In the last week before the referendum on whether cannabis will be legalized, the New Zealand Medical Association has changed its position from an opposition to a neutral one.
The move comes after some doctors complained about the associations ‘opposition to legalizing the drug, saying they had not been consulted and the discussion and debate about the associations’ position had not been forthcoming.
Doctors told RNZ the New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) was also backing its position on outdated evidence and advice from 2012.
More than 1.15 million people cast their ballots almost twice as many as they did this time before the 2017 election.
Last week Dr Kate Baddock, chairwoman of the NZMA board, explained her support for a no vote. Our position on cannabis has been about cannabis harm, said Dr Baddock. Has been there since 2012. It’s been repeated several times during that time, and this is a board and organizational position has nothing to do with me personally.
The position of the associations prompted at least one doctor to leave and others to complain, asking the organization to conduct a survey on the issue among members.
Dr Nina Sawicki said she did not agree with the lack of consultation and had forgiven her membership. I decided to leave because I felt that their attitude towards the cannabis referendum, although not incorrect, I felt was incomplete, Dr Sawicki told RNZ.
I did not feel it addressed the broader spectrum of harm that comes from current cannabis use. I felt they got a very narrow medical focus on cannabis harm.
Now, in a surprise move just three days away from Saturday’s general election, the association has changed its position to neutral, outlining its new stance in a letter to members.
The NZMA will have no position on the referendum itself, the letter said. We are really sorry if anyone thinks that NZMA has not given them the opportunity to speak their mind.
The NZMA did not respond to a request for comment from the Guardians.
Last week some of New Zealand’s most experienced public health experts cast their support after the yes campaign.
In an editorial in the New Zealand Medical Journal, specialists in addiction treatment, public health, health promotion and epidemiology urged New Zealand to legalize cannabis. days after a poll showed edge voting.
Cannabis is the illegal drug most commonly used in New Zealand. A recent New Zealand Health Survey found that 15%, or 590,000 New Zealand adults, used cannabis in the last 12 months.
Mori makes up 16% of New Zealand’s population and is shown to be disproportionately affected by New Zealand drug laws, facing three times more arrests and prosecutions for cannabis possession than non-Mori.
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