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Medicinal cannabis regulation 'could be all sorted in six months'

Radio New Zealand logo Radio New Zealand 9/11/2018
Photo for representation only. © Getty Image Photo for representation only.

The government has been told it could regulate medicinal cannabis within six months, if it wants to, according to an advocate.

Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand coordinator Shane LeBrun said the health minister refused to meet him on several occasions - stalling progress.

At a cannabis conference in Wellington today, Mr LeBrun slammed Health Minister David Clarke.

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"I appreciate he is over-worked, and this is an issue where he just refused to meet me on multiple occasions," he said.

"I've made multiple requests and I just can't get the time of day with him and it's left me with the impression that Peter Dunne was a much better politician in this space and it's a real shame that he didn't delegate this role to Julie-Ann Genter."

Mr LeBrun said if the ministry was given the right resources, officials would quickly be able to create a set of medicinal cannabis regulations before the referendum.

"So we'd really like to see with the budget surplus they have that they helicopter in some international level experts who actually do help countries and states in America write their regulations," he said.

"There are several companies in Canada, they could drop $1 million, fly in the experts and we could have this all sorted in six months."

There will be a referendum on cannabis law reform at or before the 2020 general election - it's part of Labour's confidence and supply agreement with the Greens.

But the jury was still out on whether the referendum should be binding.

Labour's Greg O'Connor, the former head of the Police Association, said it should not be.

"You're going to guarantee that 47 percent or 46 percent, whoever vote for the one side of it that is unsuccessful are going to be unhappy and it could stop the whole thing dead."

Green MP Chloe Swarbrick said the public should get to make an informed decision.

"Our preferred model is that we do something akin to what we saw with the 1993 MMP referendum, where there is regulation around the legislation that would be implemented subsequent to a positive vote," she said.

"The benefit of that is that the public are aware of exactly what they are voting on, but also it doesn't get kicked down the road to the next iteration of Parliament to try and discern what a 'yes' vote might actually mean."

Hikurangi Cannabis Company managing director Manu Caddie said a "yes" vote for the decriminalistion of cannabis could be beneficial to Māori communities.

"There are ways for some of those that are in the black market to become micro-entreprenuers and there are some good examples in Canada with their legislation which has allowed people to do that," Mr Caddie said.

"But also for not-for-profit distribution channels, like we have with liquor licensing and the pokies, that where a charitable entity need to be responsible for the distribution and again, it's a way of avoiding people from profiteering too much."

And another speaker at the conference, Pasifika activist Will Ilolahia said he hoped decriminalisation would mean fewer Pacific people getting stuck in the justice system.

"That's the main thing. The second thing is also, there's a potential of having it as an alternative industry for growing for our community, because we are always dependent on New Zealand in regards to the products of food and that kind of stuff," he said.

"Maybe this is another way to help out."

Dr Clark was approached for comment but declined.

He has previously said the government was committed to making medicinal cannabis more available to people with terminal illnesses or chronic pain.

The Misuse of Drug Amendment Bill, introduced in December, will introduce a medicinal cannabis scheme, a statutory defense for terminally ill people to possess and use illicit cannabis and remove cannabidiol from the schedule of controlled drugs.

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