Otago Daily Times

NZMA clar­i­fies ref­er­en­dum stance

- BEN STRANG

WELLING­TON: The New Zealand Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion has back­tracked on its stance op­pos­ing cannabis le­gal­i­sa­tion and apol­o­gised to doc­tors who feel they were mis­rep­re­sented.

The change in stance comes af­ter doc­tors were re­ported to be un­happy with the as­so­ci­a­tion stance, say­ing it did not con­sult mem­bers.

Late last week, as­so­ci­a­tion chair­woman Dr Kate Bad­dock sent a let­ter to mem­bers on be­half of the board, clar­i­fy­ing the as­so­ci­a­tion’s po­si­tion on the ref­er­en­dum.

She said be­cause the ref­er­en­dum is not de­cid­ing on an ac­tual Bill, but rather a pro­posed piece of leg­is­la­tion, the as­so­ci­a­tion in­stead fell back on its pol­icy state­ments.

It did not look at the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion to form its opinion.

‘‘This par­tic­u­lar po­si­tion state­ment looked pri­mar­ily at the harms as­so­ci­ated with cannabis and that these are dose­re­lated (a point that has often not been aired, de­spite be­ing said),’’ the let­ter states.

‘‘It also recog­nised that is­sues to do with cannabis use need to be de­crim­i­nalised and di­verted from the courts and dealt with as health is­sues.

‘‘Again, the me­dia chose not to re­port that de­spite my re­peat­edly mak­ing the point.’’

Dr Bad­dock did not talk about harms be­ing dose­re­lated in an in­ter­view last week, ex­plain­ing the as­so­ci­a­tion’s po­si­tion.

But RNZ did re­port the as­so­ci­a­tion would like cannabis de­crim­i­nalised.

The let­ter went on to say: ‘‘Ev­ery mem­ber, how­ever, has the ab­so­lute right to vote on the Cannabis Le­gal­i­sa­tion and Con­trol ref­er­en­dum.

‘‘The NZMA will have no po­si­tion re­gard­ing the ref­er­en­dum it­self.

‘‘The board and I hope this helps clar­ify why these two is­sues have been treated dif­fer­ently, and re­mem­ber, the me­dia does not print the whole of what is said.

‘‘Hav­ing said that, we are truly sorry if any­body feels that the NZMA has not given them the chance to speak their mind."

RNZ asked for an in­ter­view with Dr Bad­dock, but was de­clined as she is away.

How­ever, in a state­ment an as­so­ci­a­tion spokesman said it was im­por­tant to clar­ify its po­si­tion.

‘‘The chair and board felt it was im­por­tant for mem­bers to un­der­stand the dif­fer­ences on commentary by the chair for both ref­er­enda, given the com­plex­i­ties.

‘‘Hence the com­mu­ni­ca­tion of the let­ter for mem­bers.

‘‘The let­ter was writ­ten for NZMA mem­bers and is now in the pub­lic do­main.

‘‘It was pri­mar­ily in­tended to clar­ify mat­ters for mem­bers af­ter con­cerns were raised re­gard­ing con­sul­ta­tion with our mem­ber­ship.

‘‘Our po­si­tion has not changed in that we con­tinue to be con­cerned about the harms of cannabis use, but we are not telling peo­ple how to vote."

The as­so­ci­a­tion now joins sev­eral other med­i­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions that are not tak­ing a side on the ref­er­en­dum. — RNZ

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