against what that is atempting to allow in respect of his own bill.

There are some promising aspects to the bill, but it is severely flawed when it gives dying people a legal defence but requires illegal acts outside of that for them to get any cannabis to use.

I get it that Labour and the Greens couldn’t get the support of NZ First for what they actually wanted.

They should have been upfront and honest and said they didn’t have the votes to deliver. That is a political reality.

Instead they have put forward a half arsed bill in order to try and be seen to be keeping a promise, but it makes things legally messier, relying on the police not enforcing the law.

The bill is bitter medicine without any cure for a problem they promised to fix.


Responses to Medical Cannabis Amendment Bill

The Medicinal Cannabis Amendment Act tabled in Parliament yesterday makes little practical difference to being able to use cannabis – it’s changes are limited to people with terminal illnesses (less than 12 months to live), and they can’t grow cannabis or obtain it legally unless they pay a large amount for very limited products available by prescription.’

Flick back to August: ‘Absolutely yes’: Jacinda Ardern succinct and stubborn on medicinal cannabis use

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has very firmly locked in her position on medicinal use of cannabis, a succinct answer in a debate strongly paralleled by National leader Bill English.

In the TVNZ leaders debate, both were asked to answer in 30 seconds whether they would legalise cannabis for medicinal use, for pain relief or extending life.

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

Ardern has failed to deliver.

They can use it now – and hope the police won’t prosecute them. That’s about all Clark could offer with the Government bill.

RNZ: Medicinal cannabis users disappointed at legislation

Pearl Schomburg has been using cannabis to manage her pain for the past two years.

She suffers from inflammatory pain, PTSD and nausea, but access to her chosen medicine won’t be any easier under the planned law change.

“There’s nothing in it for me today except hope that this is just the beginning.

“There’s a lot of disappointed people in the community, some of them are quite angry as well because they feel like they’ve been quite let down by Jacinda [Ardern].

“I’m a glass half full person and I see this as the first step in the real fight.”

Health Minister David Clark said in time the legislation would result in greater supply of quality medicinal cannabis, including products made in New Zealand.

When the new scheme is operational, patients with a prescription will be able to access medicinal cannabis at a pharmacy.

But Auckland woman Joan Cowie, who has stage four lung cancer, doesn’t have time to wait for that to come into effect.

“They’re saying on the news you can go to the pharmacy and get your products there.

“Well that’s a good two years away. I probably won’t be here in two years.”

Ms Cowie said the bill didn’t help people who weren’t interested in pharmaceutical cannabis, including herself.

She said she preferred the organic product and couldn’t afford to buy pharmaceutical cannabis.

Ms Schomburg said many users felt politicians were not taking their pain seriously.

“I and many other people cannot afford pharmaceuticals so shall we just sit here and wait for five years until the prices drop, and then are we allowed compassion?

“That just seems ludicrous to me.”

She said future legislation should focus on patients, not pharmaceuticals, and provide immediate, affordable access to high quality organic cannabis.

Newshub:  Doctors divided on medicinal cannabis

Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners president Dr Tim Malloy says many doctors have patients who want to try medicinal cannabis.

“In that we want to do the best for our patients, we would like to look at those opportunities, provided there was the appropriate framework to offer that.”

He says the subject has divided those in the medical field.

“I think you’ll find that there is quite a variation in opinion around on the matter across the country. A lot of that’s to do with the perceived or otherwise lack of evidence around medicinal cannabis.”

Medicinal cannabis is already available on prescription in New Zealand. However, experts like Dr John Alchin from the University of Otago say there’s little or no evidence it works.

“It’s not a silver bullet, we all wish there was a silver bullet for chronic pain,” says Dr Alchin.

“Most patients with chronic pain, we have no effective treatment for.”

While cannabis may not reduce pain, it could have other effects.

“If people have high expectations, there’s a placebo effect that comes in and a lot of people respond to a placebo,” he says.

