Govt refuses to budge on cannabis reform

Govt refuses to budge on cannabis reform

The Government is still refusing to budge on the recreational use of cannabis, but says it's open to further discussion around its medicinal use.

The comment has once again re-lit debate around cannabis law reform the same day as "J-Day" protests across the country.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman is giving an inch, but protesters at today's J-Day in Auckland want a mile.

"Overall I want to make sure New Zealanders get access to the medications they want over time, but I don't at this point support making marijuana available," Mr Coleman said.

More than 1000 gathered in Albert Park for the annual protest -- this year's theme the decriminalisation of medicinal cannabis.

Currently, non-pharmaceutical grade cannabis products can be accessed only with ministerial approval, but that's rarely granted.

"If you're dying in hospital, how are you going to be writing letters, and going and getting all these things together, and peer reviews and reports from consultants and things before you can get approval?" says cannabis supporter Chris Fowlie.

Teenager Alex Renton is one of only two people who has had approval to use medicinal cannabis. He died last year, but his mother's petition lives on.

Campaigners say medical access is the first step, but they want more. 

"We can't just say, 'Let's have medical and not recreational.' It's not an either-or. We need reform on both of those," says Mr Fowlie.

A US cannabis law reform expert told The Nation there is a way to find a happy medium between what's legal and what's not.

"You're at prohibition; maybe allow home production. Try collectives; try a government monopoly. You could try some of these options short of full-scale commercial legalisation," says Beau Kilmer.

The Government agrees there needs to be more research on medicinal cannabis, but that's as far as it will go.

The use of loose-leaf marijuana won't be considered in this Government's term.