NZMA and the cannabis referendum

The NZ Medical Association President, , said that opposed legalisation of and urged a no vote at the referendum.

This prompted a backlash from several doctors, who said their views were not canvassed.

Dr Baddock responded:

She said the NZMA position is clear.

“Our position on cannabis has been around the harms of cannabis,” Dr Baddock said.

“It’s been there since 2012. It’s been reiterated a few times over that time, and this is a board and organisational position – it’s got nothing to do with me personally.”

A doctor has suggested to me I should look at what the 2012 policy actually says. Extracts are:

The NZMA believes that cannabis use, as with all licit and illicit drug use, needs to be viewed in terms of social determinants and the social gradient, whereby people living further down the gradient are at greater risk of drug harms.

The NZMA supports a harm reduction approach to cannabis use.

The NZMA believes the response to cannabis use should be one whereby cannabis users are diverted into education or treatment programmes. Law enforcement should target the suppliers of cannabis.

So the 2012 policy endorses a harm reduction approach, not a criminal approach. And specifically says users should be given education and treatment, not prosecuted.

So the 2012 policy strongly supported a change from the status quo. Now it was advocating decriminalisation rather than legalisation, but in terms of a binary choice between legalisation and the status quo, the 2012 policy is much closer to legalisation than the status quo.

So the decision by Dr Baddock to claim the NZMA is against legalisation, on the basis of the 2012 policy, is very dubious.

The real issue is why NZMA did not consult members and form a position on the referendum? The referendum has been known about for three years. As the 2012 policy only advocated decriminalisation, why didn’t the NZMA Board start a process to ascertain whether the majority of doctors supported the status quo, or legalisation?

Was it because they didn’t want to know the answer?

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