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Cannabis referendum is about recreation, not medicinal treatment – says New Zealand GP

Cannabis referendum New Zealand

Even as the New Zealand cannabis referendum date draws nearer, the exercise is more likely to support cannabis for recreational purposes. This is according to medicinal cannabis specialist Dr. Mark Hotu.

Dr. Hotu who gave his opinion on the upcoming referendum stated that “suggesting that voting yes for recreational cannabis will mean better for medicinal treatment  is misleading at worst and disingenuous at best.”

Mixed reactions on legalization

The cannabis referendum date in New Zealand is fast approaching and this has drawn mixed reactions. There are those who support cannabis for recreational use while others oppose it. Dr. Hotu has come out to inform the public about what they should know about the existing availability of medicinal cannabis. 

Regarding the potential risks of self-prescribing marijuana for health reasons, the GP said:

I’m concerned that many voters have been led to believe a cannabis referendum ‘Yes vote’ equals ‘Yes’ for medicinal cannabis. This is not the case; patients already have access to medicinal cannabis. It’s legal under the Medical Cannabis Scheme and currently available via prescription from doctors who can identify any potential drug interactions and adverse effects that may affect a patient.

Dr. Hotu observed that if cannabis is legalized for recreational use, it might become more commercially available for local companies to also enter the medicinal cannabis market. Currently, the Ministry of Health has put in place stringent requirements for the approval of new medicinal cannabis products.

He also warned the public that legalizing cannabis for adult use is not a guarantee for better access to safe, tested and approved cannabis products for medicinal treatment.

Is recreational cannabis legalization unadvisable?

The GP pointed out several reasons why he thinks legalizing cannabis for adult use is inadvisable.

Admissions to psychiatric hospitals for marijuana-induced psychosis will go through the roof. Over the last few years, we’ve put millions of dollars into the prevention and treatment of mental illness. Speak to any health professional that works in this field and they’ll tell you the impact that marijuana has on psychosis. Increasing access will undoubtedly result in a surge in mental health admissions,” Dr. Hotu noted

Overall, the medicinal cannabis expert emphasized that homegrown cannabis is not a medicinal grade. Given that its THC and CBD levels are unknown, the effect it has on users is unpredictable. He added that even if suppliers provide the pharmacological characteristics of homegrown cannabis, the way the seed is grown and refined into a consumable form could still affect the final product.

Dr. Hotu concluded by saying he was concerned as a GP and a medicinal cannabis expert to “equip Kiwis with the facts” so they can make an informed decision when they cast their vote in the upcoming referendum.

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