SYDNEY – New Zealand’s parliament approved on Tuesday a bill that will allow the medicinal use of marijuana, making it possible for patients with chronic pain to acquire the drug with a prescription.
The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill, which passed the third and final reading in parliament and will soon become law, classifies cannabidiol (a chemical in marijuana) as a prescription medicine instead of a controlled drug.
The bill also sets up a statutory defense to allow those in palliative care to take illicit marijuana with a legal defense.
“People nearing the end of their lives should not have to worry about being arrested or imprisoned for trying to manage their pain. So as a compassionate measure we are also creating a statutory defence for people eligible to receive palliation so that they can use illicit cannabis without fear of prosecution,” Health Minister David Clark said in a statement.
The vote allows medicinal marijuana manufacturers to produce and market their products both locally and abroad.
“Regulations, licensing rules, and quality standards will be set on expert advice within a year of the law coming into effect,” Clark said.
New Zealand is the second government in the region to approve the medicinal use of cannabis after the Australian state of Victoria permitted it in 2016.
While some research suggests marijuana can be used to treat chronic pain, there is still significant controversy over its side-effects and effectiveness.