'Why do we have this hang-up?' Doctor asks why cannabis still cannot be prescribed

A GP has pointed out that he is able to prescribe very powerful, potentially-deadly opiates - but still cannot prescribe cannabis at his discretion.

Dr John Cameron, speaking this morning to TVNZ 1's Breakfast programme, made the comment after Green MP Chloe Swarbrick's Bill proposing changes to the way cannabis can be prescribed was voted down by National and NZ First MPs.

National MP and former Health Minister Jonathan Coleman spoke directly after Ms Swarbrick and was strongly opposed to the Bill, calling it "decriminalisation by stealth".

A watered down medicinal cannabis Bill was introduced by Labour and has since passed its vote and will head to a select committee.

Dr Cameron said New Zealand's drug law is "ancient", hailing from the 70s, and needs to be updated to reflect our current values and understanding of medicine.

The family are struggling to afford the $1100 a month it costs for Grace's Sativex medication. Source: 1 NEWS

"I would like to think we're a more enlightened country, but we're still working under the Drug Acts from 1975 - they're really quite ancient," Dr Cameron said.

"Cannabis could be a very useful tool for us in dealing with patient symptoms.

"I can prescribe very powerful opiate medicines that if I gave them to you, you would die immediately ... why do we have this hang-up about cannabis?

"Because it's a recreational drug that people can grow in their back gardens."

Dr Cameron recognised that there are issues from some groups using cannabis, especially teens or young people with brains which are still developing, as that can have long-term negative effect on cognitive function.

Tom O’Connor says the product should be legal for anyone to use with GP approval – not just the terminally ill. Source: Breakfast

However, he said cannabis product are, for many, a good way to relieves symptoms such as nausea or swelling inside the eye from glaucoma.

The funding of cannabis products has not been addressed, he said, and pointed out that the approved cannabidiol drug Sativex still costs about $1000 per month.

Dr Cameron suggested that the price of cannabis products needs to be reduced drastically, and pointed out that many in New Zealand are keen to manufacture cannabis medicine here, which would help to do that.

"It's a useful drug - we should be able to prescribe it in this country on the basis of what the patient needs - let's leave all the other stuff to one side."

Dr John Cameron says he could prescribe powerful, potentially-deadly opiates, but still is not allowed to prescribe cannabis. Source: Breakfast



Watch: 'Cantankerous old' rescue dog's escape down Bay of Islands thoroughfare prompts laughter around the world

A rescue dog named Lily from the Bay of Islands has become an overnight internet sensation after her wily escape down Kawakawa’s main street – with a giant flag in tow — put smiles on tens of thousands of Facebook users' faces.

CCTV footage of the freedom-seeking furball's runner — accompanied by Yakety Sax, the song made famous by the Benny Hill Show — has been viewed more than 320,000 times in the first 16 hours since it was posted last night.

Lucie Green, a volunteer with Bay of Islands Animal Rescue, was taking the basset hound for a walk last week when she decided to stop at a local business to buy Lily a treat.

But the dog wasn't interested in waiting to see what surprise might be in store, instead bolting despite being tied to the large Coca-Cola flag.

"It wasn't until I saw the video that I realised I had charged into oncoming traffic, which is quite alarming, but I just wanted to get hold of her before someone hit her," Ms Green told the New Zealand Herald today, describing the nine-year-old as a "cantankerous old lady".

"After taking her home I realised I still had to return the flag and pay for my sausage," she added. "I couldn't believe it."

Ms Green changed her Facebook profile picture to show Lilly late last night as the video, posted by user James Mcdonald, quickly started to take on a life of its own.

Thousands of people have since commented on the video, with many of them admiring the dog’s spirit.

"I'm laughing my guts out it's so funny," wrote Facebook user Annie Hicks.

"Crack up go doggie," added user Katie Bennett.

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Government moves to make pay equity claims easier - 'We must continue to close gap'

The Government want to make it easier for workers to lodge pay equity claims, introducing a proposed law on the 125th anniversary women first got the vote in New Zealand. 

Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees Galloway said today he was proud to take "the next step to address historic inequities in pay for women". 

He said The Equal Pay Amendment Bill was intended to make the process of making pay equity claims simplified and more accessible.

Acting Women's Minister Eugenie Sage said the bill was "one piece of the puzzle" in striving to close the gender pay gap. 

"Discrimination has led to lower pay for many female-dominated industries, despite having similar working conditions and skill requirements to comparable male-dominated occupations."

Earlier this year, National MP Denise Lee's Members' Bill on pay equity was voted down.

It intended to "eliminate and prevent discrimination on the basis of sex" in employment pay, and to also "promote enduring settlement of claims relating to sex discrimination on pay equity grounds". 

Labour MP Megan Woods saying there were "some very simple mechanistic reasons contained within this legislation why that would not occur", and fellow MP Jan Tinetti saying "this bill does put things backwards for pay equity". Labour, National and NZ First voted against it. 

Shot of New Zealand twenty dollars.
New Zealand $20 notes (file picture). Source: istock.com

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Rural relief teacher shortage forced one school to send students home

Rural schools have struggled to find enough relief teachers during the winter flu season with at least one sending students home because of a lack of staff.

Official figures showed there were fewer cases of flu than usual in the past few months, but principals told RNZ the teacher shortage was making it harder to find back-up when teachers were unwell or needed time away from the classroom.

