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The Health Select Committee is currently hearing submissions on the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill. Here are tips on submitting and the key issues that need to be addressed.
The Bill allows the government to set regulations for quality standards for the manufacture, import or supply of medicinal cannabis products.
The Bill also gives a legal defence to terminally ill patients who use cannabis. This is presumably intended to act as a compassionate ’stop-gap’ measure. Terminally ill people will not be criminalised if they continue to use cannabis while we wait for affordable and accessible medicinal cannabis products to be developed.
It is especially important the Select Committee hears real stories from real people, particularly patients, carers, whānau, health professionals and advocates.
Anyone can make a written submission on a bill. It can be as short as one paragraph or as long as a book.
Here are some tips:
The parliament website has more information about different types of submissions and what you can include.
After the written submissions are collected, the Health Select Committee will be hearing submissions in person (or by phone). We strongly encourage everyone do an oral submission in person if they can. MPs tend to pay more attention to someone speaking to them directly.
If you want to make an oral submission but cannot come to parliament in Wellington to do it, tell the Select Committee this and why. Occasionally, the Select Committee will travel to hear submissions. But if this doesn't happen, you can still do a submission over the phone.
Make sure you specify in your written submission if you want to do an oral submission.
Submissions to select committee are made publicly available. The basic rule of thumb is don't write anything in your submission that you don't want public. For example, it would not be a good idea to admit you grow cannabis at home or to give health information you don't want shared.
You can ask for your oral submission to be done in private. Indicate this in your written submission or speak to the Health Committee Secretariat (Ciara Lee, 04 817 6891, firstname.lastname@example.org).
It is important to tell your story in your submission. If you want to go into a bit more detail on the contents of the bill, here are some things you may want to comment on.
Ideally, cannabis products will go through a rigorous research and approval process. The government intends to set up a regulatory scheme to support this. But there is no information on what this framework will look like or what types of products may be included. For example, we do not know if raw cannabis products will be included or if you will be able to grow your own. If you have views on how the regulatory system should work or what products should be included, tell the Select Committee.
The Bill gives a legal defence to terminally ill patients who use cannabis, but it does not apply to family members or others supporting someone who is ill. Many patients may be too sick to obtain or consume cannabis by themselves and would need the help of a family member or friend. If you think the statutory defence needs to be widened, tell the Select Committee.
Patients with a range of severe and debilitating illnesses already use cannabis to combat their symptoms. Under the Bill they would continue to face prosecution. There seems no good justification for criminalising patients with severe and debilitating illnesses while they wait for affordable and accessible medicinal cannabis products to become available. If you think the Bill should include patients other than those with 12 months to live, tell the Select Committee.
Under the current bill, patients will have to get their cannabis from the black market until domestic supply is established. The bill gives no protection to people who have in desperation started growing their own cannabis at home, or to the ‘green fairies’ who grow cannabis purely to help people in need. For many patients, buying from the black market means risking prosecution, interacting with organised crime, variable supply, and potential exposure to hazards, such as molds and pesticides.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid with therapeutic properties, found in cannabis. The Bill will deschedule CBD and CBD products so they are no longer classed as a controlled drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act. While this is great for patients, some would argue all non-psychoactive cannabinoids should be descheduled along with CBD.
Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand have published a 'Comprehensive Solution for 2018 and Beyond' for rolling out medicinal cannabis which might be helpful.
We'll be hosting some workshops in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch starting 27 February, to discuss the Bill and guide people on how to make an effective submission. If you cannot attend these workshops, there will be a webinar and online updates. Find out more and register for a workshop.
Please contact us if you want to discuss anything or need help with your submission.
Select Committees now prefer to receive submissions electronically. Upload your submission file on the Parliamentary website
The closing date: 21 Mar 2018 NZ Time.