It goes further than the Government bill in setting up a regulatory regime but is more harsh on the method of consumption that most people envision – smoking.
It would make medicinal cannabis products a pharmacist-only medicine which could be quasi-prescribed by doctors, who would authorise a photo ID medicinal cannabis card that would then allow patients to buy cannabis products from pharmacists. This means doctors would not need to prescribe the cannabis over and over again.
This would contrast with the Government bill, which provides a legal defence for cannabis possession and consumption for those with terminal conditions, but does not provide a legal path to selling or obtaining it.
The Government bill was crap. It merely provided a defence for possession, but still forced people to break the law to get hold of cannabis if terminally ill. It was a typical Ardern Government Bill – nice sentiment and no substance.
National’s bill looks far better, and that’s not just my view. Here’s Russell Brown:
The medicinal cannabis bill filed today in the name of National’s Whangarei MP Shane Reti is vastly better-conceived than the government bill it seeks to supplant. But it’s not perfect, writes Russell Brown.
Brown goes on to analyse the bill in detail.
Nonetheless, the party that governed for years on the promise of never, ever changing the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 has, in Opposition, proposed easily the most consequential amendment to the act in its overlong history. It’s significant that the MP with his name on it, Shane Reti, is a doctor. It’s also significant that Reti had made time to talk to advocates.
But could this have been done differently? Could at least some of the ideas here have been added into the government bill? Apparently not. The Labour members of the committee – after hearing all those submissions – wanted to recommend that no changes be made. But National members had effectively cast their lot by that point and, frustrated by the lack of regulatory detail in the government bill, begun working on their own.
Today the Health Committee announced that its members “have been unable to reach agreement and therefore cannot recommend that the bill proceed” – which was understandably received as saying that the bill would not proceed. But committee chair Louisa Wall has confirmed that it will indeed go back to Parliament.
So perhaps it is possible that some of the elements of Reti’s bill could be incorporated in a Supplementary Order Paper. Labour could and should explore that option, swallow its pride and talk to Shane Reti.
Labour’s bill is a silly lightweight bill. They should either abandon it or see if it can be amended at committee of the whole stage to take on the substance of Reti’s bill.
Even if Labour won’t do this, National and Greens might be able to. But there is a risk that the changes needed to Labour’s bill would be too great to do as amendments, in which case we need to get Reti’s bill drawn from the ballot.