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Access to Safe, Affordable and Legal Medicinal Cannabis

Sick and dying people should have access to safe, affordable and legal cannabis for medicinal use.

At the moment, patients who suffer from terminal illnesses and chronic pain who turn to cannabis for pain relief live in fear of being prosecuted. This is absolutely unfair and archaic - the stigma surrounding cannabis and especially medicinal use of cannabis needs to end.

In New Zealand, there is only one pharmaceutical-grade product currently available for use (with a prescription from a medical practitioner) called Savitex, which costs upwards of $1200 per month. Savitex is only indicated for patients with multiple sclerosis.

There are several fundamental issues with this:

Firstly, $1200 a month is an insurmountable barrier for most people, even if they do meet the stringent criteria to access medicinal cannabis in New Zealand.

Secondly, patients who do not have multiple sclerosis but suffer from terminal illnesses and chronic pain often struggle to get a prescription.

Thirdly, cannabis has been proven to provide effective pain relief for those who need it the most, yet in New Zealand it is only reaching a fraction of those who need it.

Finally, these suffering patients who do not meet the criteria to access medicinal cannabis in New Zealand and grow their own cannabis to alleviate their pain are made to be criminals.

This is why I drafted a Member’s Bill to fix these problems. My Bill would allow those in need to cultivate, possess and use cannabis and cannabis-based products, with the support of a registered medical practitioner. This is very similar to the medicinal cannabis laws in Canada and Hawaii, which have been operating for nearly two decades.

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I was lucky enough to have this Bill drawn on the 8th of June this year, soon after placing it in the ballot. I am eager for change; this Bill will make it easier for more people to access something they really need. This approach is based on evidence and will be beneficial for mental and physical wellbeing and minimise harm.

Some politicians are still overly cautious about cannabis, but it’s time that they caught up with the rest of New Zealand and the world. I hope to get cross-party support on such an important issue when my Bill is read after the election. Evidence shows there is low risk to using medicinal cannabis, and that it is less dangerous than prescription opioids or painkillers and less addictive.

New Zealand is a progressive, egalitarian and inclusive nation yet vulnerable people must fear prosecution for using a low-risk product to alleviate their pain. We are capable of so much more; and it’s not a question of ‘if’, but ‘when’. The time is now.

Julie Anne Genter

Editor’s Note:
For more information about Julie Anne Genter’s Member’s Bill you can see it in full on the Parliament webpage here.

Finally, to have your say on this issue please join Scoop’s HiveMind on Medical Cannabis

Medical Cannabis: Co-creating a safer and more humane policy for Aotearoa

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