Poll suggests more progressive cannabis law reform wanted

People hoped that a new Government, especially one with Greens and Labour dominant, would properly address dysfunctional cannabis related laws. The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill is set to be passed this week, probably on Tuesday, but the lack of scope that has made it through the parliamentary system is underwhelming. Many will be disappointed.

A poll suggests that a majority of New Zealanders want more from Parliament – more like moves in a number of other countries, like Canada and United States who are far more progressive.

NZ Herald: Kiwis support medicinal cannabis for many conditions: Poll

A majority of New Zealanders say medicinal cannabis should be allowed to treat chronic pain, sleep disorders and other conditions, according to a new poll.

The Horizon Research poll, which was commissioned by fledgling medicinal cannabis producer Helius Therapeutics, comes just before a bill is expected to pass that will allow the use of medicinal cannabis for people who need palliative relief.

The poll, which canvassed the views of 2105 adults, showed support for medicinal cannabis to be allowed for a range of conditions.

Should be used for:

  • Chronic pain 68%
  • Cancer 58%
  • Epilepsy 52%
  • Multiple sclerosis 50%
  • Anxiety 49%
  • Arthritis 48%

I expect that those percentages would be much higher for those suffering from chronic pain, cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, anxiety or arthritis.

I wonder how these approval ratings would compare for the use of morphine?

The Government bill requires regulations for a medicinal cannabis scheme to be made no later than a year after the law comes into effect. There will be further consultation on those.

Other findings from the poll:

  • 75% agreed that medicinal cannabis should be treated the same as any other medicine
  • 59% agreed that doctors and nurse practitioners should be able to issue “medicinal cannabis cards” so patients could access cannabis products from pharmacists without prescription

More on that last result from Medical Cannabis Awareness NZ:

Recently Helius has commisioned a Horizons poll outlining attitudes around Medical Cannabis.  With the final reading of the Medical Cannabis bill likely to be early this coming week, it outlines strong support across the political spectrum for significantly more reform than what was offered in the Govt Cannabis Bill.

“A key critique of the govt bill is that it shows no shape or intent outlining the nature of the ‘scheme’. Public support as polled shows strong support for a Card based access scheme similar to what is in place in many US States, and as proposed in Dr. Shane Reti’s private member’s bill” says MCANZ Coordinator Shane Le Brun.

The Headline result shows that support for a card scheme is at 59%, with those opposed only at 18%

“Such results should be taken seriously by the team at the Ministry of Health who will be in charge of creating the scheme. Its a timely poll in that the next phase will be reliant on these unelected officials to balance the demands of the public, along with political expediency and the nature of managing the public health risks and benefits such a scheme may entail”.

“The preference of the public is to destigmatize Medical Cannabis, which aligns with our charities views. Essentially we would be satisfied if ‘Balanced’ Cannabis products were treated with the same caution as lighter Opioids and Benzodiazepines such as Codeine and Diazepam, which are prescribed quite freely”

“Unfortunately the wording of the question suggests following the traditional medical development model, which is where cannabis-based medicines hit a snag, its commercial suicide to do large-scale phase 3 trials for Medical Cannabis products, where the compositions etc are not able to be protected by patents”
This leads into our main issue with Medical Cannabis gaining legitimacy, the paucity of Phase 3 RCTs”

It is the hope of MCANZ, that with the successful passage of the bill, that the Minister and the Ministry waste no time in getting the regulatory consultation underway, and use such polls in their initial planning.

After initially indicating they would take urgent action over medical cannabis availability. It has taken a year to get a watered down bill over the line.

It could take up to another year to put it into effect.

 

What’s in Labour’s Medical Cannabis bill?

Labour promised to something about medical cannabis in Taking action in our first 100 days:

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

And there is also the promises to Labour stalwart Helen Kelly to honour as well, after she openly admitted using cannabis to alleviate the symptoms of the cancer as she died.

