New Zealand has taken the first step towards legalizing both medical and recreational cannabis.
Peter Dunne, Associate Health Minister and a consistent critic of cannabis, has announced a change in drug policy that could pave the way for legalization.
Dunne made it clear that marijuana legalization was not being discussed. He said,
“Cabinet have accepted my recommendation that on the advice of the expert advisory committee of drugs that CBD be removed from the misuse of drugs act because it has potential therapeutic benefits to patients.”
This marks the beginning of a debate between legalization activists and prohibitionists who still consider cannabis a dangerous drug.
Hemp is already cultivated in New Zealand for hemp seed oil and industrial applications. Some of the 2006 legislation for growing hemp could be repurposed for cannabis regulations. Medical marijuana advocates like Richard Barge, part of the New Zealand Hemp Industries Association supports Dunne’s move. Barge stated,
“There are tremendous opportunities for the farmers and because we are talking about a bulky raw material, all that value-adding should be done as close to the farm as possible, like processing the fibre or cleaning and drying the seeds which creates opportunities for contractors and people to invest in infrastructure.”
Although the infrastructure and a few hemp laws could be the foundation for a brand new cannabis industry, Dunne clarified that a CBD-only program would be heavily restricted. “Farmers won’t be growing cannabis for medicinal cannabis in New Zealand full stop, this is about products that are CBD-based that are manufactured being able to be prescribed to New Zealand patients,” he said. “There is a very limited market at the moment.”
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