Medical cannabis bill passes third reading

The medical cannabis has passed it’s final vote in Parliament today. Minister of Health David Clark called it the most progressive bill ever, which will grate on those who were hopeful the Government would treat medical and general use of cannabis as boldly as a growing number of countries and states around the world. But at least it’s a start.

NZ Herald: Medicinal cannabis bill passes third reading

A bill that gives terminally ill people a legal defence for using illicit cannabis products has passed its third reading in Parliament today.

The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill also gives them a defence to possess utensils for using cannabis.

That defence comes into force as soon as the bill receives royal assent.

Last month, during the bill’s second reading, Health Minister David Clark made changes to the bill that expanded the defence to all people needing palliative relief, rather than just those with a year or less to live, as it previously was.

The changes also created a requirement for regulations for the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme to be in place no later than one year after the law comes into effect, allaying concerns that it could take as long as 2020 before the regulatory framework was in place.

It made clear that cannabis varieties already in New Zealand could be used for medicinal products, prompting at least one therapeutic cannabis company to call for illicit growers to come forward with their unique strains.

Following the bill’s passing, Clark said the statutory defence would be available to around 25,000 people who could benefit from palliative care.

But it wasn’t progressive enough to cover people suffering from chronic pain and debilitating illnesses that are hard to treat with conventional medicines.

Greens are happy they have finally got somewhere on freeing up cannabis laws.

National are acting like numpties. After voting for the bill initially they voted against it today and are grizzling about the bill. They had held up doing anything meaningful about dysfunctional drug laws through their last nine years in Government.

Labour 100 day medical cannabis promise could be 1,000 days or more

The lack of urgency by the Government on medical cannabis has been very disappointing, after initial promise of it being a first 100 day priority, and especially as it was promoted as important by Jacinda Ardern in the memory of her friend Helen Kelly.

And it was promoted as a 100 day promise:

Labour will hit the ground running in government, with a programme of work across housing, health, education, families, the environment and other priority areas.

  • Introduce legislation to make medicinal cannabis available for people with terminal illnesses or in chronic pain

It is now about 360 days since the Labour-led government took over, and they look nowhere near fulfilling this promise.

MCANZ Coordinator Shane Le Brun: “It is disappointing that the bill’s second reading has been postponed to November due to haggling around supplementary papers to improve the bill.”

“Patients are left disenfranchised and frustrated with the lack of progress on the bill”.

On 1 November 2017 Dylan Kelly wrote (The Spinoff): On a new government, kindness and the (unfinished) legacy of my mother, Helen Kelly

Jacinda Ardern’s programme offers real hope for the issues Mum fought so passionately for, from labour law and cannabis reform to forestry and Pike River.

…Fast-forward to this year’s debate, and Jacinda Ardern’s rapid-fire declaration that legal medicinal cannabis was a no-brainer was considered the savvy political response.

Mum’s final public words were “I want people just to be kind. It would make a hell of a difference.” Jacinda Ardern, in her final interview before becoming prime minister, told John Campbell that her government was going to “bring kindness back”.

We’ve got a lot of work to do. But with Prime Minister Ardern and co in charge, we can finally get started.

Ardern started with talk of kindness, and Labour started with a promise on medical cannabis, but a year later they have not delivered.

A press release from Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand:


Government’s 100-day Pledge to legalise Medical Cannabis could slip to 1000 days.

Documents released to MCANZ under the official information act show that the regulations associated with the government medical cannabis bill could take years, with a planned go-live of mid-2020. This go-live date is subject to change and with the current under-resourcing of the MOH, it could be considered a best-case scenario.  Additionally, an advisory committee initially scheduled for March has been pushed back to November, and may yet be pushed back further.

“It is disappointing that the bill’s second reading has been postponed to November due to haggling around supplementary papers to improve the bill. If the Minister of health had consulted widely in the first place when drafting the bill, we wouldn’t be in this fiasco where  essentially anyone who has a stake in the outcome of this bill, whether it’s the patients, the budding industry or indeed the political opposition are all asking for significant amendments to the bill.”

“Patients are left disenfranchised and frustrated with the lack of progress on the bill, and the lack of amendments from the select committee, where the overwhelming majority wished for the exemption to extend to those with severe, chronic and debilitating conditions.”

