Medicinal cannabis will be waiting in the wings until at least mid-2020 before it can legally ease the pain of New Zealanders who are terminally ill or in chronic pain, a Ministry of Health document reveals.
Under the Government’s 100-day plan, Health Minister David Clark introduced the Misuse of Drugs (Medical Cannabis) Amendment Bill, which is expected to become law by March next year. But a Ministry of Health document, released following an Official Information Act request by National's associate health spokesman Shane Reti, shows a “go-live date” is actually closer to mid-2020.
"And this is just for the required regulations. It is highly unlikely that dispensing would begin at that point and it would almost certainly be much later. This is unacceptable," Reti said.
The opposition initially supported the Government’s bill, but withdrew its support when it introduced its own bill under Reti’s name in July. Reti says the Labour-led coalition needs to ditch its plan and adopt National’s bill to put an “appropriate regime in place in a fraction of the time of their current plan".
Green Party’s drug reform spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick has emphasised how “it's important to ensure that we are getting the best possible outcomes for patients here. It's unfortunate that politics has obviously got in the way."
Swarbrick’s own medicinal cannabis bill was voted down in January, but she says she is talking to both Clark and Reti about getting the parties to work together to have an effective strategy go live much sooner than mid-2020.
But in the meantime, it’s a painfully long waiting game.