Simon Bridges defends National’s new medicinal cannabis bill

Drive 25/07/2018
Photo: Getty.

The National Party has written its own bill for medicinal cannabis in New Zealand.

The member's bill will rival the Government's, which National says will make only "minor improvements" to cannabidiol products.

If it makes it through to the House, it will be the third cannabis bill to do so in quick succession, after a bill authored by Julie Anne Genter failed to gain enough support.

"It’s pretty clear there’s strong support for medicinal cannabis," National Party leader Simon Bridges told RadioLIVE Drive.

Mr Bridges says what the Government has been doing “wasn’t good enough” and didn’t provide enough framework for how its medicinal cannabis regime would operate.

“We thought we could do it better, a more comprehensive job than they’re allowing,” he said.

Under National's draft bill, loose leaf cannabis would remain illegal, with regulated extract "manufactured as liquid or pills."

"We do not support the smoking of any products and do not support cannabis normalisation or recreationalisation associated with loose leaf," National says.

Mr Brides clarified to RadioLIVE that he personally believes “complete decriminalisation is several steps too far” because of mental health implications and the drug’s “debilitating” effect.

Under National's proposed medicinal cannabis regime:

  • Medicinal cannabis products would be approved in the same way a medicine is approved by Medsafe.
  • Medical practitioners would decide who should have access to a Medicinal Cannabis Card, which will certify them to buy medicinal cannabis products.
  • Medicinal cannabis products will be pharmacist-only medicine.
  • Cultivators and manufacturers must be licenced for commercial production.
  • Cultivators and manufacturers will not be able to be located within 5km of residential land or 1km of sensitive sites such as schools and wahi tapu.
  • No advertising of medicinal cannabis products to the public will be permitted.
  • The Ministry of Health will review the legislation in five years.

The bill would also do away with the Government's bill's terminal illness carve out, which will allow cannabis use for those with terminal illnesses. National says there is too much "uncertainty about the logistics of supply".

The Government's bill - which National has announced it will not support - allows for a framework around medicinal cannabis to be set up, but the bill doesn't set the framework itself.

Under the Government's bill, the shape of New Zealand's future medicinal cannabis scheme would depend on decisions made by a medicinal cannabis committee.

Listen to the full interview with Simon Bridges above. 

Drive with Ryan Bridge and Paula Penfold, filling in for Lisa Owen, 3pm - 6pm Weekdays and streaming live on 'rova' channel 9 - available on Android and iPhone.