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Door Opens For Medical Cannabis



The Government has opened the way for the legal use of medical
cannabis if trials under way in Britain prove it is safe.

In the meantime, Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton ruled out
relaxing the law on smoking the drug as a method of self medication.

Mr Anderton issued the Government's response yesterday to the report
on cannabis from Parliament's health committee, which was the result
of a three-year inquiry.

He ruled out legalising cannabis, which was not one of the
recommendations of the health committee, adding that would never
happen under the present administration.

But he gave the strongest Government support yet for the use of
cannabis as a medicine.

British company GW Pharmaceuticals is testing several products
including cannabis pills and under-the-tongue sprays which New
Zealand's Health Ministry medicines watchdog Medsafe is closely monitoring.

If the drugs met the requirements of the Medicines Act an application
could be made to test and market them in New Zealand, Mr Anderton
said. "I do not have a problem with that."

Labour MP Steve Chadwick, chairwoman of the health select committee,
welcomed the response, saying the recommendation that the Government
support medical trials had been unanimous.

She said it would be up to Health Minister Annette King to approve the
medical drug and she would ask her what the next step should be.

GW Pharmaceuticals applied for a British product licence for its
Sativex brand of cannabis spray in March.

A dose of medical marijuana is expected to cost about

Green Party justice spokesman Nandor Tanczos said the Government's
response was positive for sufferers of diseases such as multiple
sclerosis who wanted relief from pain and nausea.

But the result was not so good for Greg Soar, who has HIV and used the
illegal drug now. He told The Dominion Post it relieved nausea caused
by other drugs but it was expensive and difficult to obtain.

"Every time I vomit, I ask why is my Government doing this to

The Government chose not to recommend that the Expert Advisory
Committee on Drugs give priority to looking at the classification of
the drug as the committee suggested.

Nor did Mr Anderton believe the justice select committee should
examine the drug's legality as the health committee

Other recommendations, such as to beef up education around minimising
harm from the drug, were already being dealt with by other
initiatives, Mr Anderton said.

United Future leader Peter Dunne, who made not decriminalising
cannabis a condition of his party's support for the Government, said
he was comfortable with the idea of clinical trials.

"What is not acceptable is the position that 'I get relief from
smoking a joint therefore it should be legal'."

National's health spokeswoman Lynda Scott had wanted suicide victims
tested for cannabis to investigate any link between the drug and depression.

The Government says that would be up to a new regime being developed
for coroners.

Dr Scott said drug education was not adequate.

Pubdate: Fri, 31 Oct 2003
Source: Dominion Post, The (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2003 The Dominion Post
Contact: letters@dompost.co.nz
Website: Dominion Post News | Stuff.co.nz
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