Rose Renton’s medicinal cannabis petition has been referred to Parliament’s Health Select Committee. 

By Chris Fowlie (NORML NZ) and Rosie Baird (GreenCross NZ)

The petition was presented by Labour MP Damien O’Connor on 12 October. The Health Select Committee will hold an inquiry into the issues raised. One of the most important things that you can do to help cannabis law reform is to make your views known to this inquiry.

There are two ways you can make your views known:

  • The Health committee have first given Rose Renton a chance to provide evidence and arguments in favour, by Friday 25th of November 2016. You can send your testimony about your experience directly to Rose Renton (, who will incorporate it into her submission. Please do this by Wednesday 23rd November.
  • It is expected the Health committee will call for public submissions early next year. Keep an eye on their website.


Here are some tips and guidance to help you.

Keep it short and sweet

Your submission could be a 1-2 page letter. It doesn’t have to be long, and making it really long could mean no one reads it. You can write it in any format you like. It can be formal legal language, or simply describing your experiences obtaining (or being denied) safe legal access to medicinal cannabis.

In terms of formatting, use a standard font like Arial or Times (not Comic Sans!), at 10 or 12pt size, with wide margins and line spacings. It just makes it easier to read. Add footnotes with links to research studies if you are citing them, but don’t feel that you have to cite research studies (experts will do that anyway), what is most important is to tell them your experiences and what you think should be done about it.

If you wish, you can request that your details are kept private and redacted from the submission if it is posted online. You can also request to be heard (orally) in private.

There is more guidance on the Parliament website but don’t feel trapped into doing anything overly long or formal. Speak from the heart!

Stay on topic

This is the petition wording that your submission should address:

“That the House of Representatives change the current cannabis law to allow safe, quality, affordable cannabis in New Zealand for medicinal use (other than Sativex) to be prescribed by a doctor or specialist without ministerial approval, and note that 17,635 people have signed a petition Requesting reform of the law to allow access to quality, affordable cannabis in New Zealand for medical use.”

There is a longer version on the It’s Medicine website, that was signed by 17,635 people, however the text above is what was presented to Parliament.

Make one or two points really well

Don’t try to cover everything or overwhelm them with evidence. Just make one or two points really well. These could be something like:

1. Inadequacy of the MOH policy. Describe your illness and positive experience of cannabis and why the current moh policy is inadequate for your needs including cost of these expensive products.


2. Describe the experience you have had with your GP and specialist trying to obtain cannabis products and why it was unsuccessful (Note that GPs are not allowed to prescribe a cannabis product under the moh policy, only specialists).

3. Explain any difficulties you have had trying to find a specialist to prescribe Sativex (There are only three types of specialists who can prescribe this medication under moh policy and they are not always the specialists for the patients medical condition. We think for so-called unapproved uses ANY specialist should be able to apply to prescribe Sativex).

4. Provide research that justifies the use of cannabis for many ailments, in particular your medical condition and research that debunks or addresses the moh concerns about safety issues such as driving, smoking, psychosis and gateway drug arguments.

Provide a solution

We suspect the Nats have simply run out of ideas and are hoping this inquiry will provide a way forward. So do it for them. Offer a constructive way forward out of this mess. Show them what compassionate access looks like. For example, you might support one or more of the following:

5. Availability of cannabis in other countries. Include their laws and countries that allow cannabis home growing, co-operatives and/or decriminalization.

6. How the UN Drug Conventions in fact allow for medicinal use and shouldn’t be used to excuse NZ’s inactive legal reform and response.


7. Cite people (Professor Nutt et al) and organisations such as WHO that support the use of medical cannabis and rate it low in terms of its harms.

8. How the UN Human Rights Conventions and domestic law support our human rights to life, to security of person and freedom of choice.

9. Use of whole plant. Entourage effect. Right for patients or caregivers to receive a licence to grow your own cannabis as has been proven in recent years with the support of the Courts in Canada, Mexico, Germany etc. on the basis of human rights.

10. Affordability to be sorted by ability for NZ to produce it’s own cannabis and cannabis products for supply. Ease up laws for licensing for this purpose.


11. Cannabis medical cards and/or Licences to grow issued by medical professionals.

12. Overhaul of MOH policy so that prescriptions written for cannabis products are to be at the sole discretion of the patient’s doctor (GP and/ or specialist) as with any other pharmaceutical product. That cannabis does not have to be the medicine of last resort ie requiring all other medications to be trialed. Check out moh website for other crazy policies.

13. Amend Regulation 22 MoD Regulations to include cannabis in the list of controlled drugs that do not require Ministerial approval.

14. Support Damien O’Connor’s private member’s bill to make medicinal cannabis more available

You may have your own solutions – please tell the inquiry and/or us!

Speak to your submission

Everyone has the right to do this, you just have to let them know in your written submission. Write “I would like to speak to my submission” right at the beginning of your submission letter. They will contact you with a day and time. You will either need to travel to Wellington (do some fundraising, or hit us up for a travel grant), or you can do it by speakerphone or video link – while this is more effective than a written-only submission, it is best to be there in person. You may only get five minutes to speak but you could have a huge impact on the committee – after all, they need to meet patients if they are to better understand the problems caused by the current law. Remember, you can request that your submission remain private and confidential, if that’s what you want.


When called for, email submissions to
or see the Health Select Committee website

Alternatively, you can email your submission or thoughts now to Rose Renton ( and she will compile them all and present to the committee on your behalf. Do this by Wednesday 20 November 2016.

More information:

Reports of previous cannabis inquiries by the Health Select Committee

Health Select Committee current members:

Simon O'Connor


National Party, Tāmaki

Barbara Kuriger


National Party, Taranaki-King Country

Jacqui Dean


National Party, Waitaki

Julie Anne Genter


Green Party, List

Annette King


Labour Party, Rongotai

Shane Reti


National Party, Whangarei

Scott Simpson


National Party, Coromandel

Barbara Stewart


NZ First, List

Poto Williams


Labour Party, Christchurch East