The Internet Party recognises that current approaches to cannabis do not work. We will promote an evidence-based approach to cannabis law reform and treat cannabis use as a health issue instead of a criminal issue. We will:
- Immediately legalise medical use of cannabis and set up a licensing system to regulate and administer the cultivation of natural cannabis for medical use.
- Immediately decriminalise personal use of cannabis so that possession and cultivation of cannabis for personal use will no longer carry a criminal penalty.
- Develop a model for regulating the legal production and distribution of cannabis for personal use to enable the taxation of cannabis and the monitoring of its supply.
The Internet Party will work towards comprehensive drug law reform to ensure we have a system that is just, and focussed on harm reduction and getting people the help they need. This will involve full public engagement, supported by the best evidence to guide the process.
A sensible approach to cannabis law reform must acknowledge that prohibition has not succeeded in reducing use or abuse.
There is currently a large black market cannabis industry in New Zealand. We seek to shift the regulation of cannabis and the response to cannabis use from the black market and criminal justice system to a sensible regulated system that permits medical use, and non-problematic recreational use.
Reducing problematic use of all drugs, including cannabis and alcohol, is a key aim of the Internet Party policy. A comprehensive evidence-based approach to drug regulation, abuse prevention and the provision of addiction services will be taken to minimise and effectively respond to problematic use.
Medicinal use of cannabis has proven in some cases to be a safe and effective alternative to a number of medicines, including those to treat pain, nausea, and muscle tension and spasms and epilepsy. Natural cannabis and cannabis-based medicines should be available to those who need them for medical reasons.
The Internet Party will:
- Immediately legalise medicinal use of cannabis.
This will be done by allowing doctors to prescribe tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) in the form of raw cannabis and cannabis products under Section 1 Part 1 of the Medicines Regulations and adding cannabis and cannabis products to the list of controlled drugs that do not require the Minister’s consent to prescribe under Regulation 22 of the Medicines Regulations 1984.
Since there is no current lawful supply of cannabis available, persons will be allowed to apply for licenses to cultivate if they have the support of a doctor. The amount that an individual can lawfully cultivate will be based on international best practice, and may vary from patient to patient.
Those patients who are unable to cultivate their own cannabis due to disability, inappropriate living arrangements or other reasons may nominate an agent to do so on their behalf.
A licensing system will be set up to regulate and administer the cultivation of natural cannabis for medicinal use. Natural cannabis, THC- and CBD-based products will be available to patients on prescription. Organisations that provide natural cannabis for medicinal purposes will be regulated by the Government.
- Immediately decriminalise personal use of cannabis
Possession and cultivation of cannabis for personal use will no longer carry a criminal penalty. There is to be no forfeiture of equipment used in relation to cannabis use and this equipment will no longer be unlawful to make, possess, sell or supply.
The amount that can reasonably be considered ‘for personal use’ is to be determined following consideration of research and international best practice. Possession and cultivation for non-medicinal distribution will remain illegal in the first instance. However the ‘presumption of supply’ in reference to possession of cannabis over a certain amount will be removed from law.
This measure will substantially affect the profitability of black market cannabis operations as users cultivating cannabis for their own use will no longer support the illicit drug market.
Smoke-free laws in public places, excluding buildings/events where licenses to smoke cannabis have been obtained, will be maintained. Cannabis will be subject to the same rules and restrictions as alcohol in terms of consumption in public spaces.
- Develop a model for the legalisation and regulation of natural cannabis
The government will develop a model for regulating the legal production and distribution of cannabis for personal use. Such a model would enable the taxation of cannabis and the monitoring of supply. Revenue will be available for education, health promotion, mental health and addiction services for cannabis, alcohol and other drugs.
We recognise that there are many perspectives on this matter. There is common ground on the need to reduce harmful drug use. We should learn from the failure of the current model of alcohol regulation to address harm and the negative and justified community reaction to the legal highs.
The model for natural cannabis regulation will be developed on the basis of evidence and informed community engagement. Supply is currently extensive, un-regulated and un-monitored. Natural cannabis regulation will be informed foremost by health research and strictly adhere to regulations designed to reduce abuse. Controls will include (at least) an R18 limit, banning advertising, plain packaging, a maximum purchase amount, restricting the location of dispensaries based on strict guidelines and the wishes of local communities, and other measures proven to minimise harm according to NZ and international evidence.
Our approach must carefully avoid the negative impacts of commercial drug industries such as the tobacco and alcohol industries.
- Boost rehabilitation services, health promotion and drug education
Harmful cannabis use should be responded to as a health issue, not a justice issue. By decriminalising and potentially regulating cannabis in New Zealand we will free up funds which can be directed into far more effective ways of minimising the harm that cannabis causes – namely proactive health promotion, education and treatment options. Our approach will enable people who need help to access it without exposure to the criminal justice system, which has harmful effects itself.
