Helen Clark is all about Chloe Swarbrick's medical marijuana bill

News 26/01/2018

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark has thrown her support behind Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick's medicinal cannabis Bill.

It's a significant move for the influential figure, who usually avoids publicly commenting on matters in New Zealand politics. 

Ms Clark was appointed to the Global Commission on Drug Policy late last year, an independent think-tank advocating for reducing the harm caused by drugs.

The ex-Labour leader tweeted about Ms Swarbrick's Bill twice on Thursday night, saying: "Hear NZ MP Chlöe Swarbrick set out compelling case for improving access to #medicinalcannabis..."

There are two Bills on medicinal cannabis before Parliament. The Government's Bill will increase access to pharmaceutical cannabis and create a legal defence for terminally ill people who possess and use raw cannabis plants.

So far, Pharmac has declined to fund pharmaceutical cannabis products, meaning they are an expensive option for those with chronic pain. The legal defence for the terminally ill is intended to work as a stopgap measure to counter the cost of importing approved pharmaceutical products.

Ms Swarbrick's Bill (introduced to Parliament by Julie Anne Genter) goes further. It would allow any New Zealander with a "debilitating condition" or terminal illness to use raw cannabis or cannabis products with the support of a doctor.

"My Member's Bill is a little bit more progressive. It recognises that there's a lot of unequivocal consensus on this in the New Zealand public," Ms Swarbrick told Newshub. 

"It allows for safe, accessible, affordable access to medicinal cannabis, and where they have a doctor's approval, they will be able to grow their own."

Ms Clark's gentle lobbying in support of Ms Swarbrick's Bill will be welcome for the Greens. While the Government's Bill will pass through Parliament with support from the governing parties, Ms Swarbrick will face a challenge getting enough support from conscience-voting MPs.

The Greens were promised a referendum on the recreational use of cannabis as part of its confidence-and-supply agreement with Labour.

It will take place at or before the 2020 election. Taking place at the same time as the election would save on the cost of holding a referendum and could increase voter turnout, particularly in the youth demographic.

Source: Newshub.