Green Party bill to provide greater access to medicinal cannabis falls short

NZ Herald 31 January 2018
Green MP Chloe Swarbrick’s bill on medicinal cannabis has been stubbed out in Parliament tonight.

In an emotive debate at the first reading, the bill was voted down by 73 votes to 47 in a conscience vote.

All Green MPs, most Labour MPs and Act’s David Seymour supported the bill. All National Party MPs and NZ First MPs opposed it – though National MPs were allowed to cross the floor and NZ First MPs were not bound by the party line.

The vote comes a day after the Government’s bill on medicinal cannabis passed its first reading unanimously. The Government bill would create a legal defence for cannabis use for those who have less than 12 months to live, but it has been criticised for excluding those who suffer from chronic pain.

Swarbrick’s bill would have included chronic pain suffers, approved by a doctor. It would also have allowed anyone with a prescription to use, possess and grow cannabis to treat a qualifying medical condition, as well as nominate someone to grow cannabis for them.

This provision had been criticised as a licence to “grow your own dope”, but also lauded as a way to drop the price of medicinal cannabis, which currently costs about $1200 a month.

During her first reading speech, Swarbrick said it was “quite frankly, ludicrous” to suggest that the bill would lead to people pretending to be ill, or seeking cannabis for toothaches.

“New Zealand health professionals do not hand out pain medication willy-nilly.”
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