A GP has pointed out that he is able to prescribe very powerful, potentially-deadly opiates – but still cannot prescribe cannabis at his discretion.
Dr John Cameron, speaking this morning to TVNZ 1’s Breakfast programme, made the comment after Green MP Chloe Swarbrick’s Bill proposing changes to the way cannabis can be prescribed was voted down by National and NZ First MPs.
National MP and former Health Minister Jonathan Coleman spoke directly after Ms Swarbrick and was strongly opposed to the Bill, calling it “decriminalisation by stealth”.
A watered down medicinal cannabis Bill was introduced by Labour and has since passed its vote and will head to a select committee.
Dr Cameron said New Zealand’s drug law is “ancient”, hailing from the 70s, and needs to be updated to reflect our current values and understanding of medicine.
“I would like to think we’re a more enlightened country, but we’re still working under the Drug Acts from 1975 – they’re really quite ancient,” Dr Cameron said.
“Cannabis could be a very useful tool for us in dealing with patient symptoms.
“I can prescribe very powerful opiate medicines that if I gave them to you, you would die immediately … why do we have this hang-up about cannabis?
“Because it’s a recreational drug that people can grow in their back gardens.”
Dr Cameron recognised that there are issues from some groups using cannabis, especially teens or young people with brains which are still developing, as that can have long-term negative effect on cognitive function.
However, he said cannabis product are, for many, a good way to relieves symptoms such as nausea or swelling inside the eye from glaucoma.
The funding of cannabis products has not been addressed, he said, and pointed out that the approved cannabidiol drug Sativex still costs about $1000 per month.
Dr Cameron suggested that the price of cannabis products needs to be reduced drastically, and pointed out that many in New Zealand are keen to manufacture cannabis medicine here, which would help to do that.
“It’s a useful drug – we should be able to prescribe it in this country on the basis of what the patient needs – let’s leave all the other stuff to one side.”