Attendees of a local public meeting on medicinal cannabis law reform. Photo: Supplied.

‘Visit us’ Nelson medicinal cannabis advocates tell select committee

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Parliament’s Health Select Committee should visit Nelson to hear first-hand from people who could benefit from changes to medicinal cannabis legislation, say attendees of a local meeting calling for changes to the law.

Under Parliamentary processes, in addition to written submissions, people are normally able to submit in person to select committees considering changes to legislation in Wellington.

However, the attendees of a meeting, organised by the Green Party last Wednesday, expressed a strong desire for the committee to also hear submissions in Nelson and around the country on the grounds that many of the people who would benefit from medicinal cannabis are in too much pain or too unwell to travel.

One of those people, Suzi Bunting, suffers from ME, fibromyalgia and Crohn’s Disease.

Suzi, a former airline pilot, says there is no way she would be able to visit Wellington to make an oral submission.

“I can do one activity a day and that will knock me out for anything from one day to a week,” she said.

Suzi said her inability to work created other obstacles to submitting in Wellington.

“I don’t have the financial ability to travel.”

Another Nelsonian calling for the committee to visit Nelson, Kelly Patchett, who suffers from fibromyalgia and autoimmune disorders, says she knows “at least five” people who would make submissions in person but who would be unable to travel because of illness.

She said that if the committee visited Nelson and other parts of the country, it would show the members cared and that they were willing to respond to people’s needs.

“It would mean they could see us and our illnesses face-to-face. It’s one thing to read it on a piece of paper. It’s another to see us face-to-face,” Kelly said.

Co-organiser of Wednesday night’s meeting, Matt Lawrey, said that everyone he spoke to at the meeting wanted the Select Committee to hear submissions around the country.

“It makes a lot more sense for able-bodied MPs to visit incapacitated people who are in pain than it does to try and do things the other way round,” he said.

Thirty-six people attended the meeting that included a presentation from Health Action’s Rose Duncan on the contents of Labour’s Medicinal Cannabis bill that is going to Select Committee and on how to make a submission.

“Medicinal cannabis is one of those issues that most people don’t think about a lot until they or someone they love gets struck down by the kind of chronic pain that would benefit from it,” Lawrey said.

Lawrey said a lot of people who thought they were going to be able to use cannabis for pain relief, as a result of the change of government, could be in for a shock.

“In its current form, Labour’s bill only gives a legal defence for people who use actual cannabis when they are terminally ill and in their last year of life,” he said.

“We’re encouraging anyone who cares about making life easier for New Zealanders who are suffering to make a submission and to tell the committee that we want to see them in Nelson.”

Submissions close March 21.

Another bill sponsored by Green MP Chloe Swarbrick was voted down 47 to 73 at its first reading. The  bill would have allowed someone with a qualifying medical condition to grow, possess and use the cannabis plant and cannabis products for therapeutic purposes as long as they had support from a registered medical practitioner such as a doctor.