Labour leader Andrew Little isn't ruling out decriminalising cannabis for medicinal purposes as the party looks to firm up its position on the issue.
The spotlight is back on medicinal cannabis after Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne approved a new non-pharmaceutical grade product on Monday for a patient with severe Tourette's Syndrome.
This is only the second case to be signed off by the Minister – currently the only cannabis product available without ministerial approval in New Zealand is Sativex.
On Tuesday, Little said the Labour caucus were having discussions about what position the party would take on whether or not to support broadening access for Kiwis for medicinal purposes.
An announcement was expected to be made in the next couple of weeks.
When asked whether decriminalising for medicinal purposes was an option, Little said caucus was still having discussions and "we haven't concluded anything yet".
Little did hint that the party was moving towards transferring responsibility for whether a patient is approved medicinal cannabis to a medical professional, instead of the minister in charge.
"It's about accepting that there's enough evidence that there's enough medical evidence around now that under proper or appropriate supervision from a GP or specialist, that this isn't a form of treatment that ought to have to go through various hoops to get ministerial sign off," he said.
A review of the guidelines for approving medicinal cannabis are currently underway after they were set up at the request of Dunne following his approval of a new product, Elixinol, for Nelson teenager Alex Renton last year.
Renton, who suffered from "status epilepticus" – a kind of prolonged seizure – was the first Kiwi to get approval to use a product other than Sativex. He died a month later.
Earlier this year Dunne said the guidelines for considering application were sound, but they were prepared as guidance only.
Labour MP Damien O'Connor has been working on a member's bill around broadening access to medicinal cannabis since the plight of Renton was made public last year.
Medicinal cannabis has been making headlines lately after revelations a number of high-profile Kiwis have illegally used it.
Broadcaster Paul Holmes and cricket great Martin Crowe both turned to cannabis for pain relief before they died and former union boss Helen Kelly had her application for medicinal cannabis withdrawn.
She continues to source cannabis herself for pain relief after being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer last year.