Medicinal cannabis bill 'defects' to be fixed, says Winston Peters

The Government is set to fix any "defects" in their medicinal cannabis bill, says Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters, after a tumultuous week that saw the Opposition put their own bill forward after criticising the Government's. 

The Acting Prime Minister said appropriate changes can still be made to the Government’s medicinal cannabis bill. Source: Q+A

On TVNZ1's Q+A last night, Winston Peters made a dig at National Party leader Simon Bridges, saying it was "a bit rich" for Mr Bridges to be calling for cross party cooperation on medicinal cannabis, after sitting in power for nine years. 

It came after host Corin Dann wanted an assurance for chronic pain suffers that the Government would produce a medicinal cannabis bill that would target those who need it. 

Currently, the Government's bill would mean terminally ill people could take cannabis medicinally if they have less than 12 months to live and the approval of a doctor.

On Wednesday, National pulled their support of this bill, and instead lodged a member's bill it calls "a blend of international best practice".

It proposes a licensing regime and approval for medicinal cannabis products in the way medicine is approved by Metsafe. At the National Party conference over the weekend, Mr Bridges said he hoped Mr Peters would give their proposals "serious consideration". 

“[We] put party politics aside more than any other party," Mr Peters said. "But on this matter, it's a bit rich for Bridges to be saying that, when his former Minister [Peter Dunne] said he'd been trying to do that, the reform he's talking about now, for the last nine years and he'd been blocked by his colleagues."

Mr Dunne tweeted last Thursday: "National's cannabis bill mirrors what I was advocating for years, but which the Government would not accept, & were happy for me to take all the flak. Now they claim this is what "they" were working towards all along. My, how the impotence of Opposition changes everything!"

Mr Dann asked Mr Peters if, under Labour’s bill, sufferers would essentially need to be terminally ill, however Mr Peters said it was not "quite like that".

"I've made it very clear, and I’m sure it goes for a whole lot of people in Parliament as well, they want to put politics aside, they don't like these sorts of tactics and in the full committee of the House we’ll have a real chance to make appropriate changes if we can, but these people [who need medicinal cannabis] can't wait."

He said the National Party bill would not have helped people like Helen Kelly, a union activist who had terminal lung cancer and advocated for medicinal cannabis.

"If there are defects on both sides of the proposals, let’s fix them up," Mr Peters said.

Dann interviews Winston Peters on medicinal cannabis, the economy, immigration and the return of Jacinda Ardern. Source: Q+A