There was once a time when I thought all cannabis was bad. I thought it was a drug that simply did not need to exist, and when there were reports on the news showing officials destroying cannabis crops I was pleased. But over the years, as the availability of other pain killing medicines becomes an increasingly contentious issue for severe medical problems, I have begun to waiver.
I began to waiver after seeing stories of people who otherwise had no criminal record, being arrested and charged for cannabis possession. Whilst many of them might have had illegal plans for what was in their possession, there were a few who had fallen out with the medical system and were simply using it as a last resort. As a humanitarian who hates seeing people in pain, I came to realize that cannabis can have benefits after all.
It will not bring back Lecretia Seales, and it may be too late for Council of Trade Unions spokeswoman Helen Kelly who is fighting terminal cancer, but the decision of Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne to back medicinal cannabis trials can only be good.
Some will argue against the morality of using a drug that is illegal to be in possession of, sell or obtain. They will argue that it sets a bad precedent for future generations, and some may even go as far as saying that if cannabis is to be made legal in a medicinal form, then harder substances such as heroin might as well be made legal. It is an argument that from the perspective of financial or criminal gain might have had some credibility, but when one talks to a dying cancer patient who just wants their last days to be as pain free as possible the argument falls flat on its face.
What I support is:
- A cross party work group being established to prepare a scoping report about the feasibility of medicinal cannabis in a New Zealand context
- In conjunction with the working group, a set of field trials to be conducted into the development of cannabis crops suitable for medicinal use
- A second report exploring and making necessary recommendations regarding any legislative changes needed should cannabis be found to be feasible and appropriate medicinal cannabis can be developed
- How to make it available – will it simply be sold over the counter with a regular prescription, or will it require additional permissions
As this is already a contentious issue testing New Zealand law, there is no justification for any delay as the likelihood of further tests of the law as it currently stands are a certainty. In June permission for Nelson man Alex Renton to undergo cannabis treatment was granted due to the severity of his condition, which had him in a coma.