A new cannabis law set to come into force this week doesn't go far enough.
This according to a survey of 2000 New Zealanders conducted by independent research firm Horizon Research between November 27 and December 6.
The results, released on Friday, showed that Kiwis want broader access to medicinal marijuana and for cannabis-derived products to be regulated like other medicines.
In late November, the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill passed its second reading and is expected to come into effect this week. Once in effect, the updated law will extend the use of medicinal cannabis to all people needing palliative relief, rather than just those with a year or less to live, for a 12-month transitional period. Thereafter, once regulations have been written, the bill makes provision for medicinal cannabis to be available to those who have prescription.
But New Zealanders want the law to go well beyond its provisional remit, with 72 per cent of survey respondents saying that doctors should decide, on a patient by patient basis, who should access medicinal cannabis products.
The survey also shows that 73 per cent of Kiwis want cannabis to be treated the same as any other medicine and there was also a broad call for cannabis to be permitted as a treatment for a range of other conditions, which aren't necessarily life-threatening.
Sixty-eight per cent said they want cannabis products to be used for the treatment of chronic pain, 65 per cent want it for sleep disorders, 58 per cent want it for cancer treatment, 52 per cent want it for epilepsy and 50 per cent want it for multiple sclerosis.
A further 49 per cent would also like to see the door opened to cannabis treatments for anxiety, while 48 per cent also indicated that they'd like access to cannabis products to treat arthritis.
Paul Manning, the director of cannabis startup Helius Therapeutics, said he commissioned Horizon Research to conduct the study to learn more about local attitudes to medicinal cannabis.
"It's clear that New Zealanders want a more comprehensive law than the one we are likely to get next week," Manning said.
"We urge MPs to listen to what the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders are telling them. They want broad access to affordable medicinal cannabis products. There is an opportunity for our politicians to make further amendments now, to ensure medicinal cannabis products are readily available to all patients who stand to benefit."
Manning went on to say that the survey shows cross-partisan support for wider legislative changes, in that voters for ACT, Green, Labour, National and New Zealand First contributed to the results of the survey.
National MP for Whangarei Dr Shane Reti, a trained medical doctor, said that failing to create a sufficiently comprehensive law change has a dual effect for New Zealand.
"Every day we wait, exporters lose market share to Australia, and New Zealanders are deprived of another tool in a doctor's toolbox to ease the suffering of New Zealanders," Reti said.
The Canadian cannabis industry has benefited from progressive laws, which provide broader access to cannabis products. This has led to Canadian firms, such as Canopy Growth and Aurora, becoming some of the biggest players in the burgeoning marijuana industry. Meanwhile, New Zealand's fledgling industry is still trying to get off the ground.
Under Reti's guidance, National has proposed a broader bill that would allow prescribing health professionals, like doctors and nurse practitioners, to issue a "medicinal cannabis card" so patients or their carers can access licenced medicinal cannabis products from a pharmacist, without having to renew regular prescriptions.
The survey showed that 59 per cent of Kiwis would be open to having such a card introduced in the future.
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