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%)