“It is likely that if things continue as they are, by the time this bill is sorted, nearly 3 years will have passed. Circumstances will have progressed so far that patients will likely be using the referendum as a tool to gain safe legal access, potentially skewing the result in favour”.

“Another issue is the lack of budget at the Ministry of health for external consultation or industry/international experts to assist. We hope that with the surprise surplus government has announced this week, that some of this can be dedicated to setting up the scheme”

“Without additional resources in the near term, it will prove hard for this potential industry to catch up with Australia, costing the country in jobs and revenues, and patients on a cost basis,” says MCANZ Coordinator Shane Le Brun.

Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand

https://mcawarenessnz.org/


Jacinda Ardern in 2016 (Stuff):  The pain behind the medical marijuana debate’

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

My friend was dying.

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

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

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

That was the last political cycle, before Ardern made 100 promises as Labour Prime Minister.

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

Surely Ardern and her Government owe it to the people who experience problems and pain on a daily basis, people who die suffering, to bloody well treat this like the priority she promised.

UK to review medicinal cannabis use

Like here are elsewhere in the world pressure has been growing in the UK to allow the use of cannabis products for medicinal use. Sick children have been used to highlight the issue, and the UK government has now announced a review of drug laws.

BBC: Medicinal cannabis use to be reviewed by government

The use of medicinal cannabis is to be reviewed, which could lead to more prescriptions of drugs made from the plant, the home secretary has said.

Speaking to the House of Commons, Mr Javid said the position “we find ourselves in currently is not satisfactory”.

The decision was prompted by recent high-profile cases of children with severe epilepsy being denied access to cannabis oil to control seizures.

The review would be held in two parts, Mr Javid told MPs. The first will make recommendations on which cannabis-based medicines might offer real medical and therapeutic benefits to patients.

In the second part, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs will consider whether changes should be made to the classification of these products after assessing “the balance of harms and public health needs”.

He said: “If the review identifies significant medical benefits, then we do intend to reschedule [change the rules].”

He said the cases of Alfie Dingley and Billy Caldwell had made him conclude it was time to review the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

He also announced that Alfie, from Kenilworth in Warwickshire, was being issued with a licence to receive cannabis-based drugs. The six-year-old has a very rare form of epilepsy that causes up to 150 seizures per month,

His family had originally applied to the government in April, saying his condition improved after using cannabis oil in the Netherlands.

Sounds similar to what has been happening here.

But Sajid Javid stressed the drug would remain banned for recreational use.

Separating medicinal use from recreational use is tricky – fears of opening the floodgates for recreational use often hold back politicians from acting on medicinal use, but that’s ridiculous given the widespread recreational use now.

It’s bizarre that recreational product is widely available but medicinal product is difficult to obtain.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott welcomed Mr Javid’s statement, telling MPs that it was “long overdue”.

Lady Meacher, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group for drug policy reform – which two years ago called for cannabis-based drugs to be legalised – said the move was a “no brainer” which could benefit many people.

She said: “About one million people, probably, could benefit from medical cannabis – people with severe pain, obviously children with terrible epilepsy.

“There are 200,000 people in this country with uncontrolled epileptic seizures; MS sufferers, people with Parkinson’s, people with cancer.

“So there are just so many people who must be celebrating today, and I’m celebrating with them.”

She compared cannabis with morphine, and said it was “much, much safer, less addictive and has much, much less in the way of side effects”.

As we know here, opposition MPs can talk big reforms, but seem to get cold feet when in power.

The incoming Government here introduced the 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 is currently at Select Committee stage. The limitation to “terminally ill people” has been strongly criticised. Hopefully sense will prevail after the committee considers public submissions.

 

 

Medicinal Cannabis hearing – first day

The first hearings on the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill were heard by the health Select Committee in Parliament yesterday.

RNZ: Medicinal Cannabis Bill prompts calls for broader allowances

Under the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill before Parliament, only those terminally ill and with a year left to live would have a legal defence against prosecution for illicit marijuana use.

Drug Foundation director, Ross Bell…

…told MPs on the first day of hearings on the Bill that was not good enough. He said the Bill should be extended to also cover those with severe and debilitating conditions.

