Drug Foundation say medicinal cannabis bill lacks important details .

Alternative medicine

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Advocates say the government's medicinal cannabis bill needs to protect growers to make sense, but pharmacists are worried about the safety of what patients will be taking.

The Foundation proposes removing criminal penalties for personal possession.

Source: 1 NEWS

The bill creates a legal defence for terminally ill people with less than a year to live to posses and use cannabis products for medicinal purposes and also allows standards to be set for medicinal cannabis products.

In February it passed its first reading unanimously.

Critics say the changes don't go far enough, and Green Party MP Chloe Swarbrick unsuccessfully put up an alternative bill that would have allowed anyone with a terminal illness or a debilitating condition to grow and use cannabis.

Today, New Zealand Drug Foundation director Ross Bell backed that up, telling parliament's health select committee the draft lacked some important details and needed to be extended to include those administering and cultivating medicinal cannabis.

"I know that causes anxiety amongst politicians," he said.

"But in the real world, right now, people are growing cannabis and using it."

Ms Swarbrick told the committee the bill failed to properly explain how people would acquire the products and medical approval needed to be part of the process to avoid legal hardship for patients

"It seems to be that the government's bill puts the cart before the horse. People need to go out on a limb and risk being put in jail by accessing this cannabis illegally ... then the police say we're not going to prosecute," she said.

Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand's Shane Le Brun said without allowing provisions for people to grow their own, the expense of imported products for many would be prohibitive, in some cases hundreds of dollars a day.

But Pharmaceutical Society president Graeme Smith said there were serious concerns about the safety and consistency of cannabis.

Differences between strains of plants meant there was no way to know with certainty what was being given to a patient and a lack of research meant interactions with other medicines were often unclear, he said.

"Is home-grown cannabis a medicine? And if it's not, why are we here?"

Mr Smith said while pharmacists backed the idea of a locally sourced product that met safety requirements, there were also worries treatment would creep into other areas.