Health minister David Clark in Parliament contemplating the gordian knot of health spending (Radio NZ)

The Bulletin: Small scope of medicinal cannabis changes criticised

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Small scope of medicinal cannabis changes criticised, big chunk of cash for the West Coast, and Karel Sroubek speaks out.

Patients undergoing palliative care will be able to use medicinal marijuana, without fear they’ll end up being convicted, reports the NZ Herald. The change has come out of the government’s moves to amend the Misuse of Drugs Act. Cannabidoil will also be removed from the controlled drugs schedule. None of it will happen any time soon – the Ministry of Health is working to a timeline of having the legislation go live in mid-2020.

But here’s an update from Radio NZ this morning – some are saying the changes don’t go nearly far enough. Advocates for retirees and those with long term conditions say it should also be made available to those in chronic pain. It is estimated that while there is about 25,000 people undergoing palliative care, there are more than 300,000 New Zealanders suffering from chronic pain.

The question of the black market for cannabis also comes into this. After all, as one woman Radio NZ spoke to notes, that’s where people like her are currently getting it from. And as National’s Dr Shane Reti points out, there are still gaps in the legislation – for example – “ridiculously, the Bill would make it legal for people with a terminal illness to possess and use cannabis but illegal for people to supply it to them”, Dr Reti says. Not everyone in the position of needing medicinal cannabis has the skills, space or time to grow their own, but their need could still result in those around them getting in legal trouble. Black market cannabis also tends to be cheaper than pharmaceutical cannabis.

Politically, it’s also hard to see why more sweeping amendments weren’t made. Medicinal cannabis access is overwhelmingly popular with the public – the Radio NZ report notes that out of 1800 submissions made on the bill, just 1% were against greater access. Polls conducted by the Drug Foundation shows there’s even strong support for all cannabis use to be legalised or decriminalised.

With a referendum on legalising cannabis use likely to be on the ballot in 2020, it will be interesting to see if the case for legalising is bolstered by holes in the medicinal cannabis legislation. For those all in favour of medicinal cannabis but still with concerns about recreational cannabis, they might find themselves in a position where they have to vote for the latter to get the former. But that referendum will be non-binding, so it’s possible that even after it, progress will be slow. And it really shouldn’t be the case that the two quite seperate issues of medicinal and recreational cannabis get conflated together.


A big chunk of provincial growth fund cash is being sent down the West Coast, reports Radio NZ. $140 million will be put towards value adding tourism initiatives, rolling out fibre internet, value adding dairy processing, and a few other bits and pieces. $10 million will also be put towards a garnet mine, an industry that Coasters have traditionally relied on. Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn told Newstalk ZB there’s a good spread both around locations and industries with the spend.


Convicted Czech drug smuggler Karel Sroubek believes political pressure has put paid to his chances of staying in New Zealand. He spoke to Newshub from behind bars, after immigration minister Iain Lees-Galloway reversed his decision about whether Mr Sroubek is liable for deportation. Mr Sroubek says he’s changed, is no longer a criminal, and insists that his safety would be in danger if he was to return to the Czech Republic.


A cold storage company has admitted to breaking strict environmental laws, resulting in the death of almost 2000 at-risk eels, reports Stuff. The longfin eels were poisoned by ammonia, which was released into the Kaputone Creek in north Christchurch by Polarcold Stores Ltd. The company could face a fine of up to $600,000, and a manager accused of being responsible could face up to two years in prison if found guilty.


Huawei is seeking to meet urgently with GCSB minister Andrew Little, after being blocked from supplying technology for Spark’s 5G network. The NZ Herald reports the Chinese owned company denies doing anything wrong, and the company was no threat to NZ. The block is on the grounds that use of Huawei technology could result in “significant national security risks” according to the GCSB. Huawei technology is widely in use in NZ’s telecommunications infrastructure at the moment, but Andrew Little says he has no problem with that.


The government won’t respond on a major inquiry report into mental health and addiction until March next year, reports Stuff. The inquiry took in more than 5000 submissions from various people and sector groups, and included 26 public forums around the country.