“Especially with THC, it has a euphoric effect, so people may feel better.”

Odd comments. If people with chronic pain feel better after using THC then surely that makes it effective? That’s why they use it.

People with chronic pain, mental illness and chronic and serious non-terminal illness currently use alcohol to mask pain, and this can have more serious adverse effects than using cannabis.

Clark struggled to explain the toothlessness of his bill on RNZ this morning, but said he would vote for Chloe Swabrick’s bill that would actually promote actual change.

Ardern has also said she would vote for Swarbrick’s bill – it will be a conscience vote.



The tail wagging the dog and pup?

When comparing two bills currently in the news it looks like the NZ First tail is wagging the Labour dog and green pup.

Labour and the Greens say they are allowing NZ First to progress their waka jumping bill. The Greens in particular have compromised their principles significantly in order to allow the bill to pass with a unified majority.

See Waka jumping bill and integrity.

But NZ First seems to be responsible for neutering changes on Medical Cannabis, a bill that is important enough for Labour to include in their 100 day plan, and important enough to the Greens to keep a Member’s Bill that goes further (and for Labour to support leaving that bill in), indications are that NZ First, with 9 votes to Labour-Greens 54, seems to be getting away with crippling the bill.

It’s not just a clear majority in Government that NZ First are stuffing around.

A Curia poll in July shows strong public support:

• Growing and/or using cannabis for any medical reasons such as to alleviate pain
17% illegal
21% decriminalised
57% legal

• Growing and/or using cannabis for medical reasons if you have a terminal illness
15% illegal
22% decriminalised
59% legal

• Possessing a small amount of cannabis for personal use
31% illegal
37% decriminalised
28% legal

• Growing a small amount of cannabis for personal use
41% illegal
32% decriminalised
23% legal

• Growing a small amount of cannabis for giving or selling to your friends
69% illegal
16% decriminalised
10% legal

• Selling cannabis from a store
57% illegal
11% decriminalised
23% legal

The poll was conducted from July 3-18, with 938 people participating. The margin of error is +/-3.1 per cent.


We will see what the bill looks like when it is introduced today, but Ardern, Shaw and Minister of Health David Clark have all talked down expectations in advance.

Stuff: Government downplays expectations on medicinal cannabis law reform

Clark would not comment on the details of the bill, before it was announced. But his comments suggested the Government could be preparing to widen access for medicinal cannabis products, while not necessarily allowing for the full legalisation of medicinal marijuana in its raw form.

“The bill itself, represents what we know the Parliament is willing to progress. There’s another member’s bill in the name of Chloe Swarbrick that will test if the Parliament has an appetite to go further,” he said.

Clark said the party “drew on the experience it had through the campaign” when drafting the policy. But admitted some would be left disappointed by the legislation.

“It won’t make all of the activists happy. There will be some who would wish that we would go further – we believe we have struck a balance, which represents good progress.

Referring to ‘activists’ has made a lot of people unhapy, especially those who are genuinely campaigning for wider and cheaper medical use of cannabis products.

“And the Parliament will get its chance with Chloe Swarbrick’s bill to decide whether it wants to go further,” Clark said.

A virtual admission that their own bill is crap.

“The Government has created its own piece of legislation to progress medicinal cannabis; it was part of our 100-day plan. We wanted to make sure that medicinal cannabis is more accessible to people with terminal illness or chronic conditions and the piece of legislation will make progress.”

Important enough to be included in their 100 day plan.

Not important enough to stand up to Winston Peters, despite Labour and the Greens compromising for NZ First’s pet bill.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said members would have options with the presence of both bills.

But the Government bill would “improve on the status quo”.

“We can guarantee with the bill we have got we can do that. We can’t guarantee that with the member’s bill. There are differences and you will see that when the bill is introduced.”

We will see, but the signs look ominous.

The tail appears to be wagging the dog and pup vigorously.