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The Drug Foundation has told MPs their proposed medicinal cannabis amendment bill could be a good piece of law - but it’s lacking detail. Nearly 2000 submissions were received on the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill, with 45 organisations and around 250 individuals opting to speak in person.
Speaking in the first round on April 4, Executive Director Ross Bell told the committee the bill’s focus on terminally-ill patients does not go far enough - the defence must be broadened to protect people with severe and debilitating conditions, as well as their support people. And despite any “anxiety” it might cause politicians, he said that should also apply to cultivation. “In the real world, right now, people are already growing and using cannabis for medicinal purposes.”
He urged the panel to listen and give priority to the patients when they have their turn from 30 April, to make sure their needs remain central.
I invite you to listen to the thousands of submitters, suffering under this archaic law that is so unfit for purpose.
Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick
Next up, Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick called the lack of provision for cultivation a “gaping black hole”. “Right now, people are still having to get access to medicinal cannabis illegally - because somebody has to grow it.”
Both suggested an independent board, with the ability to prescribe to patients who have been certified.
“We can do better,” Chlöe said. “I invite you to listen to the thousands of submitters, suffering under this archaic law that is so unfit for purpose.”
Two rounds of submissions so far have heard from a range of medical, treatment and advocacy organisations. There were many compelling arguments, as well as practical suggestions and solutions.
In the second round last Wednesday, Beverley Aldridge of Grey Power called the current policy a form of “elderly abuse” which subjects people to “dangerous pharmaceutical drugs with terrible organ-destryoing properties, causing unnecessary pain and distress”. It’s a human right, she said, for people to choose their own medical treatment.
“The world was flat until enough people stood up and said there was scientific proof that it was round.”
In all, 26 organisastions have been heard so far. We couldn’t possibly include them all, but here are a couple of choice samples to leave you with.
Melanie Stanton from Nelson Multiple Sclerosis Society said three-quarters of their 200 members were using illegal cannabis. Only one had been granted legal access, and so far that person hasn’t received any.
When asked by a panel member what negative repercussions members of their community had suffered from using cannabis medically, Moki Moki Raroa of Hinemaurea Marae said the only problem they’d had was when the police raided them and took away all their supplies.
Individual (public) submissions will begin Monday 30 April. Due to the large number of individual submitters, the committee will work as two subcommittees on the day (with up to four members each).
Each individual submitter will be given 5 minutes to address the committee, either in person or by teleconference.
Individual oral submitters should receive their email in the next week. If you have any questions in the meantime, contact the committee secretariat.