If it’s medicine treat it like medicine

If cannabis is medicine it should be treated like one:

National has today lodged a Member’s Bill to implement a comprehensive medicinal cannabis regime that would widen access to medicinal cannabis and license high quality domestic production, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.

“Over the past few months the National caucus has been considering the issue of medicinal cannabis while our Health Caucus committee members have been hearing submissions on the Government’s own, limited, medicinal cannabis Bill.

“New Zealanders deserve greater access to high quality medicinal cannabis products to ease their suffering but we must have the right regulatory and legislative controls in place.

“The Government’s Bill utterly fails both those tests, so we will vote against it. It includes only minor improvements to how cannabidiol products are treated, which the previous National Government had already facilitated.

“It is also totally silent on how a medicinal cannabis regime would operate in practice. The Government has said it will increase access now and leave it to officials to think through the controls and the consequences later. That’s typical of this Government but it’s not acceptable. So we’re putting forward a comprehensive alternative,” Mr Bridges says.

It is irresponsible to pass a law and then leave it to officials to think through controls and consequences later.

National’s proposed regime includes:

Medicinal cannabis products will be approved in the same way a medicine is approved by Medsafe. No loose leaf cannabis products will be approved.

Medical practitioners will decide who should have access to a Medicinal Cannabis Card, which will certify them to buy medicinal cannabis products.

Medicinal cannabis products will be pharmacist-only medicine.

Cultivators and manufacturers must be licenced for commercial production. Licence holders and staff will be vetted to ensure they are fit and proper persons.

A licensing regime that will create a safe market for medicinal cannabis products. Cultivators and manufacturers will not be able to be located within 5km of residential land, or 1km of sensitive sites such as schools and wahi tapu.

Legalising medical cannabis provides an opportunity for farmers. Restricting where it can be grown, and who can grow it provides safeguards.

We visited farms growing opium poppies in Tasmania and they managed to do that without encouraging or enabling illicit drug use.

No advertising of medicinal cannabis products to the public will be permitted.

The Ministry of Health will review the legislation in five years.

“National is determined to be a constructive opposition working on new ideas and new policies. National’s Bill is the result of significant work in recent months including study by MPs overseas and reflects a blend of international best practice, tailored to New Zealand.

“I encourage the Government to pick up the enormous amount of work done by National in Opposition and implement our comprehensive reforms to ensure New Zealanders in need can access high quality medicinal cannabis products to ease their suffering.”

I’ve never found a satisfactory answer to why medicinal cannabis should be treated differently from other medicines.

If medical research shows a place for it – and there are questions about that – then it should be available for those it could help as other medicines are, through doctors and pharmacies.

That would be  achieved by National’s Bill.

Legalising medicinal cannabis this way could also provide opportunities for not just domestic use but exports too.

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