The growth of the medicinal marijuana issue

An American I was talking to the other week had seen the media coverage of Helen Kelly’s raising of the medicinal marijuana issue, and noted that marijuana is already being steadily legalized across the United States. She said, I paraphrase, “you know the only reason it’s illegal is because the pharma industry can’t figure out how to monetize it, right?”

It’s an argument that sounds pretty spot-on when you see stories like this:

The parents of a 7-year-old girl have the green light to use medicinal cannabis to control their daughter’s severe seizures.

Karen and Adam Jeffries have Health Ministry approval to give their daughter Zoe the cannabis oil-based mouth spray Sativex for the next six months.

Each bottle lasts around four weeks and costs $1050. The Jeffries paid for the first script with a well-timed tax return and have set up a Givealittle page to help fund repeat scripts.

But Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has rejected calls to allow the use of raw cannabis for medical reasons, saying the Government’s policy was “not to decriminalise the cannabis leaf”, while there was not sufficient evidence for its medical value in an unprocessed form.

Over a thousand dollars a month for a product derived from a plant which has been cultivated for thousands of years? Yeah, that doesn’t feel right, does it?

Peter Dunne is one in a short line of government ministers who are firmly stuck in the Reefer Madness, “marijuana will destroy society” frame of drug control.

When he permitted the use of medicinal marijuana for Alex Renton, Dunne tried to insist this “wasn’t a precedent.” But back in May a poll showed nearly half of New Zealanders supported decriminalisation for medicinal marijuana, and the stories – like Helen Kelly’s, and Zoe Jeffries’ – have kept coming.

This feels like one of those issues which is only going to be talked about more and more. Like marriage equality, where even the United States is unafraid to go, we tend to follow. And politicians like Peter Dunne can figure out for themselves whether they want to be on the right side of history, or remembered as an anachronism in a bowtie.

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