National missed its chance to lead on marijuana - Labour MP Michael Wood

Judith Collins and Michael Wood on The AM Show. Credit: The AM Show

National's medicinal marijuana Bill is a "political stunt" and likely to sit - unread - in Parliament's biscuit tin for years, a Labour MP has claimed.

As the Government's own Bill emerged from the health select committee without any recommendations on how it should proceed, National suddenly dropped its own on the table in the form of a Member's Bill from Whangarei MP Shane Reti.

While it's been hailed by advocates as an improvement on the Government's own Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill, as a Member's Bill it has to be randomly drawn from the ballot - literally a biscuit tin - before it can be debated in Parliament.

Mt Albert Labour MP Michael Wood says if National had ideas, it should have brought them up earlier.

"That's the select committee process - that's when parliamentarians sit down together and try and work through legislation to improve it. We just had that... and the National MPs didn't put forward these ideas," he told The AM Show on Friday.

"There's always a willingness to work together. We could have done that at select committee."

Judith Collins and Michael Wood. Photo credit: The AM Show

Mr Wood says Mr Reti's Bill was "dropped in the media" without warning, and the focus should be on improving the Government's own Bill, which is already in the system and on its way to becoming law.

"The thing that National's put forward might have some merit, but it is just an idea. It's sitting in the member's ballot, it could be there for a couple of years."

National MP Judith Collins, appearing with Mr Wood on The AM Show, said the Government should look to the past on how to proceed from here.

"Think about this - the smacking debacle that Helen Clark got herself into, she got herself out... by working with National for a compromise.

"Shane Reti is the person who's done all the work on this, he's gone away, he's done the work and he's brought it back and he's a medical doctor - a specialist actually - and he's really done the work."

Journalist and blogger Russell Brown, who has reported for years on New Zealand's drug laws and made an oral submission at the select committee, says while National's Bill is "vastly better" than the Government's, New Zealand First is to blame for the latter's modest ambition.

Mr Wood admitted the Government's Bill doesn't go as far as some Labour MPs would have liked. Thirty-eight of Labour's 46 MPs voted for Green Party MP Chloe Swarbrick's Member's Bill, which would have let people with a "debilitating condition" or terminal illness use cannabis products - even the leaf itself, which neither of the present Bills allow.

"Me for example, I voted for Chloe Swarbrick's Bill earlier on. I thought that would go a little bit further and give people a bit more relief," said Mr Wood.

"But what the Government Bill does do is it gives people who have a terminal illness or a serious illness access to medicinal cannabis, and it gives them a defence if they have a joint or something, a non-legal product... It improves the current situation significantly."

Every National MP voted against Ms Swarbrick's Bill, even after some publicly said they'd back it.

"People like me think it would be good to go a bit further," said Mr Wood.


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