20 April 2016
The range of medicinal cannabis available to terminally ill Kiwis will only widen in the next year, says Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne.
“They would have to be of a level or standard that we’ve got confidence about what they are, what the effects will be and how safe they are.”
Dunne is in New York at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem where member countries early on Wednesday (NZT) ratified a document detailing their approach to reducing harm from drugs.
“Do I think that as a result of this document the world will take a giant leap forward? No I don’t – this is a step in the right direction but it could have been much bolder.”
Certain aspects of the document were “written softly” and “pulled out punches” in order to compromise with countries like Russia and Indonesia, who still “think it’s acceptable to shoot and hang people” for drug abuses.
Dunne spoke at the assembly about New Zealand’s shift away from drugs being a law and order issue to a health issue.
Dunne said the work he’s doing around reviewing medicinal cannabis guidelines would look to take a “compassionate” approach to people with a terminal or debilitating illness.
“If we can do this the way I’m aiming to do it then we won’t need any legislation to get effect from it.”
Asked if we could see more cannabis products available within 12 months, Dunne said it was highly possible New Zealand would have broader access “within a shorter frame of time”, but it was conditional on cannabis products being available.
“That’s a big issue and despite all the noise, there’s not a lot of product available that’s reputable.”
“In terms of when we get to the point that there’s a sustainable market – that could be another couple of years away I think”.
While Dunne says it would be easy to “open the doors and have no controls” that would do more harm than good.
“You’ve got to have a proper regulated system and it’s got to be robust…we need to know whether medicines are safe and what they contain.”
Dunne is calling on the pharmaceutical industry to “step up and invest more in its research and development of cannabis-based products”.
The “eye-opener” in New York has been that there isn’t any country who has an “easy answer”.
“They’ve all been asking the questions I’ve been asking and saying the same things.”
Dunne said he had a productive meeting with his Australian counter-part and he expects New Zealand to work more closely with our neighbours across the ditch over the next year.
“The interesting thing is the sense you might get sitting back in New Zealand is that everyone’s got it sorted but us, but infact everyone is in about the same boat trying to work out how they can act responsibly.”