As New Zealand prepares to make new medical cannabis legislation law, a fresh poll indicates many in the country will feel it won’t go far enough.
New Zealand’s Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill, was recently expanded and passed its second reading in late November. Even with the changes, cannabis won’t broadly available. The bill primarily seeks to update the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 to give terminally ill people a legal defence for its use and to alter the status of cannabidiol (CBD) so it is no long classed as a controlled drug.
While from little things, big things grow; it appears many New Zealanders would like to see broader access from the get-go. A recent poll indicated:
- 72% of adults agree with the view that doctors should decide, on a patient by patient basis, who should access medicinal cannabis products.
- 73% agreed medicinal cannabis should be treated the same as any other medicine.
- 59% agreed prescribing health professionals, such as doctors and nurse practitioners, should be permitted to issue a ‘medicinal cannabis card’.
- 38% would use it for chronic pain if the need arose.
“It’s clear that New Zealanders want a more comprehensive law than the one we are likely to get next week,” said Paul Manning, Executive Director of Helius Therapeutics on Sunday. “We urge MPs to listen to what the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders are telling them; they want broad access to affordable medicinal cannabis products.”
While it should be noted the survey mentioned above was commissioned by Helius Therapeutics, which has skin in the cannabis game, it was carried out independently by Horizon Research.
Legislation Could Be Passed Today
There’s little time for changes to be made to the Bill, with some expectations that it could be passed as early as today. Should it pass its final reading unchanged, the Ministry of Health will become responsible for regulatory conditions. However, additional public consultation on regulations is expected next year. Under the expanded Bill, regulations covering the scheme must be set no later than a year after the law comes into effect.
More on the nationwide online survey of 2,105 adults (18+), which was conducted between November 27 and December 6, can be viewed here. The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill can be viewed in full here.
NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ascended to the nation’s top job on a platform that included legalising cannabis for medical purposes.
Prior to this Bill, there has been some loosening up of laws. The Misuse of Drugs Amendment Regulations 2017 allowed some products containing cannabidiol (CBD) to be prescribed without first requiring the approval of the nation’s health minister; however the devil in the detail continued to make it access very difficult.
Earlier this year, Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand (MCANZ) published a more permissive and inclusive ‘plug-and-play” policy for medical cannabis that it wanted to see adopted.