The government of New Zealand passed the medical cannabis bill earlier today (December 11). The bill provides a legal defense to anyone prosecuted for consuming medical cannabis during the time when a scheme has not yet been established to regulate how medical cannabis can be accessed.
The bill stipulates that the regulatory framework for access to medical cannabis should be in place within 12 months after the bill was passed. In the meantime, those who are terminally ill and are undergoing palliative care or are otherwise in the final stages of terminal illnesses can use cannabis and rely on the legal defense provided in the bill should such patients ever be prosecuted for consuming an illegal substance (cannabis).
The third reading and eventual passing of the bill only became possible after three parties supported the bill. These were the Labor Party, the Green Party and the New Zealand First Party.
The Green Party only supported the bill after getting a concession that native strains of cannabis will be used rather than relying on imported varieties. The Green Party also pushed to have the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme established speedily, in any event not later than one year after the bill was passed.
New Zealand First pushed, and succeeded, in having the legal defense apply not just to patients having less than a year to live, but to all those undergoing palliative care.
Talking after the passing of the bill, Health Minister David Clark said he was delighted with the “most progressive” bill ever passed with regard to cannabis. He promised to do everything possible to ensure that medicinal cannabis would become increasingly affordable as the years go by.
Clark added that his ministry would draft a paper on the medicinal cannabis scheme and invite experts as well as the general public to contribute to this paper before the scheme is implemented. This draft will be ready early next year (2019).
However, the bill didn’t pass without opposition. The National Party initially supported the bill, but voted against it during the third reading in Parliament.
The National Party is of the opinion that the current bill effectively decriminalized marijuana without being explicit about it. Simon Bridges, the leader of the National Party, described the bill as an attempt at “decriminalization by stealth” because the bill doesn’t provide any guidelines regarding the implementation of the scheme.
For example, he wondered what a police officer would do in case that officer encountered someone smoking cannabis outside a school.
The National Party drafted its own National Bill containing a detailed plan of how medical cannabis can be provided without creating any unnecessary risks. For instance, their bill bans the smoking of paper-rolled cannabis and includes a photo-ID system to enable the eligible patients to access medicinal cannabis at pharmacies.
The plan suggested by the National Party may not go to waste, for its recommendations may be considered during the consultative process hinted at by the Health Minister. After all, both sides in this debate want a Medicinal Cannabis Scheme that works for all. ChineseInvestors.com (OTCQB: CIIX), Choom Holdings Inc. (CSE: CHOO) (OTCQB: CHOOF) and other players in the cannabis industry would be glad to see the US pass legislation permitting cannabis in some form at the federal level.
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