Medicinal Cannabis Industry Welcomes Sane, Safe Proposals For Legislation Of Cannabis

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The head of the New Zealand medicinal cannabis industry association is welcoming the release of the cannabis legalisation and control bill that will be voted on at the referendum as part of the general election this year.

Sally King of the NZ Medical Cannabis Council and says that while members will have their individual views, she believes the bill is designed to increase controls around access to cannabis by taking it out of the hands of criminals and young people.

“The Government has clearly looked at overseas examples of what works and come up with what looks like the best options globally to reduce access to young people and protect communities from harm.”

One of the biggest lessons from Canada was that the medicinal and adult-use systems need to be kept quite separate. The NZ Medicinal Cannabis Scheme became operational last month.

“The Medicinal Cannabis Scheme in New Zealand has been established with rules requiring pharmaceutical grade products only available through pharmacies and at this stage only through prescriptions. It is essential that medicinal cannabis production doesn’t get mixed up with non-medicinal or we will lose the trust and confidence of prescribers and patients.”

Ms King said allowing a small amount to be homegrown and the restrictions on legal age, public consumption and selling without a license would mean the plant is no longer controlled by gangs and criminals because people will be able to grow their own.

“The current laws are not working. The level of Police resources tied up in prosecuting people in possession of a small amount for personal use is just ridiculous; and in 2017 half of prosecutions for minor drug offences were Māori.”

Ms King said while the Canadian experience was far from perfect and there were a number of lessons to be learnt, it was also clear that the sky hadn’t fallen in, thousands of jobs had been created, motor vehicle accidents and youth access hadn’t increased.

In both the United States and Canada, legalisation has been associated with minor increases in adult use of cannabis, but youth use has remained stable or decreased (following pre-legalisation trends). In fact, from 2018–2019, since legalisation Canada has seen the biggest drop in youth use (those aged 15–17) in history, going from 19.8% to 10.4%. It is often older age groups, those aged 45–64, who report the highest increases in use following legalisation, possibly reflecting therapeutic use in older populations.

While Canada is only 18 months into legalisation after a century of prohibition, other lessons NZ has clearly noted from the Canadian experience and avoided in the proposed bill include the problems caused by a complex regulatory process, and long delays in licensing with not enough stores accessible, problems with quality and allowing corporate domination of the industry instead of ensuring the opportunities are available to small producers and suppliers.

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