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The Drug Foundation welcomed the government’s announcement to establish a government-run medical cannabis scheme as part of its First 100 Days commitment.
The Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill will build a solid framework to oversee the domestic cultivation and manufacture of medical cannabis products, and improve advice to the medical profession about how to prescribe medical cannabis products. New products are going to be made available on prescription to patients from pharmacies.
“The scheme would address the current barriers of cost, accessibility and fear that patients face in accessing medical cannabis,” said Ross Bell, Drug Foundation Executive Director.
“The proposed scheme is very similar to models that have been working well in places such as The Netherlands and Canada. The encouragement of a domestic supply market could be a game changer by expanding the range of products, as well as addressing the current expense of importing products from overseas.”
“Medical professionals, who are currently very nervous about medical cannabis, should have confidence in the scheme. But more importantly, patients will be the big beneficiaries of the scheme, once it’s up and running.”
“And therein lies a problem, the scheme will take some time to be fully operational. The estimate of a two-year wait is too long. We need a better stop-gap measure than the bill currently provides.”
The bill introduces a statutory defense for possessing and using cannabis, but is limited only to patients who are expected by their doctors to be in their last year of life.
“It’s understandable the bill includes such a time limit, given some tricky political maneuvering must have been needed to include this defense. 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. We would want this protection to be given to all patients and to those currently supplying medical cannabis.”
The Drug Foundation also wants medical cannabis patients represented on the advisory committee overseeing the scheme.
“This bill shows the kind of compassion a huge majority of New Zealanders want for patients whose lives can be improved by using medical cannabis. But to ensure that compassion is built into the scheme, medical cannabis patients must be at the table to ensure their voice is at the centre of the scheme.”
Read the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill. Details on making submissions to the Select Committee will be available in early 2018.