“Only focusing on terminal patients isn’t good enough, and in reality, the terminal patients aren’t getting arrested by the police but many other patients are. And the way that police use their discretion means that a lot of people are getting prosecuted still.”

Mr Bell said the same statutory protection should also extend to those who support patients.

“The so-called green fairies, people that will be administering the medicine or even cultivating the medicine, you know. And I think again you’re going to hear stories of people who are on their deathbed or are severely physically limited that they can’t access the medicine, they can’t even administer the medicine.”

Green MP Chloe Swarbrick…

…has backed the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill, but she also identified gaps, saying legal protection for the terminally ill stopped short of what is needed.

“That doesn’t address access, it doesn’t address availability, it doesn’t address the quality of the product and it certainly doesn’t address affordability.

“We’re all quite aware of the gaping black hole that presently exists”.

“I’m aware that my Bill was evidently voted down because people were concerned about the provision, the so-called ‘grow-your-own’ provision, but what we have right here is people still needing to get access to cannabis illegally. Somebody has to grow it.”

“We currently have a situation where police on the frontlines are being quite open about the fact that they are defacto decriminalising the use of cannabis for medicinal reasons or recreational reasons or otherwise. What we are – as the Green Party – concerned about there is that there is no rule of law.”

The College of General Practitioners…

…said doctors want the best for their patients, but clinical trials and Medsafe approval are needed before medicinal cannabis is made more widely available.

Asked if those with chronic illnesses should be included in legal protection, the college president, Tim Malloy, said doctors would struggle with who that would cover.

“That’s going to be the issue. It’s not whether this applies to them or not, it’s how do you define it and what are the criteria and what do you have to have tried beforehand. So there’s a whole body of work that needs to be done to define that for us.”

GPs also said they wanted health equity, and part of the reason for the Bill was to improve access to beneficial treatments, including the potential for medicinal cannabis.

“There is an equity issue here as Pharmac does not currently fund Sativex and most people would not be able to afford it — a thousand dollars a month — without funding.”

Shane Le Brun of the Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand charity…

…said those most at risk of being prosecuted for illicit cannabis use were not the terminally ill at all.

“I’m quite plugged in with who’s getting busted by the police and it’s not terminal patients. There’s no one who’s two months from death’s door that has the police knocking on their door, so that whole part of the Bill was actually toothless.”

Mr Le Brun also questioned whether others who were very ill but not near death needed medicinal cannabis for pain relief too.

“Are we happy with really sick people to be hauled before the courts for growing something that helps them, especially when the legal options cost thousands of dollars a month?”

Shane has done a heap of very good work on this issue, and is busy networking with those of possible influence on the Bill.

On demand video of submissions and future live streaming: Health Select Committee (Facebook)

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%)

Medicinal cannabis oil available in NZ

There is improved availability of medicinal cannabis oil in New Zealand, with it now being available for GPs to prescribe. It is a cheaper option but could still be prohibitively expensive.

RNZ: Medicinal cannabis oil arrives in NZ

The arrival of a new, cheaper medicinal cannabis product in New Zealand is good news for patients but will still be prohibitively expensive for many, advocates say.

The cannabis oil, produced by Canadian company Tilray, was first granted an export licence to New Zealand in February, but until now has only been shipped to Middlemore Hospital in Auckland.

However, the first shipment that will be made available for GPs to prescribe has now arrived in the country.

It contains cannabidiol (CBD) – a cannabinoid that has been shown to have therapeutic properties, but is considered a class B drug under New Zealand law so cannot be advertised or promoted by the company.

Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand coordinator Shane Le Brun said the product had arrived “in the last week or so”.

“It is now available for GPs to prescribe… [but] as an unregistered medicine they can’t make therapeutic claims and as a controlled drug they can’t advertise … so it’s kind of snuck in under the radar.”

Since September, doctors have been able to prescribe CBD products without needing approval from the Health Minister.

The often unfairly maligned ex-MP Peter Dunne deserves some credit for this.

Trials are underway to test Tilray products’ effectiveness for treating childhood epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder and nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients.

Paediatric doctors here did not want to over-sell the benefits of the oil, “but certainly it does play a role for some of the severe [epilepsy] patients”, Mr Le Brun said.

“Without there being substantial evidence, they still think it’s worth a shot.”

Because it’s one of the few options that offer hope of improvement. But it is still very expensive.

