We have come a long way

Three years ago I doubt a medicinal cannabis bill would have been able to be passed through the Parliament. Yet earlier this month the Parliament passed such a law unanimously through its first reading.

Two different bills have just been debated. The first was introduced by the government and builds on the work done to widen access to medical cannabis for the terminally ill. It did this by providing a legal defence for the use of cannabis to those with a terminal illness.

The other bill was a “grow your own” bill from the Green Party that was very flawed, and was rejected.

The previous government made some big steps in this area, such as providing lists of cannabis-based medical products that could be prescribed and would likely get Ministry of Health approval to doctors. But, given a limited market, there are still issues around cost and access to these medical products.

That means that it is still difficult for people who are suffering from a terminal illness to access products that have been shown to have the capability to ease suffering in certain cases. The question, then, is how do we best work within this system to provide a compassionate and evidence based avenue for treating these patients?

In these limited cases, it is not only compassionate but also reasonable to recognise that the limited use of cannabis may ease these patients’ suffering and they should not be considered to be breaking the law if a doctor signs off on the use of cannabis.

The discussion over medical cannabis should not be used as a way to legalise cannabis by stealth though. This is what the second Bill from the Green Party attempted to do. The Bill would have allowed people diagnosed with “migraines” as well as other conditions, to gain access to a waiver to grow and use their own cannabis.

This Greens bill was a step too far when we are considering how we should regulate a medical product. Their proposal failed to get a majority in the Parliament with National, New Zealand First and some Labour MPs opposing it.

We have come a long way as a country when our Parliament came together to unanimously vote for a Bill to improve access to medical cannabis for the terminally ill.

Jami-Lee Ross
MP for Botany