MP and ex-GP Jonathan Coleman shows no love for medical marijuana

The new Health Minister may be confessing to a few “puffs” of cannabis in his youth, but don’t expect him to go soft on drugs.

Jonathan Coleman has moved quickly to make changes since becoming the first trained doctor in the role in more than 70 years.

He has dumped the controversial cost-cutting agency Health Benefits Ltd (HBL), which his predecessor Tony Ryall vigorously defended in the face of revolt among district health boards.

And he is also pushing a more aggressive shift of health services, and potentially funding, from hospitals and into medical centres.

But in other ways, Coleman will be toeing the political line. Anyone hoping that the former GP might take a more health-focused approach to drug use will be disappointed.

Coleman said he had smoked cannabis (although never “a whole spliff”) once or twice in his 20s.

As a GP, he had regularly treated drug addicts, including prescribing methadone, particularly while working in London.

“[But] my clinical experience has led me to the view that decriminalisation isn’t going to work and the policy settings at the moment are the right ones . . . We need less marijuana in society, not more,” he said.

Another hypocrite that has never inhaled that won’t, on principle, consider the medical use of marijuana.  As an ex-GP, he very well knows the big drug companies are the bread and butter of the medical system, and the last thing he needs is non-patentable yet highly effective treatments based on the humble marijuana plant.

The way to keep it at bay, is to keep harping on about the criminal elements surrounding the “drug”.  

Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said Coleman was just the latest in a string of politicians admitting to youthful drug use.

But he was disappointed Coleman’s medical experience hadn’t led to a shift away from punishing drug users.

“If they [the politicians] had been convicted for that use when they were young, they wouldn’t be in the position of being ministers of the Crown now,” he said.

“Why do they think we should give young people today a criminal conviction for the same thing?”

Bell said politicians shied away from changing drug policy because it was widely considered political poison.

But there was a global shift away from a “hard on drugs” approach – for example, some US states had legalised marijuana – and New Zealand was falling behind.

“I think now they are really misreading the public mood.”

It’s plain cowardice.  They get to a position where they can actually make useful changes, and then they show themselves as people not prepared to take any political risk.


– Ben Heather, The Dominion Post

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.