Cannabis bill more politics than policy

Shane Reti surprised Parliament by introducing his own medicinal cannabis bill today. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

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National has drawn up its own medicinal cannabis bill, but the real story isn’t the policy, but the politics behind it, Thomas Coughlan reports.

National has released its alternative medicinal cannabis bill, which it says will make cannabis medication products more widely available.

The party also says that the bill adds some much-needed regulatory detail to the Government’s bill, which largely delegated such detail to officials.

But the real story of the day was a political one, with National blindsiding Labour, whose medicinal cannabis bill returned from select committee today.

Surprised Government MPs were unable to comment on National’s bill, which they had only been made aware of after it was reported by Newshub on Wednesday night.

The bill puts pressure on the Government’s support parties, particularly the Greens, whose own medicinal cannabis bill brought by Chlöe Swarbrick was defeated in January.

If National’s bill is drawn from the ballot and found to be popular, pressure could mount on the Green party to break ranks with the Government and support it.

The Government still has the numbers to pass its own bill, but National’s position means changes will now have to be introduced as Supplementary Order Papers, delaying its implementation.

Bills mount up

National’s bill is sponsored by Shane Reti, a doctor and the Deputy Chair of the Health select committee, which had been looking at the Government’s bill.

Reti enlisted the help of National’s health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse, Chris Bishop, and politicians from Canada and the United States in drawing up a proposed regulatory regime.

National would implement a “pharmaceutical” style system, in which products containing cannabis products would be treated “as if it were just another drug,” according to Reti.

Doctors would prescribe cannabis medicines for ailments and pharmacies would distribute them.

Users would be issued with a Medicinal Cannabis Card, certifying them to buy medicinal cannabis products.

The bill would not allow the use of “loose leaf” cannabis and, unlike the Government’s bill, would not provide a statutory defence for terminally ill people caught using cannabis.

Many of the provisions in National’s bill are absent from the Government’s bill, but could form part of its regulatory regime.

The key difference being that…

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