Thursday, July 02, 2009

Medicinal Compound not worth discussing

It was cruel fatalism that kept me away from witnessing the Medicinal Cannabis Private Member's Bill dismissed by Parliament last night. Originally tendered by Nandor Tanczos and adopted by Met Turei, the bill had been pulled out of the Members' ballot a few years ago. It had been postponed here and there, waiting for a receptive quorum in the House to put it to select committee. In the meantime, a fresh crop of Green Party Private Member's Bills have been introduced onto the Order Paper, and it was time to put it to the vote to stop a backlog of bills from scattering the Greens' firepower.

The Medpot Bill didn't have the numbers under Clark's Labour, so it was pretty improbable that it would have had the numbers under Key's Labour-plus led parliament. But still, it's a disappointment. Like superannuation, medicinal cannabis has been thrown into the Too Hard basket once again.

You could be 99 years old and have six weeks left to live, but the NZ Parliament has declared that you still do not have their permission for your GP to prescribe cannabis. This is for your own good, apparently. Let the doctor pump your veins full of heroin or morphine til your head explodes in neurotransmitter lightning storms, but you are not permitted to eat or inhale from the sativa and indica trees under any circumstances.

Any casual reader of this blog knows where I stand on this issue, so I will move this post onto other observations based on the conscience vote for the bill. Although Hansard hasn't posted up the vote yet, and none of the online MSM reported the ayes and noes, a secret squirrel has kindly released the tally onto the blogosphere. No Right Turn has transcribed these from the voting sheets (N.B. Darren Hughes is a List MP, not the MP for Otaki.)

The entire National caucus voted against the measure, demonstrating that the Labour-plus varnish on their platform is a very thin gloss indeed. Although Tony Ryall sat through NORML's medpot petition last year, where even the Ministry of Health wonks conveyed a level of acceptance on the matter, the Minister of Health voted No. Herceptin good, cannabis bad. Associate Health Minister Jonathan Coleman's parternalistic warnings about cannabis showed a particularly revealing level of ignorance. It just goes to show that any reform on drug laws will come from Labour, not National.

Not that Labour's support was glowing with enthusiasm. As NatRad's Morning Report quotes Lianne Dalziel during the debate, her excuse was that although she supported the underlying argument, she couldn't abide certain medical conditions such as mental illness and schizophrenia being included in the schedule.

Frankly, that's a very weak argument. Cannabis use can either help or hinder mental symptoms, depending on the individual disposition of the patient. Like SSRIs and the rest of the cornucopia of pharmaceuticals, these things should be monitored by the GP not the MP. Even then, these details could have been worked out in select committee. The MPs would still have two more chances to say No.

Likewise, I'm disappointed with Darren Hughes, Clare Curran and Stuart Nash. The dead wood votes of Goff, Mallard, Cosgrove and Hawkins are understandable, same with the ethnic conservatism of Choudhary, Huo, Sio and Winnie Laban. But I thought those Young Ones would have known better. Fortunately, there's more of a future for Labour in the ones who said Yes.

Of all the Labour Yea-sayers, I must congratulate Annette King for her vote. I was quite annoyed with her last year, when directly after Nandor's valedictory speech she started off on a blahblahblah gangs, blahblahblah drugs speech. While Goff copped out with a No, deputy leader King did the right thing.

Thumbs up to every MP in Act for voting yes, although Roger Douglas' proxy seems to be MIA (or was it abstention?). While Heather Roy had her reservations, at least she and the caucus were prepared to look at it. Unlike Johnathan Coleman, Heather was prepared to look at the science. Hell, even David Garrett voted yes. Perhaps the Three Strikes Bill has humbled him a bit.

Met has said that she will reboot the Bill in the future. With her co-leader clout to back it up, I'm sure we haven't seen the end of this.