Medical Cannabis In New Zealand – Battle Of The Bills

Medicinal marijuana bills in New Zealand
Image: Wild0ne

One medical cannabis bill has passed its first reading in New Zealand, while a second more contentious piece of legislation heard in NZ’s Parliament last night missed the boat.

On Tuesday, the NZ Government’s Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill was sent to the Health committee for consideration. The bill seeks to create a statutory defence for the possession and use of medical cannabis – but only for terminally ill patients.

The bill has been criticised by some as not going far enough, but New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has previously stated it’s what the government thought could be passed.

The second bill was Chloe Swarbrick’s (formerly Julie Anne Genter MP’s) Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis and Other Matters) Amendment Bill. It went much further than the Government’s bill, covering:

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  • any terminal illness
  • all severe chronic disorders of the immune or nervous system
  • chronic back or other pain
  • any other medical condition that a medical practitioner certifies may benefit from supplementary plant cannabinoids

The bill would make it legal for New Zealanders who are suffering from terminal illness or any debilitating condition to use cannabis or cannabis products with the support of a registered medical practitioner. One of the more controversial aspects of the bill would be to permit cultivation by registered patients or their caregivers.

“Person A, or person A’s nominated support person, can cultivate, administer, supply, or possess medicinal cannabis for the purposes of person A’s lawful use in accordance with subsection (1). ”

The full text can be viewed here.

The Bill had solid support from NORML New Zealand.

“This bill is the strongest medicinal cannabis legislation before Parliament. It represents real reform. It would allow patients to use cannabis and cannabis products, and grow their own or have someone else grow it for them,” says the group.

Even New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern was supportive.

“Chloe Swarbrick’s bill is an opportunity for those people of that view to have that debate. I want that debate to happen in this Parliament so I will be supporting it to select committee,” said Ms. Ardern.

The Bill was read by Chlöe Swarbrick and received a rowdy but positive response from the public gallery. However, after a vigorous debate, it was voted down by 73 votes to 47 in a conscience vote.