Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick attends Rātana Pa celebrations on January 23. Source: Chloe Swarbrick, Facebook.
Today marks a critical time for the future of medical cannabis patients in New Zealand, as 23-year-old Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick unveils her Member’s Bill for medicinal cannabis to Parliament.
It is one of two cannabis bills that will come before Parliament this week, with its first reading taking place today from 5pm.
Swarbrick says the purpose of her bill is to make it legal for New Zealanders, who are suffering from terminal illness or any debilitating condition, to use cannabis with the support of a registered medical practitioner.
“Today, your politicians have a rare choice to open the door and hear the voices of those living in chronic pain, with multiple sclerosis, and other illnesses about Medicinal Cannabis,” Swarbrick wrote on a post on Facebook.
“Doing so looks like voting for my Member's Bill, the fate of which sits with a handful of MPs.”
Helen Clark urges the public to watch the debate tonight. Source: Twitter
The bill needs 61 votes and will likely need National Party's support to get it over the line.
“Together, the Government's Bill and my Member's Bill (formerly Julie Anne Genter MP's) can create a compassionate, evidence-based framework for Medicinal Cannabis - but only if both get to Select Committee,” says Swarbrick.
The Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand (MCANZ) charity supports Swarbrick’s bill and says “patients are furiously contacting their MPs, asking them to support” it, says MCANZ Coordinator Shane Le Brun.
“As the outcome of the Government’s bill is a foregone conclusion, we urge all parties, including the opposition, to look at Swarbrick’s bill as an opportunity to engage in robust debate for greater access to medicinal cannabis,” says Le Brun.
Meanwhile, Le Brun says MCANZ has been working on its own policy booklet outlining a comprehensive suite of changes needed to bring New Zealand a compassionate and professional medical cannabis regime.
The booklet was formulated from researching overseas jurisdictions and consulting with politicians, NZMA board members, medical professionals, patients and policy analysts.
“What Chloe’s bill lacks in detail it makes up for in ambition, which is to satisfy the needs and desires of patients – something no other amendment in recent history has done.”
Members of the public can watch MPs debate the issue in the House of Representatives - or watch the live-stream, on Swarbrick's Facebook page or Parliament TV.