National puts up rival cannabis bill that would keep loose leaf illegal

The National Party has written a bill that would create a medicinal cannabis regime in New Zealand.

The member's bill will rival the Government's, which National says will make only "minor improvements" to cannabidiol products.

If it makes it through to the House, it will be the third cannabis bill to do so in quick succession, after a bill authored by Julie Anne Genter failed to gain enough support.

"New Zealanders deserve greater access to high quality medicinal cannabis products to ease their suffering but we must have the right regulatory and legislative controls in place," National Party leader Simon Bridges says.

Mr Bridges says the Government's been "totally silent" on how its medicinal cannabis regime would operate.

"The Government has said it will increase access now and leave it to officials to think through the controls and the consequences later. That's typical of this Government but it’s not acceptable. So we're putting forward a comprehensive alternative,” Mr Bridges says.

Under National's draft bill, loose leaf cannabis would remain illegal, with regulated extract "manufactured as liquid or pills."

"We do not support the smoking of any products and do not support cannabis normalisation or recreationalisation associated with loose leaf," National says.

Under National's proposed medicinal cannabis regime:

  • Medicinal cannabis products would be approved in the same way a medicine is approved by Medsafe.
  • Medical practitioners would decide who should have access to a Medicinal Cannabis Card, which will certify them to buy medicinal cannabis products.
  • Medicinal cannabis products will be pharmacist-only medicine.
  • Cultivators and manufacturers must be licenced for commercial production.
  • Cultivators and manufacturers will not be able to be located within 5km of residential land or 1km of sensitive sites such as schools and wahi tapu.
  • No advertising of medicinal cannabis products to the public will be permitted.
  • The Ministry of Health will review the legislation in five years.

The bill would also do away with the Government's bill's terminal illness carve out, which will allow cannabis use for those with terminal illnesses. National says there is too much "uncertainty about the logistics of supply".

"We are uncomfortable that exercise of the terminal exemption and the statutory defence requires the illegal act of supplying cannabis to be committed," the party says.

People will be able to apply for cultivation licenses, but there will be limitations based on criminal history and previous addition issues.

The Government's bill - which National has announced it will not support - allows for a framework around medicinal cannabis to be set up, but the bill doesn't set the framework itself.

Under the Government's bill, the shape of New Zealand's future medicinal cannabis scheme would depend on decisions made by a medicinal cannabis committee.

That makes discussing its future shape a challenge.