30 Jan 2018

MPs to vote on medicinal cannabis bills

5:50 am on 30 January 2018

MPs will vote this afternoon on the government's plan to make medicinal cannabis more widely available.

medicinal cannabis

Two related bills - the government's proposed legislation and a bill from the Green Party - will be considered by MPs this week. Photo: Supplied

But some advocates are worried lawmakers will view the legislation as a "compromise position" rather than voting for the Green Party's more radical bill.

There are two related bills - proposed laws or law changes - in circulation.

The government's bill lays the groundwork for a regulated medicinal cannabis industry and effectively allows terminally ill people to use illicit marijuana in the last year of their life. It will be considered by MPs today.

Green MP Chloe Swarbrick's bill would allow patients to grow their own marijuana - with a doctor's permission - to treat a terminal illness or debilitating condition. It will come before Parliament on Wednesday.

Chloe Swarbrick at Greens headquarters in Auckland

Green MP Chloe Swarbrick Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Medicinal cannabis user and campaigner Rebecca Reider said she hoped both pieces of legislation passed their first readings this week.

"I hope that MPs don't get confused by the fact that two are coming up at once ... we actually need them both. They do pretty different things."

She said the government's legislation alone did not go far enough and still criminalised many people who were suffering.

"It's not a compromise position. It's a weak position.

"They said it was the best they could do to get something through the House and I hope we're able to prove that wrong."

Senior advocate group Grey Power is in the odd position of disagreeing with aspects of both bills, but still hoping they pass.

Grey Power president Tom O'Connor said the government's bill was too restrictive and had too many hoops to jump through.

But he said the Greens' effort went too far.

"It would be just tempting fate far too much to allow people to grow cannabis at home for their own medication amongst the tomatoes and spuds.

"They'd never harvest it for a start. People would be over the back fence to steal it anyway."

Regardless, Mr O'Connor hoped both bills would pass so they could go before a select committee and be debated.

"These things need to be discussed in the public and we'd like to see that discussion be as wide-ranging as possible."

Bob McCoskrie, of Christian lobby group Family First NZ, said the government's more "cautious and researched" legislation should go before a select committee.

But he said Ms Swarbrick's bill should be "chucked in the bin".

"There is no redeemable factor in it. It's a grow-your-own-dope bill."

The Greens' bill needs at least 61 votes in order to get over the line and will likely require support from some MPs in the opposition National Party.

National are meeting this morning to decide whether to let their MPs use conscience votes, which means members can choose to vote independently of the party line.

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