Cannabis referendum: NZ Medical Association clarifies stance after members speak out

Cannabis referendum: NZ Medical Association clarifies stance after members speak out

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) says it no longer has a position on the upcoming cannabis referendum after its members expressed concern for the association's opposition.

NZMA chairperson Dr Kate Baddock wrote a letter in NZ Doctor apologising to members who felt they hadn't been given the chance to speak their minds.

Until Dr Baddock's letter was published, the association opposed its legalisation.

It comes after at least one doctor quit her NZMA membership and others spoke out against the association's stance on the cannabis referendum. 

Dr Baddock said NZMA has opposed the legalisation of cannabis since 2012, saying it should be decriminalised and treated as a health issue.

But that has now changed.

"Every member, however, has the absolute right to vote on the Cannabis Legalisation and Control referendum. The NZMA will have no position regarding the referendum itself."

Dr Baddock told RNZ last week NZMA "didn't do anything" to further inform its position when the referendum was announced. She also admitted to not consulting members before previously choosing to oppose the legalisation of cannabis.New Zealanders will be asked in the election if they believe recreational use of cannabis should be legal.

The cannabis referendum is non-binding, meaning even if more than 50 percent of voters give a 'yes' vote, it wouldn't be legalised immediately. Instead, a Bill would be introduced to Parliament following the election that would legalise and control cannabis, and the public would be invited to give their say on how the new laws might work.

Dr Baddock said in her letter that if the vote is in favour of legalising recreational cannabis, NZMA will "fully engage with all its members" to help inform its submission.