We propose a massive increase in effective drug education programs in schools which is consistent with the best practices identified by extensive research in this area here and overseas.
- Cannabis is still completely illegal in New Zealand and its use, possession, cultivation and dealing carry substantial fines. Minority public demand has from time to time resulted in re-examination of its official status here, the most recent being the NZ Law Commission’s Review of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, published in 2011. The review noted that
“some consider the inability to develop and use illegal drugs like cannabis for medicinal purposes as a particular harm of drug prohibition. Indeed, one of the major adverse side effects of international efforts to control the supply of illegal drugs has been a denial of much needed pain relief to millions of people in developing nations… Given the strong belief of those who already use cannabis for medicinal purposes that it is an effective form of pain relief with fewer harmful side effects than other legally available drugs, we think that the proper moral position is to promote clinical trials as soon as practicable. We recommend that the government consider doing this.”
Its Recommendation 134 stated: “the Government should consider undertaking or supporting clinical trials into the efficacy of raw cannabis by comparison to synthetic cannabis-based products as a treatment for pain relief.”
- The Health Committee of Parliament has made the recommendation to ‘encourage police to take no action to enforce the current law around cultivation and possession of cannabis, and possession of cannabis-use paraphernalia for genuine users of medicinal cannabis.’
- Meanwhile, New Zealanders are among the highest users of cannabis in the world. Almost half of those aged 16-64 have used cannabis at some point in their lifetime, representing 1,224,600 people in New Zealand. One in seven adults had used cannabis in the past 12 months. At the same time, recorded cannabis-related offenses are on the rise.
- Cannabis-related medicines are legal in many countries after gaining approval-in-principle in the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961 when it was amended in 1972. Cannabis-related medicines involve the use of what scientists call cannabinoids (diverse chemical compoundsthat act on cannabinoid receptors on cells that repress neurotransmitter release in the brain) and have been the subject of research and clinical trials for some decades. The therapeutic potential of cannabis and cannabinoids has been investigated for spasticity (a muscle control disorder), chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting, anorexia and cachexia (constitutional disorder, general ill health and malnutrition) in HIV/Aids, chronic pain, bladder dysfunction in multiple sclerosis, tics in Tourette syndrome, levodopa-induced dyskinesia (involuntary movements) in Parkinson’s disease, Isaac’s syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, eating disorders, inflammatory bowel diseases, metabolic syndrome, schizophrenia, seronegative stiff-person syndrome, prostate cancer, colon cancer, anxiety disorders, liver failure, breast cancer, lung cancer and brain tumours, and glaucoma.
- The NZ Drug Foundation states that it was well-established enough to suggest cannabis had therapeutic benefits in treating people with serious conditions such as chronic pain for which other pain relief treatments were ineffective, or had bad side-effects; neurological disorders, including multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease; nausea and vomiting for which existing drugs were ineffective or had bad side-effects; and HIV-related and cancer-related wasting.
- The World Health Organisation has stated that:
“Several studies have demonstrated the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids for nausea and vomiting in the advanced stages of illnesses such as cancer and AIDS. Dronabinol (tetrahydrocannabinol) has been available by prescription for more than a decade in the USA. Other therapeutic uses of cannabinoids are being demonstrated by controlled studies, including treatment of asthma and glaucoma, as an antidepressant, appetite stimulant, anticonvulsant and anti-spasmodic, research in this area should continue. For example, more basic research on the central and peripheral mechanisms of the effects of cannabinoids on gastrointestinal function may improve the ability to alleviate nausea and emesis.”
- In 2001 Portugal’s new drug policy came into effect. This law maintained the status of illegality for using or possessing any drug for personal use, however, the key difference was the way the offenders were viewed. The offence was changed from a criminal charge, with possible prison time, to an administrative one which would result in rehabilitation programs. Portugal has since reported that their drug abuse rates have been cut in half.
- In 2012 a referendum was approved by voters in the state of Colorado to amend Colorado’s constitution and allow state-wide legalisation of cannabis. The first legal cannabis stores opened in Colorado on January 1st John Hickenlooper, the Governor of Colorado, reported that “we don’t see a spike in adult use…we don’t think we see a spike in youth consumption.” He also remarked, “let’s face it, the War on Drugs was a disaster…it sent millions of kids to prison, gave them felonies – often times when they had no violent crimes.” Furthermore, Colorado has reported that there are significant tax incentives to legalisation of cannabis. The state, which is of roughly comparable population and GDP to New Zealand, has reported that they have collected $25,307,067 in cannabis taxes since January 2014.