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The Bulletin: Patient advocates question medicinal cannabis proposals

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Government releases proposals around medicinal cannabis, oxycontin takes hold in NZ despite US epidemic, and vaping pushed at Māori women.

Just quickly, apologies if today’s Bulletin has a few errors, I haven’t slept because of the cricket. The Black Caps are heading to the World Cup final after an astonishing win overnight. As someone who cares far too much about these things, I have a lot of thoughts on that, and put them into a piece, which you can read here. Now, on with the news.


Government plans for how the medicinal cannabis regime will operate have been revealed, but not everyone is happy with them. It will lead to some easier outcomes for patients, but will involve significant hurdles for patients wanting to use it more easily. To clarify as well – this will all take place outside of the plans for a referendum on legalisation for recreational use.

Ministry of health sign-off would be needed for all prescribed products, reports Radio NZ. Currently, that list constitutes one product only – the mouth spray Sativex. Under the proposals, smokable and edible cannabis would both still be out, and creams, pills and vaping forms would all be in.

However, the specialist sign-off requirement is upsetting to some campaigners, who say getting access to specialists is difficult, even if it did simplify the process overall for patients compared to the current status quo. A patient speaking to Newshub went further, saying that the model proposed appeared to be less patient-centric, and more focused on being “geared around industry and money and pharmaceutical products.”

In terms of that industry end though, there would be significantly more scope for people who had previously been criminalised to go legal. That’s according to this NZ Herald report which suggests those who know how to grow it well would be in a position to capitalise on that expertise, and get into a lucrative international market, provided they meet the criteria. That potentially opens the way for the dream of many on the East Coast – legit job creation through cannabis – to become a reality. The set of proposals are open for consultation until August 7, so those who don’t believe the right balance has been struck can have their say.


Oxycontin, one of the main drugs behind the American opioid epidemic, is increasingly being prescribed in New Zealand, reports Tony Wall for Stuff. In fact, it is now close to being prescribed as frequently as morphine, though in that same time rates of morphine use haven’t dropped at all. The drug is highly addictive, and Pharmac has spent tens of millions of dollars subsidising it.


Māori women are being targeted by big tobacco to switch from cigarettes to vaping, reports Guyon Espiner for Radio NZ. Reps from Philip Morris are running campaigns in marae and in predominantly Māori and Pacific Island areas, and selling vaping devices for half price in some circumstances. They say their product is much safer than cigarettes, and Māori women have very high smoking rates compared to the population as a whole. On the other hand, how benevolent is it really to cure one addiction by selling another?


Firearms licenses have been granted in New Zealand to hundreds of people convicted of crimes in Australia. The big concern, as Radio NZ reports, is that some of those people have gone on to commit crimes here too, including two cases of people being shot to death. In some cases the Australian convictions weren’t declared, and in others it didn’t warrant sufficient grounds to deny the license.


One of the key local election battles in Christchurch will be over potential future asset sales. The Star reported last week the campaign to prevent them was thrown into disarray by former mayor Vicki Buck’s surprise decision not to run again in the Riccarton ward. There wasn’t a candidate ready to replace her on the left-leaning People’s Choice ticket. However, their latest update is that former community board chair Peter Laloli will run. He’ll be taking on Catherine Chu, from the right-leaning Independent Citizens ticket.


The Reserve Bank might end up with climate change considerations enshrined in legislation, which would be a world first for a central bank, reports Interest. At this stage it is just being floated in a consultation paper for the review of the RBNZ Act. But the bank did publish a climate change strategy paper last year, so they’re clearly thinking about it as an issue.


Just this morning, the longlist for the Silver Scrolls songwriting awards has been released. The Spinoff has covered it, with each song listed in alphabetical order for your listening convenience. Now I don’t want it to feel like I’m picking favourites here, but I probably listen to the song on the list by The Beths about four times a week, possibly more.


The man who ran over PM Jacinda Ardern’s cat has finally come forward, and spoken to Stuff. It’s a coda to one of the strangest stories of 2017, back when Ardern had only recently taken office. He apologised to her, and strangely enough, she said she was sorry it had happened to him as well.


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HANNAH SALMON, from THE MODERN ALPHA series (Jones, Trump and Kavanaugh), 2019.

Right now on The Spinoff: Teuila Fuatai writes about a targeted debt-clearing service, aimed at helping whānau without making them get another loan. Ollie Rusden writes about five other things that could be banned along with plastic bags to reduce waste. Hera Lindsay Bird celebrates the work of New Zealand artist Hannah Salmon, aka Daily Secretion, who creates portraits of angry ‘alpha men’. Greater Auckland’s Heidi O’Callahan takes a granular look at urban density, and asks what good density looks like in practice.

Finally, I heartily recommend a good binge of both of these television shows, so it’s good to see them matched together here. Laura Vincent says those missing the remarkable British hit Fleabag should turn their eyes towards the under-rated Crazy Ex-Girlfriend next.


Today’s feature is a look into a side of the sporting world New Zealanders don’t often consider, despite it being relatively close to home. Professional rugby players in Europe are feeling the pinch, writes Jamie Lyall for Rugby Pass, with the market swinging towards favouring clubs and buyers. That in turn could have major implications for international rugby, if it ends up putting even more pressure on players to forego that less lucrative part of the game. It’s really more of an economics story than a sports story – here’s an excerpt:

The rub of all this is that some players – not the real galacticos, but those with a handful of caps or a fledgling Test career beckoning – are forced to be increasingly calculating about their international prospects.

“A player can go to the World Cup this year and be absolutely fantastic, one of the stars of the show – it doesn’t mean they’ll come back and get a contract,” Beattie says.

“That is the market we’re in at the moment. There are no guarantees. You can be absolutely fantastic and have no job. What’s best for the player’s family?”

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In the other World Cup about to start in England, there’s relief for the Silver Ferns, with Katrina Rore confirmed for their squad. Radio NZ reports she was in doubt with a calf strain, however that has now come right. The campaign will get underway this Friday night against Malawi.


From our partners: A two-tier system of energy use is developing, with those on high incomes much more able to reduce their bills than households on lower incomes. Vector’s Chief Risk and Sustainability Officer Kate Beddoe outlines what the company plans to do about that.


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