Medical Cannabis New Zealand worries about ” “a sense of dread in the patient community that Labour’s bill will be more tinkering around the edges”:


What’s in Labour’s Medical Cannabis bill?

With the looming introduction of a bill by Labour for Medical Cannabis, the patient community is sceptical, and bordering on pre-emptively hostile due to the lack of consultation, and the comments from Jacinda Ardern about pharmaceutical grade Cannabis Based Products. Considering the lack of information coming out, we wish to publish our bottom line positions. These positions were promulgated to David Clark and other MPs with Health portfolios pre election, and represent what we feel is the minimum that needs to be done to drastically improve health and legal outcomes for patients.

“There is a sense of dread in the patient community that Labour’s bill will be more tinkering around the edges”.

“While I am pessimistic, we hope that a majority of our redlines are met, and that there is an engagement and commitment toundertake further reform, particularly around licensed production, which doesn’t lend itself easily to the hundred day fix”.

“It is concerning also that there has been zero consultation with the patient community on the bill being put forward, and that any briefings or BIMs David Clark has had on this topic are being refused release”.

“To enable something rapid for patients, the only affordable option is home growing, despite this being undesirable from a medical perspective, any imported products are still going to be unobtainable by the patients who need them most, sickness beneficiaries and ACC Claimants.” Says MCANZ Coordinator Shane Le Brun.

MCANZ Redlines

  • Medical necessity must be a legal defence. Due to the postcode lottery of medical specialists, a legal defence needs to be in place for those stuck in the backwaters or with backwards-thinking doctors. This would force police to more carefully consider the public interest. The police have demonstrated a fixation on cultivation and are prosecuting patients with severe medical needs, an amendment to the crimes act to include this defence is needed.
  • A non-smoking provision. In the age of the portable vaporizer, there is absolutely no need to smoke cannabis, and no one should. Any Politician citing excuses around smoking being bad for health should be soundly ignored, as no one is credibly arguing to smoke a medicine, This is already in line with the theoretical acceptability of Bedrocan, a standardized, granulated raw cannabis product, which MOH officials have said would be covered under the smoke free laws anyway.
  • GPs to prescribe. Schedule 22 of the current Misuse of Drugs Act needs changing so that all cannabis-based products can be prescribedby GPs. THC has a far better safety profile than other GP prescribed options such as Fentanyl, Diazepam, Methadone etc. This would also greatly reduces the barrier to access for patients, and would allow Cannabis to be prescribed as freely as Medicinal Cocaine. (theoretical, it’s on the books but no one prescribes it).
  • Notifiable prescribing. Instead of seeking Ministry approval to use Medical Cannabis, GPs should have a simple form to notify MOH of the prescribing, so MOH can gather data and look for unusual prescribing patterns. There is potential for this to become a survey of sorts and become part of the clinical data going forward – if there are several N=1 trials for a condition such as fibromyalgia for instance, the collective data may be used to measure benefit and even go as far as findings published in a medical journal article.
  • Made in NZ. It is important that the law is changed to allow Medical Cannabis to be grown for commercialized product. Our current law requires trials and facilities that could end up costing well over $20 million, for no ability to sell a finished, trialled product. Cultivation for trials has been legal since 1977 – yet it would be commercial suicide to undertake it in New Zealand.
  • A concerted medical education campaign. Many doctors are poorly informed when they talk to their patients about the benefits versus risks, and some try to avoid even prescribing Sativex to the point of misinforming the public. Even former NZMA chair Stephen Childs has made inaccurate statements on TV about the purity of the Botanically Derived Solution (BDS) that goes into Sativex. We note that the UICbranded symposiums held in Australia every year are hugely successful in bringing world-leading experts on Medical Cannabis to speak and generate conversation, piggy-backing off those efforts and mirroring that in New Zealand would go some way to addressing the barriers posed by senior Medical Staff.

– Shane le Brun, MZANZ Coordinator