Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill

  • defeated on 01 July 2009

Explanatory note

The purpose of this bill is to amend the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 so that cannabis can be used for medicinal purposes.

Cannabis has significant benefits for many people suffering from a variety of serious and intractable illnesses. Scientific research is now verifying patients' anecdotal evidence that cannabis is a safe and effective medicine, variously used as an antispasmodic for sufferers of multiple sclerosis and spasticity, for relief of intraocular pressure associated with glaucoma, for pain relief, for treatment of nausea associated with chemotherapy and other medications, and for the stimulation of appetite for people with HIV.

The first recorded use of cannabis is as a medicine in a Chinese pharmacopeia, and it has been used for that purpose throughout Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and more recently in the Americas and the Pacific. The first recorded use of cannabis as a medicine in New Zealand was by Sister Mary Aubert on the Wanganui River.

Clause by clause analysis

Clause 1 relates to the title of the Bill.

Clause 2 provides that the Bill comes into force on the day after the date on which it receives the Royal assent.

Clause 3 states that the principal Act being amended is the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.

Clause 4 sets out the purpose of the Bill.

Clause 5 inserts two new definitions into the principal Act for a card holder and a designated agent.

Clause 6 makes a change to section 6 of the principal Act which is consequential on the new sections 8A and 9A being inserted into the Act by clauses 8 and 10.

Clause 7 makes a change to section 7 of the principal Act which is consequential on the new sections 8A and 9A being inserted into the Act by clauses 8 and 10.

Clause 8 inserts a new section 8A into the principal Act and provides further exemptions to sections 6 and 7. The new section 8A allows for card holders to consume, smoke or otherwise use cannabis and to possess a certain amount for personal use. Subsection (2) allows a card holder's designated agent to supply a certain amount of cannabis to the card holder.

Clause 9 makes a change to section 9 of the principal Act which is consequential on the new section 9A being inserted into the Act by clause 10.

Clause 10 inserts new sections 9A, 9B, 9C, 9D, and 9E into the principal Act.

Section 9A provides an exemption for a card holder or designated agent from section 9 and allows them to cultivate and possess a certain amount of cannabis.

Under section 9B, any person may apply for a Medicinal Cannabis Identification Card if they can provide evidence that they suffer from a condition where cannabis may alleviate the pain and suffering associated with that condition, they have the written support of their medical practitioner or specialist and, where the applicant is under 18, they have the written permission of their parents. If the Medical Officer of Health is satisfied all the requirements are fulfilled and he or she does not consider there are any exceptional circumstances for not granting the card, a Medicinal Cannabis Identification Card will be issued. The card is valid for 12 months and the card holder may reapply after that time.

Section 9C states that a designated agent may be nominated by the card holder to cultivate, possess, and supply the card holder with a certain amount of cannabis if the card holder is unable to cultivate it himself or herself.

Section 9D sets out the duties of the designated agent. Under section 9E, the Minister of Health is to establish a Medicinal Cannabis Registration Board to keep and maintain a register of card holders, their designated agents, any person having the care of a card holder, and the amount of cannabis a card holder or designated agent may possess. The Board will issue Medicinal Cannabis Identification Cards and Designated Agent Identification Cards upon instruction of the Medical Officer of Health. The Board will advise card holders, collate and distribute new information to card holders, inform the police of the details of card holders, and carry out any other duties as the Minister thinks fit.

Clause 11 makes a change to section 14 of the principal Act which is consequential on the new sections being inserted into the Act by clause 10.

Clause 12 states the police are to supply cannabis seeds to medicinal cannabis identification card holders or their designated agents from stock seized during the course of law enforcement activities.

Clause 13 inserts a new Schedule 4 in the principal Act listing the conditions to which this bill applies.