New Zealanders have been campaigning for years for legal access to cannabis medicine, and their persistence has finally paid off. The country’s legislative brass recently passed a law that will make medical marijuana widely available to tens of thousands of patients living with a variety of health conditions. It is a move that will be especially beneficial to those folks living in constant pain, according to various reports.
On Tuesday, New Zealand’s government decided that medical marijuana should be made available to more patients over time. In addition to allowing those with chronic pain conditions to get their hands on the herb, the new law will also provide access to the terminally ill, allowing them to start smoking marijuana immediately with the threat of legal repercussions. Most patients, however, will have to wait another year while the regulatory affairs are being hashed out.
“People nearing the end of their lives should not have to worry about being arrested or imprisoned for trying to manage their pain,” health minister David Clarke told the Guardian. “This is compassionate and caring legislation that will make a real difference to people … they can use illicit cannabis without fear of prosecution.”
The move is considered a progressive pathway for the country as it considers entering into a fully legal marijuana market. New Zealanders are expected to decide on a nationwide referendum in the next couple of years whether the nation is fit for recreational marijuana in the same way as Uruguay, Canada and a handful of America states.
Therefore, laying the initial infrastructure through medical marijuana was a logical first step.
“New Zealanders will take this as encouragement that we don’t need to be stuck in the past,” Sandra Murray, campaign manager for the #makeitlegal campaign, saidin a statement. “We are now only two steps behind the rest of the world when it comes to sensible cannabis laws and with the upcoming referendum, we are on track to become an example of how to get it right.”
The new law will give cannabis companies the ability to produce marijuana products for distribution in the local and international markets. Many of the nation’s struggling economies will likely benefit the most, as the legal cultivation and sale of cannabis will create new jobs and opportunities for the most impoverished communities.
Marijuana consumption is common throughout New Zealand, but police do not mess with the small-time offenders. It is the illicit trade that consumes the majority of their focus. There is hope the new law with put a dent in the illicit trade. Still, some opposing forces argue that the way the nation is going about the new medical marijuana scheme is “lazy and dangerous.” The cynics say the new medical marijuana law decriminalizes marijuana use by stealth, which could lead to an uprising in public consumption.
“We support medicinal cannabis but strongly oppose the smoking of loose leaf cannabis in public. Smoked loose leaf is not a medicine,”said the Nationals’ spokesperson on health, Shane Reti.
Regulations and licensing for the medical marijuana program are expected to be put into place within the next year.