Canvassing for Opinion - aka "Blairs Brain on Cannabis"

IMHO prohibition sentiment requires inherent addiction to status quo, an incapacity to visualise beyond the here and now and a desperate desire to know others might feel the same... Reform is not revolutionary, rather it is evolutionary. Having survived banging your head against a brick wall the evolutionist relishes having stopped. / Blair

Monday, February 12, 2007

Cautious nod for cannabis medicine

Health authorities admit there is enough evidence to support use of cannabis on compassionate grounds.

(How about scientific and medical grounds.. that would be a better basis for a decision than this kind of pseudo care... Health authorities need to read some Russo/McPartland or Melamede. I don't need an ASPRO but I'm told its good for cardiac/stroke health prevention. The same benefit and MORE go for WHOLE CANNABIS. I don't need a POLITICIAN or a BUREAUCRAT to tell me when, where or why or how much... Informed Consent is all the permission I need. /Blair)

In an October briefing paper to Health Minister Pete Hodgson, the ministry says there is "sufficient evidence of safety and efficacy of cannabis in some medical conditions" to support consideration of compassionate, controlled use.

This could include use when conventional treatments have failed.

The Government has been accused of dragging its feet on reform to allow medicinal use of cannabis.

Health Ministry documents obtained by The Dominion Post under the Official Information Act show the debate has raged for six years without progress.

The briefing paper came ahead of a meeting with Green MP Metiria Turei, sponsor of a private member's bill calling for medicinal use.

It says the known medicinal uses are increasing and research suggests it can help treat conditions such as chronic pain, multiple sclerosis and nausea associated with cancer treatment. However, the ministry expresses concern about harm caused by smoking the drug and problems of arranging legal supply.

It says a pharmaceutical form of cannabis, such as the nasal spray Sativex, would address such issues.

Sativex was approved for multiple sclerosis patients in Canada in 2005 and is being trialled in Britain. No application to use it or any other pharmaceutical form of cannabis here has been made to Medsafe.

At present, the health minister has the power to authorise medicinal use of cannabis if a doctor applies on behalf of a patient. However, according to the ministry, no medical practitioners have applied.

Billy McKee, director of GreenCross, a patients' medicinal cannabis support group, said it was frustrating the Government had "stalled" on addressing the issue.

He smokes cannabis daily to control chronic pain dating from car crash injuries sustained 30 years ago.

He has been prosecuted for cannabis use but now has a letter from his GP to say he uses it for medical reasons and carries a GreenCross card that asks police to use their discretionary powers when deciding whether to arrest him.

Mr McKee, of Levin, said his GP would not apply for ministerial approval on his behalf because of the bureaucracy involved. "I've applied two or three times but it's always been knocked back," he said.

Ms Turei, whose private member's bill will be put to the vote in May, said there was huge need for medicinal cannabis to be made legally available.

The best way to ensure patients had cheap access to cannabis was to allow them to grow their own. However, the dosage should be managed by a doctor, she said.

Under her bill, patients could apply for an identification card that would entitle them to possess the drug for personal use.

Mr Hodgson has said he will consider the research before deciding whether to back Ms Turei's bill.

The New Zealand Drug Foundation supported the bill going to select committee, but executive director Ross Bell said medicinal cannabis should be grown in a controlled environment rather than by patients. Leaf cannabis should be trialled for three to five years so its medicinal benefits could be assessed.

Norml, a group pushing for reform of cannabis laws, has handed a 3000-name petition to Parliament calling for legalised medical use.

Medical Association chairman Ross Boswell said its policy was for doctors not to advise patients to smoke cannabis because of the health risks. If used medicinally the active chemical should be formulated as a pharmaceutical drug.

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