National releases cannabis bill

Shane Reti. Photo: Lynn Grieveson.

The National Party has released its medicinal cannabis bill, after announcing on Wednesday it would withdraw its support for the Government’s bill.

It will be a member’s bill submitted by Shane Reti, who is the Deputy Chair of the Health Select Committee. The Committee has been hearing submissions on the Government’s bill and is due to publish its report on Monday.

National leader Simon Bridges said the bill would widen access to medicinal cannabis and license high-quality domestic production.

Reti’s bill adds several layers of detail to the Government’s proposal, which delegated much of the regulatory detail to officials to implement after the bill passed.

It also proposes a regime in which patients would apply for a medicinal cannabis card though their GP, enabling them to purchase medicinal cannabis products. The regime would be similar to that of some American states like California.

Terminal defence gone

It also adds detail to the sorts of cannabis products likely to be approved. No loose-leaf cannabis would be permitted.

Domestic manufacturers will watch the bill with great interest. Newsroom reported there had been some concern form the nascent cannabis industry that the Government’s bill may impose regulations that would stifle growth.

However, one of the Government bill’s key proposals is missing - a statutory defence for terminally ill patients caught using cannabis. National says the clause was dropped because “there is too much uncertainty around the logistics of supply”.

“We are uncomfortable that exercise of the terminal exemption and the statutory defence requires the illegal act of supplying cannabis to be committed,” the party said in a statement.

As a member's bill, it will still need to be submitted to the ballot and drawn if it is to be read in Parliament. Newsroom understands the bill will be tabled today

The Government bill has the support of the three parties of Government and will likely pass. However, National’s bill appears to be designed to peel off support from the Green Party as its MPs and members may feel it's more liberal than what may eventually result from the Government’s bill.