In the United States, we’re used to cannabis being a partisan issue. More Republican voters support medical marijuana than oppose it, but that is not always reflected by the actions their elected officials, who support fewer pro-cannabis than their democrat counterparts and even sometimes wage war on legal weed.
But in New Zealand, they have the opposite problem: everyone wants to legalize medical marijuana so bad that the parties are fighting over who gets to do it. That’s why this year has seen three different proposed MMJ bills from three different major parties. Two of those bills are currently in conflict in the country’s Parliament.
Cannabis is currently illegal in the country, so in some ways any regulation might be preferable, unless of course it sucks. It’s a weed-friendly nation in general, the ninth-most weed consuming in the world as it turns out, and cannabis is currently illegal there in any amount in any form, so let’s take a look at what the possible futures of the island country might soon be:
Bill From the National Party (Center-Right)
National is the most recent party to introduce an MMJ bill. On Wednesday, they announced their measure would have the following points:
- MMJ products would be prescribed by general practitioners, who issue a Medical Cannabis Card.
- MMJ could only be acquired from a pharmacist.
- No flowers allowed.
- Cultivators and manufacturers will be licensed after a vetting process, and they won’t be allowed to operate within 5 km of residences or within 1 km of schools.
- No cannabis advertising.
- The legislation will be reviewed by the Ministry of Health in five years.
Medical Cannabis Awareness NZ – Labour Party (Center-Left)
National’s bill roiled some in the Labour Party, and many believe that its introduction was meant as a political power play more than legitimate concern over MMJ regulation. Labour’s bill differs in many ways from National’s, including:
- MMJ patients would be able to claim medical necessity as a criminal defense. Over concerns about scarcity of legal available cannabis, regulators put in a stipulation to make sure that legitimate patients could be protected from the law no matter what.
- Much of the regulations would be flexible and up to the discretion of local politicians instead of higher-up ministry officials.
Bill by the Green Party (Left Wing)
Earlier this year yet another MMJ bill was voted down in government, even though 78% of Kiwis were on board with it. This one was decidedly more progressive than the other two. Among other tenets, it would have allowed MMJ patients to grow their own medicine.
Photo via Flickr user Dank Depot