'Westie' Paula Bennett open to medicinal marijuana
Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett has admitted the "Westie" in her wouldn't mind medicinal marijuana being legalised - at least for medicinal purposes.
But, as she told The AM Show on Friday, it's not National Party policy.
On Thursday Green MP Julie Anne Genter's Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis and Other Matters) Amendment Bill was drawn from the ballot.
It would make it legal to grow your own marijuana for medical reasons, but only with a doctor's approval and thereby avoiding costly imported products.
Asked if she supported it, Ms Bennett showed she's nowhere near as opposed to the idea as her boss Bill English.
"The Westie in me says one thing… but I haven't discussed it with the caucus," she told The AM Show host Duncan Garner.
"I have some sympathy, and we can see the loosening up that Peter Dunne's doing as far as some of those products, as far as medicinal cannabis, but this one sounds a bit too far for us."
In April, Mr English said New Zealanders "don't want an official marijuana industry". At the time, Mr Dunne, the Associate Health Minister, had just changed rules around prescribing non-psychoactive medicinal marijuana products, delegating discretionary authority to the Ministry of Health.
He's since loosened those rules further, with plans to let doctors prescribe it like any other medicine.
Ms Genter's Bill goes a lot further, allowing Kiwis to grow and smoke the plant itself.
"The medicinal products that contain cannabis that are available cost over $1000 a month," she told Newshub. "For most people, those pharmaceutical products are still completely out of reach."
Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni, also appearing on The AM Show, said Ms Genter's Bill goes a "lot further" than previous Labour attempts to change the law.
"We need to have a caucus discussion on this, but we were definitely heading in that direction."
She says public opinion appears to be shifting in favour of medicinal marijuana, particularly following revelations high-profile Kiwis, such as Martin Crowe and Helen Kelly, were regular users.