More has emerged on the National Party’s alleged knowledge of a groping and sexual harassment incident after a Young Nats function. Newsroom reports that the alleged perpetrator learned he was suspended from his membership only after the original story broke. He said the first he knew any complaint had been made was when he received an email from the party’s GM Greg Hamilton. The 19 year old man denies assaulting or coercing the woman who made the complaint, who is aged 17.


A slow building scandal around potentially dodgy WOFs has just exploded. Radio NZ reports 10,000 drivers are being warned they might need to get rechecked. There have also been a range of enforcement actions taken against inspectors found to be not meeting standards.


Retirement commissioner Diane Maxwell is being accused of overseeing a culture of bullying in her office by more than a dozen former staff, reports Newsroom. Ms Maxwell has an immense amount of power within the Retirement Commission, a government agency. She denies the accusations being made against her.


Finally, if you’ve forgotten what former Pike River mine boss Peter Whittall’s face looks like, Checkpoint tracked him down to New South Wales. Despite being buttonholed by reporter Logan Church, Mr Whittall did not wish to comment.


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Two M’s, a First Man and a fish! Mediaworks slate in 2019.

Right now on The Spinoff: We’ve got a Cheat Sheet about what the newly passed Country of Origin food labelling laws will mean. Danyl McLauchlan has written a deeply involved review of a new Nietzsche biography. Sam Brooks has a rundown of what telly Mediaworks will be putting on next year, including Mike McRoberts joining Dancing with the Stars. Sarah Paterson-Hamlin has a gift guide for ethical Christmas giving, which doesn’t include buying a village a goat. And Kylie Parry writes about the ‘transgender agenda’ – that is, to live a safe and normal life while being true to who they are.


Right, so I’m going to put a call out for feedback here, and you’re going to need to cast your mind back a bit. We’re about to come into the final month of the year (I know, right?) and over that month, I want us to collectively prove a point about New Zealand journalism. Namely, that there’s some pretty awesome work being done.

So I want your suggestions. What pieces of journalism, or stories, or series, or interviews have you seen this year that really matter? Maybe they were important, or broke a story wide open. Maybe they were beautifully written or shot. Maybe they changed lives, or forced action. Maybe you want to highlight a journalist who has been at the forefront of an issue all year.

Send those stories to me – email thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz – and tell me why they deserve to be included. And then over the course of December, we’ll share them out again so they have a second run. Just two stipulations: it has to be work from this year, and it has to be from New Zealand. But apart from that, there are no limits on outlets, big or small. And it doesn’t matter if you are or aren’t in the media either – journos, don’t even feel shy about sending in your own stuff if you reckon it’s top notch.

I won’t be able to re-publish all of them probably. But this whole year, it has been an absolute pleasure sharing great journalism with you, the readers. And The Bulletin is your thing too, and like I said yesterday, one of the best things about it is that it’s a two way conversation between us. So you tell me, for the last month of the year: what should people read?


In the end, it wasn’t to be for the U17 Football Ferns. They were on the wrong end of tow quick goals on either side of half time in their World Cup semi-final against Spain, and were bundled out as a result. But still, it’s by far the furthest a New Zealand team has ever progressed in a World Cup, and there’s still the chance to make 3rd place if they can beat Canada.

Here’s a cool bit of stats work from Rugby Pass, who have crunched some numbers on why Beauden Barrett is such an inconsistent kicker. It turns out, it could have a lot to do with the brand of the ball. He’s great with the Gilbert, and average with the Adidas. Of course, it could be a whole lot of other factors too, but the discrepancy in numbers is pretty significant. In case you’re wondering, yes, the Rugby World Cup is being played with a Gilbert next year.

Speaking of the World Cup, who’s going to be commentating it? Remember, the rights are owned by Spark rather than Sky, so it could mean new voices behind the microphones. Jamie Wall has a rundown on who the leading contenders are.


From our partners: Lithium-ion batteries are magnificent feats of engineering and vital for renewable energy. But if we’re not careful with them, they’ll create enormous environmental problems, writes Vector Senior Sustainability Advisor Juhi Shareef.


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