Otago Daily Times

NZMA clarifies referendum stance


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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