8 Jun 2017

Medicinal cannabis bill to be debated by Parliament

7:24 pm on 8 June 2017

Parliament will debate whether to legalise cannabis for medical use, after a Green Party member's bill was pulled from the ballot today.

Medicinal cannabis balm

Medicinal cannabis balm Photo: RNZ/Hans Weston

The legislation would make it legal for people suffering from a terminal illness or debilitating condition to use cannabis or cannabis products with the support of a GP.

Green MP Julie-Anne Genter, who has sponsored the bill, said medicinal marijuana should be legal, accessible and affordable.

The bill would allow doctors to permit qualifying patients to grow and possess cannabis, as well as an immediate relative or other nominee.

A second health-related bill was also pulled from the members' ballot today, with David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill, which would allow the terminally ill to be assisted to die, also to go before Parliament.

Medicinal cannabis supporter Huhana Hickey said legalisation was a much-needed step in the right direction.

Dr Hickey, who has multiple sclerosis, said it had been a long fight and people had lost their lives during the battle, including advocate and trade unionist Helen Kelly.

"I feel very sad that Helen never got to see it, however I'm sure she's supporting the fact that we haven't given up and we keep trying and it's looking closer now," she said.

Dr Hickey said there was widespread support across political parties and she was hopeful that it would pass.

Rebecca Reider has treated her complex chronic pain syndrome with medicinal cannabis for about six years.

She screamed and danced when she got the news today and said fighting for medicinal cannabis had been a huge struggle under the National government.

"No more of this pretending that this plant has to be turned into pharmaceuticals that are too expensive for us before we can have them."

"Let's have the conversation... New Zealanders are so ready to have [it]," Ms Reider said.

But co-ordinator for the charity Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand Shane Le Brun said he wasn't optimistic.

"I'm pessimistic because Labour says they're all for medical cannabis and yet avoid debating the topic. National think the system now is good enough when there's less than 50 people accessing it legally. I don't think they have the numbers."

The bill would encourage healthy debate but it was unlikely to pass, he said.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs