METIRIA TUREI: NZ can finally catch up to the rest of the world on Cannabis


New Zealanders have always been known for our compassion and willingness to give people a fair go. We don’t like to see other people in pain or hurt when there’s safe and effective treatment methods available. No Kiwi should have to live in pain because of an archaic, uncompassionate law. No Kiwi should have to use ineffective medication with lots of potential side effects when we know that there are better alternatives. No Kiwi should have their lives ruined by criminal charges when they’re trying to find pain relief. That’s why 76 percent of New Zealanders support having the law changed to enable people to have safe and legal access to medicinal cannabis. And pretty soon, that’s hopefully going to be a reality.

This week, my colleague Julie-Anne Genter’s Member’s Bill was drawn from the parliamentary ballot. If it passes, it will ensure that New Zealanders can get the care and pain relief they need at affordable prices. Rather than having to rely on importing expensive, overseas-based medicines, our Bill allows for cheaper, domestic options to be used. Our Bill gives a legal exemption for those with a qualifying medical condition to use and cultivate their own cannabis plants and other products.

Overseas evidence and experience shows that cannabis and cannabis-based products have few side effects compared to other pharmaceutical pain relief and sleep aids, including lower risk of addiction and zero risk of death from overdose. From a purely health perspective, it’s a great step forward to be able to prescribe safer medication with fewer risks associated.

Last but not least - too many New Zealanders trying to find relief pain have been unjustly criminalised by the status quo. Everyday New Zealanders like Billy McKee, who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident when a drunk driver deliberately rammed his motorbike over 30 years ago, was left in chronic pain after the accident. The pain medication he was given caused intolerable side effects and he had to use cannabis to alleviate the pain. His experience inspired him to become a counsellor and found GreenCrossNZ - an organisation advocating for medicinal cannabis. Unfortunately, Billy was arrested in 2010 on charges relating to his medicinal use and again in 2012 in a sting operation. You may also remember union activist Helen Kelly having to break the law in the last few months of her life just to get the pain relief that she needed.

New Zealand can finally catch up to the rest of the world on cannabis. I hope that my colleagues from across the aisle will do the right thing and end the archaic and uncompassionate status quo when our Bill comes up in Parliament. It’s time for affordable, accessible and legal medical cannabis.