The wholesale cost of a single bottle of the oil was about $600 – about half the cost of the only other widely available medicinal cannabis product in New Zealand, Mr Le Brun said. However, he expected the retail mark-up would probably put the price to patients at between $900 and $1000 a bottle.

Because Tilray was not a registered medicine, it was ineligible for Pharmac funding.

“Depending on the weight of a child for epilepsy, that bottle might only last three or four days, so without a political solution on the cost it still doesn’t change anything for the patients who are most in need.”

Most parents will not be able to afford that.

A much larger evidence base would be needed to get the product registered as a medicine and seek Pharmac subsidies, he said.

Labour has made medicinal cannabis one of it’s first 100 days priorities:

  • Introduce legislation to make medicinal cannabis available for people with terminal illnesses or in chronic pain

As well as this commitment they have the legacy of Helen Kelly to honour – Kelly openly talked about using cannabis products to ease her suffering as she died of cancer.

The Greens should also support it. They have an agreement with Labour to take cannabis law further, but later – “and have a referendum on legalising the personal use of cannabis at, or by, the 2020 general election”.

However Parliament needs a majority. Labour are committed, as are the Greens, but either NZ First or National (unlikely given their past lack of fortitude on medicinal cannabis) to get it passed into law.

New Zealand remains reliant to a large extent on progress in research of medicinal cannabis internationally.

A major anomaly remains – it is legal to drown your sorrows and self medicate with alcohol, but puffing away your pains is policed and punishable.

Hague on recreational cannabis

Green spokesperson on health Kevin Hague has given his personal views on medicinal cannabis in a blog post.

My personal position on the sale and supply of cannabis for recreational use

I was in Vancouver last year, and medicinal cannabis shops were everywhere. We checked one out. The deal is we had to go and get a certificate from a doctor (some of the shops have a doctor onsite) to say we had a medical condition (you know pain, nausea, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping) that would benefit from using cannabis, and then we could buy whatever we wanted in all sorts of smokable, edible and drinkable formats.

Some other jurisdictions (eg California) have this approach too. It is precisely what opponents of medicinal cannabis access are concerned about, because it’s legalised supply with the thinnest of veils over the top.

This is presumably one of the things the National Party is concerned about when it opposes moving on cannabis or even  being prepared to look into options.

Unfortunately the illegal status of cannabis has led to this kind of approach and has confused the meaning of the term “medicinal cannabis”, with the unfortunate consequence that we lose support for medicinal cannabis from those who would be open to genuine medicinal uses but who are opposed to recreational use for whatever reason, thereby slowing down and complicating progress.

It certainly does seem to be complicating progress here in New Zealand.

My personal position, as most people probably know, is to support legalisation of the possession, use, cultivation, sale and supply of cannabis for recreational use, although each of these should be subject to some level of regulation.

I support the development of a framework that is consistently applied to all recreational drugs including both currently licit and illicit ones, with the heftiness of regulation being in proportion to the risk of harm from a drug (the only basis I can think of for the State to be involved at all).

When such an analysis has been undertaken previously, the risk of harm from cannabis has generally been found to be significantly less than that of alcohol, for example, so it’s not unreasonable to think of recreational cannabis being regulated in a similar way to alcohol is now (though regulation for alcohol should probably be stronger).

There are various models for doing this being experimented with around the world as the ‘war on drugs’ thankfully begins to fall apart, so while there are some interesting debates to be had (state supply like Uruguay, or free for all like Colorado, for example) these are questions for another day.

Why are they questions for another day? Isn’t it time to look for answers now?

Hague then goes on to discuss issues around medicinal cannabis, and how it complicates the recreational debate. Which is where he and Greens seem to be interested in at the moment, kicking the recreational can down the political road.

 

NZ to follow Australia on medical cannabis

New Zealand is likely to wait on Australia and follow them in allowing wider use of medicinal cannabis, according to Peter Dunne and common sense. We don’t have the resources to do the necessary testing ourselves.

But in the meantime Ministry of Health guidelines that are being reviewed may make it easier for patients to import their own cannabis derived medicines.

Jo Moir at Stuff: Guidelines for medicinal cannabis applications are under review as access looks set to broaden

The reality is simple. The Government is not sitting on its hands doing nothing. In fact Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne is one of many driving change.

