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Give urgent attention to the New Zealand Law Commission's recommendations regarding medical cannabis

Give urgent attention to the New Zealand Law Commission's recommendations regarding medical cannabis


Why this is important

The country's largest medical organisation is backing a Law Commission proposal that would allow for the medicinal use of cannabis.

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA), which has 4500 members, says it supports a Law Commission proposal to allow people suffering from chronic or debilitating illnesses to use cannabis under medical supervision.

The proposal, outlined in the commission's "Issues Paper on Controlling and Regulating drugs", has not found favour with Justice Minister Simon Power, but NZMA Director Peter Foley believes the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes IS acceptable, provided it is subject to the same evidence-based testing as any other drug used for the same reason.

In a submission to the Law Commission, Foley said the Association (NZMA) supported cannabis being prescribed by registered medical practitioners for specified conditions where other available treatments or drug therapies have not been effective or have produced unmanageable side-effects. Medicinal use of cannabis is currently legal in 17 states of the USA including California and Washington DC, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Canada and Israel.

The Green Party tried in 2009 to get the Misuse of Drugs Act amended to allow cannabis to be used for medicinal purposes, but their bill failed on its first reading after it was voted down 86-34 on a conscience vote by MPs.

The cannabis plant has been part of humanity’s medicine chest for almost as long as history has been recorded. Hundreds of recent studies validate the therapeutic use of cannabis and cannabinoids. Of all the negative consequences of marijuana prohibition, none is as tragic as the denial of medicinal cannabis to the tens of thousands of patients who could benefit from its therapeutic use.

Modern research suggests that cannabis is a valuable aid in the treatment of a wide range of clinical applications. These include pain relief — particularly of neuropathic pain (pain from nerve damage) — nausea, spasticity, glaucoma, and movement disorders. Cannabis is also a powerful appetite stimulant, specifically for patients suffering from HIV, the AIDS wasting syndrome, or dementia. Emerging research suggests that cannabinoids found in cannabis may protect the body against some types of malignant tumors and are neuroprotective. Currently, more than 60 international health organizations support granting patients immediate legal access to medicinal cannabis under a doctor’s supervision.

Posted September 10, 2012
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