The government's medicinal cannabis policy could lead to gang members being involved in growing the drug. Whangārei MP Dr Shane Reti says reputational requirements for licence holders under the policy are too weak and need strengthening.
In the past few weeks the government has released proposals for a medicinal cannabis scheme and placed these out for discussion.
Last year we constructed the National Party's comprehensive medicinal cannabis policy as the Reti Medicinal Cannabis Bill and we take some pride in our policies that have been copy pasted into the government's proposals.
We have several concerns with the plan. The first is around fit and proper licence holders and reputational requirements for the growing and manufacture of cannabis.
Licence holders have a lot of responsibility in medicinal cannabis schemes including where cannabis will be grown, how it will be grown, employment and cannabis crop security.
Licence holders need to be fit and proper people with expertise and resources to meet what should be some of the highest requirements in drug manufacturing.
The government's proposals have two main reputational requirements for licence holders, no drug offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act and no dishonesty offences.
We absolutely agree with these and we had put them as minimum requirements in our bill also but after that our policies are quite different and we take a much tougher stance.
In our view what is missing are requirements for no serious offences under the Crimes Act, for example, murder and no harmful business associations that could influence decision making such as gang members.
Variations of these are often included in international medicinal cannabis schemes including Australia which has even more reputational regulation.
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As the proposals stand, active gang members can be in the powerful position of licence holders to manufacture cannabis.
Even more bizarrely, active gang members will be able to apply for a licence and hold the licence while they are in prison doing their time for serious crimes!
Further, under these proposals licence holders would be allowed business associations with international drug lord El Chapo and nothing can be done.
This is wrong.
Licence holders who grow medicinal cannabis must be fit and proper persons of high reputation and these are unlikely to be active gang members or business associates of El Chapo.
Our bill has a much more sophisticated approach. We say there are important reputational features of a licence holder that include past and present history.
In the past history we agree exclusions to a licence should include drug offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act and offences of dishonesty, however in our hands we go much further and add serious offences under the Crimes Act such as murder and harmful business connections such as active gang connections.
We also identify current life issues that should exclude a licence including people who are addicted and habituated to controlled drugs.
This seems a common sense position to take both to protect the licence holder as well as the industry and the public.
In conclusion, the integrity of our developing medicinal cannabis industry is very important and we see no place for gang members in that industry.
The government's reputational requirements for licence holders needs significant strengthening and we would be happy to contribute some thinking from our bill that aligns with international experience and the concerns and expectations of New Zealanders.
• Dr Shane Reti is Member of Parliament for Whangārei.