It may not have been a total victory for medicinal cannabis campaigners, but the announcement that people seeking medical cannabis for pain relief will no longer need approval from a minister should be seen as a major step forward.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Jonathan Coleman hinted at the change, suggesting that the approvals process could be delegated to specialists.

But Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said yesterday doctors will still need to apply to the Ministry of Health for approval if a patient requests access to cannabis-based medical products.

So, although it stops a step short of allowing specialists or GPs to simply prescribe the product themselves, it undoubtedly represents a massive loosening of the rules that, in my view, reflects the wishes of the majority of the New Zealand public.


Medicinal cannabis and its benefits have become widely accepted by the mainstream.

It's been widely reported how respected Kiwis such as Helen Kelly, Martin Crowe and Sir Paul Holmes used the drug for pain relief before their deaths, while stories abound about everyday people, young and old, from all walks of life, whose lives have been changed by its use.

Although some will try, in my view, it's hard to formulate a valid argument against letting those who genuinely need it have access to it legally and easily.

If this week's relaxation of the rules does that, then it's a no-brainer as far as I am concerned.

And the gradual delegation of approvals from the minister to the ministry seems sensible enough; allowing those involved to gain a clearer understanding around the need for the drug, who needs it, and the best way to administer the process.

When the time is right, the logical next step will be to put the decision in the hands of medical specialists. But for now we should celebrate that there could be relief on the way for many more New Zealanders.