Labour leader Andrew Little says his party wants to make it easier to access medicinal cannabis.
The Labour caucus is now debating the issue and will come up with a formal position in the next few weeks, Mr Little told reporters at Parliament this morning.
“We are aware that this is an issue and there is a willingness to look at our current policy and see whether it meets current scientific understanding,” he said.
The Labour leader would not say whether the party wanted decriminalisation of marijuana use for medical purposes. But he said that the process for applying for medicinal cannabis products needed to be simpler.
“It’s about accepting there is enough medical evidence around now that under proper or appropriate supervision from a GP or specialist that this isn’t a form of treatment that ought to go through a series of hoops to get a ministerial sign-off.”
The party currently has no formal position on recreational or medicinal use of cannabis.
Labour’s review of its position comes as Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne approved an application for a cannabis-based product for just the second time – for a patient with severe Tourette’s Syndrome.
The guidelines for approving medicinal cannabis products are currently being reviewed by the Ministry of Health.
Mr Dunne said yesterday: “Although it has been suggested that the information requirements for applications are too stringent, an aspect I expect the current guidelines review will look into, the application I received … suggests that they are not an impediment to robust, clinician-led, assessment-based approaches.”
At present, patients can apply to the ministry to get access to one form of medical cannabis, Sativex, which has been cleared for use in New Zealand. Applications for non-pharmaceutical-grade cannabis face a stricter set of criteria and approval is only granted to severely ill patients.