Murupara Area School principal Angela Sharples said she recently had to take drastic action when the flu left the school without half of its teachers and not enough relievers.

"We actually had to roster home our senior students, our Years 9 to 13, on one day. I had planned on having our senior leadership team teaching and then we had another two staff call in sick that morning and I just didn't feel that I could safely open that part of the school."

Ms Sharples said she had never had to close part of her school before because of teacher absence.

"The relief teacher shortage has been getting worse in my opinion since I have been principal here at Murupara. But that combination of a poor teacher supply, poor relief teacher supply and then illness - I just couldn't come up with an appropriate solution."

It used to be a matter of filling out a form - now it's a $4,000, 12-week course. Source: 1 NEWS

She said it had become harder to find relievers since the introduction of a requirement that teachers who had not maintained their teaching registration complete a training course every six years.

She said the school provided a van to drive teachers and relievers from Rotorua which was 50 minutes away.

Ms Sharples said children in remote areas deserved education of as high a standard as those in urban areas.

The principal of Tuakau College near Pukekohe and Pokeno, Chris Betty, said the 48 teachers at his school had logged 330 sick days so far this year, which was a lot.

He said recently the school of 600 students could not find any relief teachers at all.

"We had five relievers that we wanted and we couldn't find them," he said.

Mr Betty said the school was forced to combine some classes and leave senior classes unsupervised.

He said being unable to find any relievers at all was unusual, but the school regularly had to leave classes unsupervised because of a lack of teachers.

"Sometimes we don't put relievers into senior classes, Year 13 classes, because they're 17, 18-year-olds, they're pretty responsible themselves. We might have someone visiting that class to check on them. There'd be a class each week I would think through the whole year on average. In the flu season it might be two or three classes," Mr Betty said.

Area Schools Association president Grant Burns said relievers were not just harder to find in rural areas than in urban areas, they were also more expensive because of their travel costs.

"We've certainly noticed that costs have crept up, actually more than crept up, have leapt up over the last five years at this school. It was around $25,000 a year we were spending on relief, now it's about $100,000 a year. The school has grown in that time, but not to that extent."

Mr Burns said one reason for the rising cost at his school was a growing reluctance to ask staff to cover for their colleagues during time they were supposed to use to prepare lessons.

He said finding relief teachers was time-consuming and it would be ideal if the government set up a central office to do the work.

"What I'd like to see is a middle layer of administration across a district that takes the daily scramble for relievers out of the hands of principals or their delegated staff members," he said.

"It would be nice if we could just simply make a call to the local ministry office or whatever it's called and say 'yep we need three relievers today please' and be able hang up the phone knowing those relievers were going to come.

Some teachers are having to rethink their careers because of a new course they have to take. Source: Breakfast

But at the moment we've got schools competing, all scrambling for a limited pool of relievers."

Mr Burns said jury duty was difficult for schools because it was never clear how long a teacher would be absent.

He said travel times also made it difficult to find relievers to cover short periods such as one or two hours in a day.

By John Gerritsen
Rnz.co.nz

Principals teaching, students being divvied up and teachers losing release time are all increasing practices at some schools. Source: 1 NEWS


Most read: Jacinda Ardern’s GDP gaffe is understandable and not of much consequence, says economist

Shortly after Jacinda Ardern misspoke about economic data during a radio interview yesterday, the Kiwi dollar briefly rose.

It resulted in widespread media coverage and gave Opposition leader Simon Bridges an opening to throw another jab in their perpetual political joust, calling her "distracted".

But even if the Prime Minister's statement did cause the dollar to quiver, does it matter in the scheme of things?

"Not really," said Christina Leung, principal economist for the NZ Institute of Economic Research, as she discussed the issue on TVNZ1's Breakfast today.

"The miscommunication is understandable," she said of the interview, in which Newstalk ZB host Mike Hosking asked a question about tomorrow's release of gross-domestic product (GDP) figures and Ms Ardern replied, "I am very pleased with the way we are tracking".

The Prime Minister later clarified that she wasn't talking about GDP figures, which she isn't given advanced access to, but instead to the Government's balance sheet.

The Opposition says it shows the Prime Minister is distracted. Source: 1 NEWS

"Financial markets do tend to focus on the glamour stats...like GDP," Ms Leung said today. "And then the Prime Minister would be more focused, of course, about what implications of growth are on tax revenue and what it means for the Government's balance sheet."

Ms Leung said she didn't find the misstatement concerning. The GDP figures released tomorrow will look back to the June quarter, so they won't be affected in any way by a statement after the fact, she said.

And she's also not convinced the PM's statement caused the brief rise in the Kiwi dollar's value, from 65.78 to 65.84 US cents.

"It's always hard to link up what's driving the New Zealand dollar," she said. "A lot of financial markets are driven by a lot of different factors.

The Kiwi dollar rose slightly this morning following a radio interview in which some thought the PM had a sneak peek of Thursday’s figures. Source: 1 NEWS

"Ultimately, what effects the longer-term influence on the New Zealand dollar would be the interest rate differentials between New Zealand and the other major economies - particularly what's going on in the US."

With retail activity and construction "looking quite strong" in New Zealand, Ms Leung said she expects to see "fairly solid growth for the June quarter" - of up to one per cent - when the GDP stats are released tomorrow morning.

Christina Leung, principal economist for the NZ Institute of Economic Research, also tells Breakfast the outlook for tomorrow’s GDP announcement is good. Source: Breakfast