National pulls support for Government's medicinal cannabis bill it says 'utterly fails', puts forward own member's bill

Source: 1News

The Government's medicinal cannabis bill has lost support from National, which instead will lodge a member's bill it calls "a blend of international best practice". 

National Party leader Simon Bridges said the current bill "utterly fails" at creating the right regulatory and legislative controls alongside giving Kiwis greater medicinal cannabis access to ease suffering.

"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," he said in a statement.

"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."

Mr Bridges said National's member's bill, which would only go before Parliament if pulled out of the ballot, was the result of "significant work" by MPs and reflected "a blend of international best practice, tailored to New Zealand". 

It proposes a licensing regime and approval for medicinal cannabis products in the way medicine is approved by Metsafe. 

The party supported the Government's medicinal bill in its first reading earlier this year; however said further support was based on select committee changes. 

Health Minister David Clark said last year the bill "does not make it legal for the terminally ill to use cannabis, but it means that they will not be criminalised for doing so."

"New Zealanders are a compassionate people ... medicinal cannabis products can help ease suffering and we should make it easier for people to get them."

The select committee report is to be released today. 

If passed, the Government's bill would mean terminally ill people could take cannabis medicinally if they have less than 12 months to live and the approval of a doctor.

Cannabidiol, a pharmaceutical grade medicinal cannabis product would also no longer be classified as a controlled drug.

Click here to read the Government's amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.

National's proposed regime 

•        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.

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

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