It doesn't really match Jacinda Ardern's campaign promise to "legalise medical cannabis", but her government’s new medical cannabis law does a couple of significant things straight off the bat: the introduction of a statutory defence for possession (only for the terminally ill) and removal of CBD as a controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
It’s disappointing the defence isn’t broader, but this is presumably what there were sufficient votes for – and I suspect the resistance to any more would have come not only from the New Zealand First caucus and Cabinet members, but from Parliamentary Labour's own conservative wing. Yet it will have an impact in and of itself on policing and sentencing.
Details of the “medical cannabis scheme” are apparently to be determined, but if it includes a list of readily-approvable products and a straightforward means of obtaining them, that’s good. The Ministry of Health should be encouraged to reconsider its onerous view on what constitutes “advertising” (which currently includes simply putting the products on a website).
CBD presumably remains a prescription medicine – it’s unclear whether it can now also be an over-the-counter product, but my understanding is that the government is open to that eventually if not immediately.
But maybe the really significant thing here is that A GOVERNMENT IS AMENDING THE MISUSE OF DRUGS ACT IN A WAY THAT’S NOT JUST MORE PROHIBITION.
It turns out that it's possible after all ...