Just last month he called for a review of the guidelines for considering medicinal cannabis applications.

As it stands the only approved medicinal cannabis in New Zealand is the mouth spray, Sativex. It is not funded by Pharmac and costs over $1000 a month. Any other product must be approved by Dunne.

As of the end of January the ministry had received 120 applications for medicinal cannabis, of which 105 have been approved. Another five are still in progress and 10 have not been granted for various reasons.

So there it is – people are applying for access to medicinal cannabis and in most cases being granted it.

Dunne is on the record saying he is keeping a close watch on research and random-control trials of cannabinoid products in Israel and the United States. Once manufacturers make a product and it passes MedSafe checks it will be available in New Zealand.

The point in doing it this way is that it makes no sense to reinvent the wheel in New Zealand.

We’re not big enough to have the medical professionals and patients available to do the trials so it makes sense to piggy-back where possible, including in Australia.

And in an interview on Radio NZ Peter Dunne repeats the ‘follow Australia’ line: NZ likely to follow Australia on medical cannabis

New Zealand is likely to follow Australia once it provides medical cannabis for use, says Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne.

Mr Dunne said trials to assess the safety of such drugs were underway in Australia but were probably still two years off completion.

“Clinical trials that produce viable products in Australia that the therapeutic goods agency approves as being able to be prescribed, it’s very likely that MedSafe would follow suit.”

Mr Dunne said no manufacturers had come forward expressing an interest in conducting clinical trials in New Zealand for a medical cannabis product.

For medical cannabis products to be approved they need to have passed clinical trials. For the good of patients and for the good of the availability of cannabis products they must be proven to be safe enough to use.

Dunne also said he did not expect people to be prosecuted for using medical cannabis.

“I do not expect, and it’s not my responsibility anyway, but I do not expect the police or the authorities to be running around persecuting people who are using cannabis sourced illegally.”

However it has happened – see Rebecca Reider’s legal costs.

Helen Kelly has admitted self medicating with cannabis products, but I think there would be an uproar if she was investigated or prosecuted.

I doubt that police or politicians would want to stir that one up.

The drug is already legal for medical use in several American states, and both Queensland and Victoria in Australia expect to legalise it next year.

If you are prescribed cannabis products overseas you can carry a month’s supply into New Zealand. Travelling to the US to stock up would be expensive, but Australia would be more attractive. But once Australia legalises more medicines New Zealand seems likely to follow soon after.

Moir points out:

In short, if the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves something in America, which is only a matter of time, there’s no reason it wouldn’t be of a good enough standard for New Zealand.

Then it would be a case of Pharmac negotiating a price and potentially subsidising it.

But not yet.

National MPs including Prime Minister Key have been resisting any loosing of cannabis laws, but that may not be needed.

Prime Minister John Key moving away from his staunch position that there was no need to look at the system as it stands, to instead being open to research and evidence that shows the efficacy of medicinal cannabis.

A law change is almost entirely unnecessary. It would simply be a case of having medicinal cannabis products regulated under the Medicines Act 1981.

But safety has to be assured.

We live in a country where there’s processes for doing things and, yes, they’re tedious at times, but the flipside of that is we live in a country where making sure people aren’t put at greater risk is considered a priority.

Patients need a little more patience.

But if I was dying and thought that medicinal cannabis may help ease my suffering I’d be bloody impatient.

Another high profile cannabis user

Paul Holmes’ widow has revealed that he self medicated with cannabis while dying of cancer.

Stuff: Sir Paul Holmes turned to cannabis for pain relief, widow reveals

Broadcaster Sir Paul Holmes turned to marijuana for pain relief in the weeks before he died, his widow has revealed.

Holmes died in 2013, after battling heart problems and the return of prostate cancer.

Lady Deborah Holmes told NZME. Paul was not a drug user but “in the final weeks it was the one thing that could give him peace and comfort”.

He was allergic to morphine and the alternative concoction of drugs “sent him off to la la land”, she said.

He smoked the drug, as the couple was unaware of cannabis oil.

Why the hell do dying people still have to break the law to get some relief and comfort?

This follows recent publicity about Martin Crowe also using medicinal cannabis.

