The National Party has historically been regarded as relatively conservative and in turn, against any drug reform. However, it seems that after losing out to the Labour Party last year, the National Party may be undergoing some radical changes.
National have proposed to make an amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Bill by introducing an “exception and a statutory defence for terminally ill people to possess and use illicit cannabis and to possess a cannabis utensil”. This amendment bill was first introduced into government late last year, just one month after National’s loss to the Labour-Green-NZ First coalition government. It has recently been passed through the Select Committee and is now in its second reading.
It appears that National is trying to target people who may not have potentially voted or supported them in the past by developing more of a social and health-based policy. Although this is not to say that the cannabis industry doesn’t offer a huge market for the government to profit from if this amendment bill is passed.
The proposed bill doesn’t suggest legalising cannabis, but instead explores the idea of making a legal exception for the terminally-ill to receive alternate quality healthcare from the plant. There has been ideas batted around that those who meet the requirements will get a cannabis card so that their doctor doesn’t have to continuously prescribe cannabis to them. This card idea is very much like the Medical Marijuana Identification Card Programme in California, as it is for ease of use and recognised by pharmacies.
One of the specifications in the bill is that the bill does not make an exception for cannabis smoking, it is only covering cannabis products like oils and pills. The healing chemical in cannabis is CBD which can be extracted from the plant to create balms, teas and so on. I think the reason why the exception isn’t covering smoking is to try and deter recreational usage as it’s difficult to attain the same high from CBD/cannabinoid products as the THC is removed and the THC is only activated at a certain heat.
Members of the public seem to be confused as to what the actual requirements to receive legal exception to access cannabis will be. The bill clearly states that the person in question has to be terminally-ill, but what kind of ill hasn’t really been discussed or developed yet. Would someone with crippling arthritis and someone with stage 4 cancer receive the same cannabis card? Both are relatively incurable, but does ‘terminally’, the way National has used it, mean it has to kill the person?
There have been very mixed responses towards this amendment bill, and some MPs and the public are surprised at this change of heart from the National Party and that it has reached its second reading. A lot of news outlets, including Newsroom, Scoop, and Stuff, are questioning whether this bill from National is just a political power move or if it is actually a health policy because they care.
As a follow-up to last issue’s Pinch of Politics, The Opportunities Party (TOP) is now withholding de-registering as a political party as Gareth Morgan has now put out a call for a new leader and the promise to financially back the new leader if they are a good fit for the party.