21 Jun 2017

Don't fear the reefer

From The House, 6:55 pm on 21 June 2017

The Drug Foundation says the Netherlands and Canada have models for legalised medicinal cannabis that New Zealand could borrow from.

 

Two years ago Rose Renton’s 19 year-old son Alex was given special permission to use medicinal cannabis.

 

Rose Renton (centre) answers questions from the Health Committee on her petition to reform access to medicinal cannabis with Lawyer Sue Grey (left).

Rose Renton (centre) answers questions from the Health Committee on her petition to reform access to medicinal cannabis with Lawyer Sue Grey (left). Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

 

The approval sparked a nationwide debate and a petition in Rose Renton’s name which is calling for a change to cannabis law is before the Health Committee.

 

Speaking on the petition the Drug Foundation’s executive director Ross Bell said New Zealand is able to design a model for medicinal cannabis.

 

“Whatever our fears are we could design a model to alleviate the fears that lawmakers have as well as delivering safe affordable accessible medicine,” he said.

 

Executive director of the Drug Foundation Ross Bell, speaks to the Health Committee about a petition to change cannabis law.

Executive director of the Drug Foundation Ross Bell, speaks to the Health Committee about a petition to change cannabis law. Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

 

For years the Health Committee has heard advice from the Ministry of Health as to why nothing can be done he said.

 

“It all goes back to the fundamental issue that these things can’t be done because our drug law was passed in 1975 and it is not fit for purpose, whether for recreational issues or for medical issues.”

 

Labour MP Damien O’Connor said some would argue easing access would encourage decriminalisation.

 

“That goes back to the issue of the world is your law makers oyster,” said Ross Bell in response adding that Canada and the Netherlands manage their medical cannabis regime.

 

“They do allow raw cannabis... but their regimes are quite strict and so if the fear was diversion onto the black market or if your fear was that this is sending too liberal messages around drug law, then you could design a medical cannabis system that was not the California system.”

 

“You could borrow the Health Canada model, not the California model,” he said.