We asked the region's six election candidates for their opinions on medicinal cannabis:
Labour Party Waiariki electorate candidate Rawiri Waititi
Current legislation regarding cannabis use does not work and has not for a long time. Those affected by this legislation are predominantly Maori, who are the highest users of cannabis in our country, are more likely to be convicted for cannabis related crimes and also have high statistics in drug induced mental health. If our aim is to decrease the use of cannabis in our country, we are going about it the wrong way. Let's review our legislation to obtain a better balance between prohibition and harm avoidance. Let's spend the money we use to lock up our people on evidenced-based prevention programmes, education and community initiatives.
NZ First Rotorua electorate candidate Fletcher Tabuteau: The ins and outs of cannabis use are incredibly complex - there are many arguments for its use in the treatment of pain management, or conversely I have seen first-hand the destructive affect it has on our youth here in Rotorua. As with many social issues of this nature we disagree that the discussion about legalisation or decriminalisation should be left to politicians and a conscience vote. This should be a discussion for all New Zealanders. New Zealand First would insist on a referendum, cannabis use is a decision for all the people, not just the politicians.
Internet Mana Waiariki electorate candidate Annette Sykes: The Mana national policy committee has been working through the issue of cannabis law reform with Mana members. Mana has developed a policy to support cannabis for medicinal purposes when prescribed by a health professional, given the evidence for its effectiveness in alleviating conditions such as chronic pain and nausea following chemotherapy. The committee is also considering a proposal to replace a justice system response with a health system response, where cannabis use would result in a health assessment and possible referral as opposed to processing through the courts.
Rotorua MP Todd McClay (National): Medical marijuana is an emotive issue. Some believe it's a miracle drug while others say it's merely about getting high. Karen Jeffries is asking for a product that has no psychoactive ingredient that she hopes will help Zoe. In New Zealand any health claim must be scientifically verified prior to it being legally available. Whilst there are approved medicines which contain cannabis extracts available, Parliament's Health Committee has recommended that Pharmac assess any positive evidence from countries that subsidise medicinal cannabis to prove its claims. We must strike a balance between health and sending a clear message to young people that drug use is not okay.
Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell: The Maori Party believes if we as a nation are truly committed to Whanau Ora, we must address the social hazards that create havoc on our health, including tobacco and cannabis smoking. Anything that can make our whanau lives easier comes within our gaze and we know there are some compelling reports in medical journals around the world that support medicinal cannabis. We have supported decriminalisation of cannabis use, but we do not support legalising the drug because we are concerned about the harmful aspects of drug use.
Labour Rotorua electorate candidate Tamati Coffey: I want the medical profession to guide my conclusions. I want modern, informed analysis and debate, with credible recommendations to move us forward. If it can help patients, let's do it. We trust these professionals with our lives, why couldn't we trust them to administer cannabis for those in need? Personally, I think we should decriminalise it. It shouldn't be a legal issue, let's make it a health issue. When it is a health issue, we can talk about it. The ministry can give advice, but we would absolutely need to minimise the harm, because I don't want families destroyed, as is the case with alcohol.