Former England cricketer Mike Selvey produce a moving tribute piece for Britain’s Guardian newspaper, where he says Crowe opened up to him about his medical struggles in New Zealand during the World Cup last year.

Selvey says Crowe told him he was sleeping 15 hours a day and using cannabis oil rather than undergoing more chemotherapy for his second bout of lymphoma.

“The apparently hale nature of his condition was a camouflage. When he was awake, he said, he did indeed feel good, but rather than undergoing yet more chemotherapy he was by then self-medicating with liquid marijuana and sleeping 15 hours a day. Happy hours though,” he said.

And union leader Helen Kelly has admitted illegal use while her attempt to obtain cannabis products legally got bogged down in Ministry of Health bureaucracy. As a result the MOH processes are being reviewed, but this time delay is not any help to Kelly.

Kelly was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer just over a year ago.

She continues to source cannabis illegally, which she takes at night to help her sleep and control pain.

Previously Kelly has said it was a “huge relief” for her when she discovered cannabis oil.

In the meantime four police officers have been shot in what looks like a reaction to police searches in the Bay of Plenty for marijuana crops.

Something is seriously wrong with how we deal with a relatively harmless drug that can provide comfort and relief, if not medicinal benefits, to people who are suffering and dying.

Rebecca Reider’s legal costs

Rebecca Reider fought in court for her right to use prescribed (overseas) medicinal cannabis last week and won.

This has been at a cost, so she is raising funds to cover some of those costs through a Givealittle page:

Medicinal cannabis – defending our rights

She explains her case and cause:

I’ve won my court case, defending my use of cannabis to manage chronic pain. However, I’ve been left with a massive legal bill to pay.

I’m so happy that my case may ease the way for other patients in need of medicinal cannabis. The supportive, grateful messages from other patients have made this hard and stressful journey worth it.

As a followup to my case, my attorney is now working to confirm that all patients will be able to bring medicinal cannabis products into the country from overseas if needed (until it’s legal to grow it here, which is of course the ultimate goal).

As a partially disabled person, I’m not able to work very much, so I’d really appreciate help covering my legal costs. Many hands make light work – if a magical 420 people each give $5, we’ll get there!

About my case:

In Nov 2015, police raided my house – searching my home and communications devices, and seizing my cannabis, commercially made cannabis oil medicines and seeds. This occurred because NZ Customs had intercepted two medicinal cannabis-infused chocolate bars in the mail to me. On Feb 29th 2016, at my third appearance in Nelson District Court, I was discharged without conviction on all charges of importation and possession.

I’ve been wrestling with a challenging chronic full-body pain condition for over nine years. I’ve seen over two dozen doctors, and most of them have been unable to help or even diagnose me. However, cannabis really helps my muscle spasms to release. I hold a medical cannabis prescription in California, where I was born. I’m so grateful for the soothing power of this plant. In some hard moments, it’s been a saving grace.

The judge recognised the validity of my overseas cannabis prescription – possibly a first in NZ. My defence rested on a previously little-known clause in the Misuse of Drugs Act, which allows a person to physically bring a month’s supply of a controlled drug into New Zealand, so long as it was lawfully supplied overseas and is being used to treat a medical condition.

This case is only one step. But we believe we’ve opened an important new chink in the armour of this country’s inhumane and outdated prohibition of a very important plant medicine.

My attorney and I are currently working to clarify the legal situation and importation protocols so that other patients can follow in my footsteps and bring medicinal cannabis into the country without suffering the massive burden of criminal charges.

This funding campaign covers my attorney’s fees, and my travel costs for my court appearances. It doesn’t cover the significant amount of time I’ve had to take off work to deal with a complex legal process, or the stress of being treated like a criminal – but I’m just glad my hardship has been for the greater good. This campaign also doesn’t cover the significant cost of my cannabis medicines, which the police seized and have not returned, and which were special products suited to my pain condition… I may have to wait for someone to start a Give-a-Nug website to replace those 😉

More info on my case:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/77438549/golden-bay-woman-wins-legal-victory-for-medicinal-cannabis

More detail on our legal argument, from my lawyer:

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/201791835/nelson-medical-cannabis-case

It was an interesting case and the judge seemed to have some sympathy for Rebecca’s situation.  As will many people.

It seems nuts that a relatively harmless drug that seems to have many helpful and medicinal attributes is still so risky to use.