Of course we should have legal access to cannabis for medicinal use in New Zealand. That it is still prohibited, at all, is a mystery to all reasonable people.
Estimates from the latest New Zealand Health Department survey show the number of adults aged 15 and over that used cannabis in the past year is 11 per cent. This figure has remained stable for many years.
One in three of those adults said they used cannabis weekly; that's nearly 150,000 people. Some surveys suggest that there may be 70,000 daily users.
It may surprise you to learn that only 8 per cent of users reported experiencing any mental harm from it, only 6 per cent of users reported harmful effects on work or school performance, and an even smaller 1.7 per cent were absent from work, school etc as a result of cannabis use.
Unlike some over-the-counter painkillers and many prescription medicines, it is impossible to take a lethal overdose of cannabis. However, while doctors are allowed to prescribe heroin (diamorphine), codeine and cocaine as they see fit, they must apply to the Minister of Health for cannabis.
Pharmaceutical cannabis preparations, like Sativex, are not subsidised, permission is almost never given and there is no other legal way to get cannabis.
Despite being unable to obtain it legally, 42 per cent of cannabis users in the health department survey said they used it to treat pain or another medical condition.
So the 185,000 people who think cannabis provides them with some health benefit are doing their own medical experimentation and being their own guinea pigs, because the medical establishment has abandoned them.
Cannabis preparations were once respected panaceas for treating many ills. It is hard to undo the many years of political prohibitionists' brain-washing that has blackened cannabis' reputation. But the tide is slowly turning and drug law reform is gaining momentum around the world as new scientific proof of cannabis' healing properties swells.
If our politicians took notice of public, legal and scientific opinion, the money spent on cannabis would be taxed for the benefit of the education and health sectors instead of disappearing into the shadow economy.
The potential of cannabis and hemp to make a positive contribution to all sectors of our society is limited only by it's prohibition. Legalise it.