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Medical Cannabis Out, Says Anderton.

By admin | November 26, 2004

New Zealand Herald
Nov 4, 2004.

Associate Minister of Health Jim Anderton says he will not support a bill allowing the cultivation of cannabis for pain relief.

But Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons believes the drug should be allowed for medical reasons.

The issue has arisen after Christchurch man Neville Yates was sent to jail for five months by Christchurch District Court Judge David Holderness for growing cannabis he says he uses for pain relief.

Yates, who is wheelchair-bound and brain-damaged after being hit by a truck 30 years ago, had been sent to jail in 1999 for the same offence.

Mr Anderton, chairman of the ministerial committee on drug policy, said yesterday that he would not support a bill allowing cannabis cultivation for pain relief.

“The Ministry of Health is looking into this issue but it has to do it on a careful basis. It has to have clinical evidence and advice that using cannabis for pain relief is safe,” he told National Radio.

Mr Anderton said the effects of smoking cannabis were even worse than tobacco.

He said if cannabis was to be allowed for medical reasons, it had to be properly administered and trialled clinically to ensure it did have the benefits claimed.

“You can’t just say, ‘Let’s use anything, some leaf or something’, you’ve got to have a set of clinical evidence and advice that this is working properly under certain dosage, under certain medication prescription.”

But Jeanette Fitzsimons argued for a change in the law.

“I have a private member’s bill in the ballot that would allow for doctors’ consent to be given to allow cannabis to be used medicinally when it is appropriate.”

It was “cruel and inhuman” to send Yates to jail, she said.

“It’s a miscarriage of justice to imprison a man who presents no danger to society simply because he was using the only pain relief he found to be effective and with far less serious side-effects than prescription drugs.”

Mr Anderton said if cannabis was available in less dangerous forms than smoking and was proved to work medically he would not have a problem with it.

He said Yates had needed proper legal advice in court and hadn’t been helped by his association with cannabis advocate Blair Anderson as an in-court assistant.

The judge was also critical of Mr Anderson’s support of Yates.

“You were not greatly assisted by [Anderson] and other members of the group who were, plainly, pro-cannabis advocates,” the judge said.

Yates had three previous convictions for cultivating cannabis and a total of nine for cannabis-related offending.

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