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Medicinal cannabis users' plea to Government

Medicinal cannabis users' plea to Government

On Thursday, 47 medicinal cannabis patients and caregivers sent an open letter to the Government to express our concerns about their imminent legislation.

Patients are grateful for the new Government's commitment to law reform on medicinal cannabis. But with reforms set to be unveiled as soon as next week, and early warning signs appearing that the reforms may not go far enough, many are also deeply concerned.

For a list of signatories to the letter, or to contact medicinal cannabis patients and care providers for media comment, contact Rebecca Reider, 027 359 4522, rebecca.reider@gmail.com

For general criteria by which to evaluate Government policy, see also: NORML's four-point model for patient-focused law reform: https://norml.org.nz/medical/patient-focused-medicinal-cannabis-normls-4-point-model-for-law-reform/

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The text of the open letter follows below.

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Dear Prime Minister & Minister of Health:

We are medicinal cannabis users and their care providers. Many of us have been forced into living as criminals in order to meet ours or others’ health needs. Too many of us have been subjected to police action and prosecution. Those few of us accessing cannabis legally have faced unacceptably high financial costs.

We are heartened by your Government’s commitment to act on medicinal cannabis, but also concerned about how thoroughly our needs will be met. We hope that your impending reforms will take a true patient-centred approach as outlined below.

Your predecessors in Government repeatedly announced that they were improving medicinal cannabis access; however, those pharmaceutically oriented reforms have benefited only a tiny number of people.

We request that you urgently pass real reform which immediately benefits us, our families and the many thousands of other New Zealanders who use cannabis as a medicine.

The new Australian medicinal cannabis regime, which has legalised corporate cultivation but has allowed almost no patients access, provides a cautionary tale of what can happen when patients’ rights are disregarded in the legislative and regulatory process.

There are numerous other successful, patient-centred medicinal cannabis regimes around the world, however, that New Zealand can learn from.

In the interest of public health and justice, we ask that you enact true reform that allows all who need it to access cannabis safely, legally, and affordably, as soon as possible.

Therefore, we request:

1) Affordable cannabis to be produced in New Zealand, with both natural cannabis flower and cannabis-derived products commercially available to patients. To keep it affordable and accessible, cannabis needs to be treated as a specially regulated herbal product, as it is in other medicinal cannabis countries, rather than treating it as a highly restricted pharmaceutical drug.

2) Immediate legalisation of the possession of cannabis for all patients who receive a doctor’s recommendation. It would be inhumane to force us to continue to live as criminals while we wait for a cannabis industry in New Zealand.

3) Legal personal cultivation licences for all patients who receive a doctor’s recommendation. Comparable jurisdictions such as Canada and the US allow patients and their caregivers to cultivate their own cannabis within a regulated regime. This is the most affordable way for most of us to access our medicine, and we see it as a basic human right.

4) We need to be able to access cannabis with a simple GP’s recommendation. The current process of forcing us to go through a specialist and apply to the Ministry of Health is too onerous and has kept many of us from accessing legal medicine.

Political tinkering that only allows for expensive products, only helps some patients, or forces us to continue to wait for legal access, is not enough.

We understand that you plan to introduce legislation soon. We request that before you decide upon your full pathway for reform, you meet in person with a delegation of patient/caregiver representatives and our medical and legal advisors, in order to discuss patient needs and how the law can meet those needs.

We are grateful for your commitment to progress on this issue. Please allow us to help you achieve real reforms for suffering New Zealanders.


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