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New Zealand: Ministry rejects cannabis petition

The health select committee considered a petition asking it to look at the decriminalization of cannabis for pain relief and managing symptoms of chronic illness.

The petition said unlike opioids cannabis does not need to be taken in increased dosages to maintain pain relief.

The Ministry of Health said it was concerned about the use of raw cannabis as it varied greatly in chemical composition and strength.

In a report released on Friday, the committee said the Ministry of Health and drug funding agency Pharmac should continue to monitor international evidence about the use and benefits of medical cannabis but made no other recommendations.

"This report offers little relief to the many people who would benefit from a robust medical cannabis regime in New Zealand," New Zealand Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said.

The report also failed to recognize that any health risks from smoking raw cannabis can be mitigated through edible or vaporized alternatives."

Pharmaceutical cannabis medicine Sativex had already been approved for use in New Zealand, but was difficult to get and was not subsidized, Mr. Bell said.

"No one has the approval to use raw cannabis, and only 10 people have the approval to use Sativex. The application process is a never-ending labyrinth of confusing paperwork."

Many other countries and states allowed its use for medicinal purposes, Mr. Bell said.

"The drug has proven beneficial effects for relieving chronic pain, reducing nausea, improving appetite, improving the quality of life of people undergoing chemotherapy, and relieving muscle spasms."

A robust and well-regulated cannabis regime had the potential to bring relief to many people, he said.

The Drug Foundation was drafting an application to Pharmac to subsidize Sativex, Mr. Bell said.


Police rebuff call for cannabis law change

Police said they do not support the decriminalization of natural cannabis despite calls by Auckland's Deputy Mayor that it's safer than banned synthetic versions.

Penny Hulse said it was time New Zealanders discussed the decriminalization of cannabis, much as they had had discussions on prostitution and same-sex marriage.

But a police national headquarters spokesman said there was no political will for decriminalization and their stance on the issue was clear.

"Police do not support the decriminalization of cannabis."

 Minister John Key told the Herald he did not support the decriminalization or legalization of drugs.

 Ms. Hulse told an Auckland Council committee drawing up a policy on legal highs that it made no sense to regulate synthetic cannabis without considering safer alternatives.

She said she was "in no way pre-empting what that decision may be" and was "not calling for the legalization of marijuana. I have never done, I am calling for a discussion".

Ms. Hulse said she had been overwhelmed with support for her stance about decriminalization, but noted cannabis was a "toxic, dangerous drug" that was "not without side effects and not without negative implications".

"However, compared to the legal highs that's a discussion we need to have. Legal highs are certainly not safe, nor are they good for people."

Ms. Hulse was backed by AUT University's Professor Max Abbott who strongly supports the call to review cannabis law.

Professor Abbott, who was previously national director of the Mental Health Foundation, said natural cannabis was safer than synthetic versions.

He said the law had failed to reduce cannabis use, needlessly criminalized people, wasted police, and court resources and fuelled organized crime.

"I don't advocate the use of cannabis and other substances that cause harm.

"I advocate the abolition of laws that are illogical, waste time and money, do the opposite of what they were designed to accomplish, and overall do much more harm than good."

Auckland councilor Cameron Brewer said Ms. Hulse had sent out "confusing messages" and she needed to apologize for undermining organizations and people's work to educate people and combat drug use in the community.


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2019-02-12 10:15:03

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