Pubdate: Wed, 11 Mar 2015
Source: New Zealand Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2015 New Zealand Herald
Author: Nicolas Jones


Dunne Underwhelmed by Officials' Evidence but Drug Foundation Fears 
Advice Outdated.

An investigation into the use of cannabis for medical purposes has 
been carried out by the Ministry of Health.

Growing numbers of jurisdictions allow cannabis for medical use and 
the Government has come under pressure to re-examine its use here.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne, who oversaw New Zealand's 
innovative regulations on so-called legal highs, asked officials to 
look into the issue.

"My office receives regular correspondence seeking legislative change 
. cannabis, I am told, is apparently the panacea for a plethora of 
ailments, some of which, sadly, are painfully debilitating," Mr Dunne said.

"For those suffering from such ailments I have enormous sympathy ... 
the evidence [supplied by officials], however, has been underwhelming."

Mr Dunne made his comments in a speech to the United Nations 
Commission on Narcotic Drugs, which draws together the world's top 
drugs policy diplomats.

The meeting was held in Vienna, Austria, and Mr Dunne was unavailable 
for comment because of time differences.

The Ministry of Health could not provide further information yesterday.

However, NZ Drug Foundation director Ross Bell, who attended the 
meeting, said he feared advice provided to Mr Dunne was outdated.

"There are lots of countries that have quite well-established medical 
cannabis regimes, they have experience with this and they have seen 
some benefit."

Mr Bell said comprehensive research had been done on the issue.

However, the drug foundation has concluded that cannabis has 
therapeutic benefits for conditions such as multiple sclerosis and 
some cancers.

"We should be looking at delivering that benefit through proper 
medical products ... it's not smokable cannabis."

Mr Dunne also spoke about how "compassion, innovation and proportion" 
should be front of mind in the development of drug policy.

"We, as a global community, must continue to move away from rigid law 
and order responses, and apply a health lens when dealing with those 
adversely affected by drug use," Mr Dunne told the gathering.

That message was bold, Mr Bell said, and clearly aligned New Zealand 
with countries moving beyond a "war on drugs" punitive approach.

However, he was concerned at the dismissal of cannabis for medical 
use. Mr Bell was told of the ministry's investigation in a meeting 
with Mr Dunne in late January.

Sativex mouth spray is the only form of medicinal cannabis currently 
available, but is not funded by Pharmac and costs about $1300 a month.


Colorado move better outcome for child

Jessika Guest moved from Whangarei to Colorado so that her daughter 
Jade, 7, could use medical marijuana.

Jade's diagnoses include hypotonia (a state of low muscle tone) and 
epilepsy, which used to cause up to 40 seizures a day.

In Colorado, she has been on skin patches containing cannabinoids and 
tetrahydrocannabinolic acid - a non-activated THC which means the 
cannabis does not have high-inducing properties.

Mrs Guest said her daughter's seizures have since decreased in 
frequency by 90 per cent.

"I would ask, just where are health officials getting their information?

"In Colorado compassion is flourishing because people with all 
different kinds of ailments are finding relief with medicinal cannabis."
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