Medicinal cannabis campaigner Rose Renton has started a new petition calling on the government to make cannabis-based medications available in New Zealand without delay.
The petition, which launches on Tuesday, urges "reform of the law to allow access to quality, affordable cannabis in New Zealand for medical use" and says current efforts to regulate access to pharmaceutical-grade cannabis products are "too strict, too slow and too expensive".
Renton hoped the petition would draw between 50,000 and 100,000 signatories and further discussion of the issue in mainstream media.
She believed a March 16 change to guidelines around medicinal cannabis products on the Ministry of Health website indicated a move towards stricter approval criteria for products other than Sativex, currently the only form of medicinal cannabis approved for prescription in New Zealand.
Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne said the changes to the ministry's website were merely grammatical, or to redirect searches for 'marijuana' to medicinal cannabis information.
But Renton said she saw "a tightening of restrictions around medicinal cannabis".
"We have been having this conversation for over a year but only last week the Minister of Health set an impossible criteria."
The criteria to which she refers stipulate that medicinal cannabis products not approved for distribution in New Zealand may still be prescribed with the support of an appropriate specialist, overseas studies proving its efficacy, evidence that other treatments have failed and when the patient has no history of drug abuse.
Renton said Dunne's indication in March that New Zealand would likely follow Australia's lead on medicinal cannabis trials and legislation would take years too long.
Dunne said clinical trials in Australia could provide further information on the safety and efficacy of cannabis medications.
"The only medicinal cannabis product currently available and approved for use in New Zealand is Sativex. Other products are either unavailable in New Zealand or have not passed clinical trials.
"The Government is not opposed to the use of cannabis-based medicines, but the lack of suitable products means that choices are necessarily limited," he said.
Renton, whose son Alex was the first New Zealander to be treated with medical cannabidoil oil Elixinol, said Sativex has a higher THC content than some other medicinal cannabis products, making it unsuitable for many conditions and lifestyles.
"We have very limited options in palliative care and the conditions that cannabis is known to support, heal and nurture are very clear worldwide. I think New Zealanders are feeling very unheard. We are asking for quality of care and access to medicinal cannabis. I don't think we have two years to wait."
She hoped news that prominent Kiwis broadcaster Paul Holmes, cricket star Martin Crowe and trade unions president Helen Kelly had used medicinal cannabis would "enable other ordinary New Zealanders to stand up and not be afraid".
For details of the petition, please got to Kiwi Cannaseur.
Article originally posted on Stuff.co.nz