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New Zealand Passes Law to Allow More Inclusive Access to Medical Cannabis

Could this be a step toward broader legalization?

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New Zealand Passes Law to Allow More Inclusive Access to Medical Cannabis
Lukasz Stefanski/ Shutterstock

New Zealand just passed a new law that has the potential to dramatically change medical marijuana in the country. While it will still take time for all the new rules to go into effect, the changes promise to make medical marijuana much more accessible to thousands of patients. Additionally, they could pave the way toward broader marijuana legalization.

New Zealand’s New Medical Marijuana Law

Lawmakers in New Zealand have passed a new set of medical marijuana laws. Up until this point, the country had a highly restricted medical marijuana program.

In fact, the restrictive nature of the earlier program is one of the factors that catalyzed this most recent revision of New Zealand law. As per the Associated Press, some highlights of the new changes include the following:

  • Terminally ill patients will be allowed to begin smoking medical marijuana immediately. This is important because it allows terminally ill patients to begin medicating as needed before waiting for the rest of the new laws to go into effect. Further, this particular change makes it so certain patients cannot be prosecuted for using cannabis for medicinal purposes.
  • When all new regulations are in place, medical marijuana will be accessible to a much wider group of patients.
  • Under the new laws, New Zealand will also allow for medical marijuana and medical marijuana products to be manufactured within the country. These products will in turn be used both domestically and exported to the international market.

The provision that allows terminally ill patients to use medical marijuana immediately is arguably the most important new change. In large part, that’s because the rest of the changes will still take time to roll out.

So far, experts think it will likely take as long as one to two years before all the changes are fully operational. As a result, non-terminally ill patients will probably have to wait for a while longer before the new laws apply.

More Changes Coming Soon?

New Zealand’s new medical marijuana laws could be the first of many more changes to come. Most notably, some lawmakers are now seriously considering making recreational weed legal.

In fact, the New Zealand government has reportedly said it will begin exploring the idea in earnest. More specifically, the country has promised to explore a legalization referendum over the next two years.

Beyond that, though, there have not been any concrete plans. For example, lawmakers have not provided any specific timeline for the legislative process that would be required to make this type of change.

But for now, these new changes to the country’s medical marijuana laws could be a step toward establishing more liberal cannabis laws in general.

Of course, not everyone agrees with the changes. In fact, the Opposition party has so far not supported the new medical marijuana laws. A party spokesperson called the new law “lazy and dangerous.”

The Opposition spokesperson told the media: “We support medicinal cannabis but strongly oppose the smoking of loose-leaf cannabis in public. Smoked loose-leaf is not a medicine.”

Further, Opposition lawmakers argued that the new medical marijuana laws are simply a backdoor way to push broader legalization.

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