New Zealand’s Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill passed its third reading in Parliament on Tuesday afternoon and is set to become law, however it will be some time before full implementation.
“Today’s vote in Parliament clears the way for the creation of a medicinal cannabis scheme that will allow New Zealand companies to manufacture medicinal cannabis products for both the local and international market,” said Health Minister Dr David Clark. “Regulations, licensing rules and quality standards will be set on expert advice within a year of the law coming into effect.”
The legislation only gives terminally ill people a legal defence for dried cannabis used medicinally, but it will mean approximately 25,000 New Zealanders could potentially benefit. The legislation also alters the status of the non-intoxicating cannabinoid cannabidiol so it is no longer classed as a controlled drug, meaning CBD products will be available on prescription.
An oversight panel, including medical professionals, consumer and industry representatives will be set up to provide feedback and advice on how the scheme should be developed. In 2019, the Ministry of Health will release a paper for public consultation inviting feedback on quality standards, a licensing system and the regulations required.
This means that up until the point everything is place, terminally ill New Zealanders using medical cannabis have no legal defence – but whether authorities choose to prosecute those in such a position remains to be seen. It’s not something that would be viewed favourably by the NZ public.
MCANZ – Hurry Up Already
While grateful for amendments broadening the scope of the compassionate clause, a “whole plant” definition of CBD and enabling native cannabis strains to enter the market, Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand (MCANZ) believes a year has been wasted that could have been spent working on the scheme.
“We challenge the minister to get invitations for an advisory committee out before christmas to demonstrate it is truly a priority,” stated MCANZ Coordinator Shane Le Brun.
There will be ongoing pressure on the government to improve on the scheme. We recently reported on a poll that indicated many New Zealanders would like to see broader access to medical cannabis than the new legislation allows.
“Together we can change things. It may take a lot longer than we hoped; we may not get the exact result (or victory party) we hoped for. But persistent, engaging storytelling does work,” said Rebecca Reider of the recent turn of events.
Ms. Reider hit the headlines back in 2016 when she brought a bag of cannabis for medical purposes through customs at Auckland Airport, fully declared and without incident.