Health Minister David Clark has proposed changes to the medicinal cannabis legislation that will extend its use to all people needing palliative relief, rather than just those with a year or less to live.

"This legislation will greatly increase availability of quality medicinal cannabis products, and will allow for their domestic manufacture. It will mean many New Zealanders living in pain will have another option to find relief," Clark said.

Clark outlined the planned changes, made as a result of talks with coalition partners New Zealand First and the Green Party, during the second reading of the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill in Parliament today.

They will be introduced via an supplementary order paper during the bill's committee stage.

The changes will:

• Alter the eligibility for people who can use the statutory defence for the use of illicit cannabis so that it covers people in palliation (rather than limiting it to the terminally ill in their last 12 months)

• Set a requirement for the regulations for the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme to be made no later than a year after the law comes into effect


• Make clear that varieties of cannabis that are already in New Zealand can be used for medicinal products

• Make technical changes to the description of allowable THC thresholds in CBD medicinal products

"The statutory defence for people who are nearing the end of their lives to possess or use illicit cannabis is a compassionate measure to ease suffering and improve quality of life," Clark said.

Clark said it could benefit about 25,000 people.

"These changes strengthen the law and will make it easier for people to get the relief they need," he said.

A Health Ministry document, released under the Official Information Act to National's associate health spokesman Shane Reti in October, shows the ministry has been working to a timeline that assumes a "go-live date" for the use of medicinal cannabis in mid-2020.

National supported the Government's bill at first reading but then pulled its support in July with its own bill in Reti's name. National said its bill set out a more comprehensive and well-researched regime for the use of medicinal cannabis.