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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  • Chris W

    Medical cannabis is a cop-out. They should simply legalise it.

  • Sir Brucey

    How exactly does clinical experience prove decriminalization willnt work? We also need far less prescribed drugs, especially psychiatric ones, in NZ but I bet he willnt be consistent and reduce their use. Many doctors seem to be little more than salesmen for the large drug companies.

  • JJ

    the ones i feel real sorry for are the kids that have seizures who would benefit greatly from a law change, but GP’s are funded by drug companies so they r the real criminals pumping us full of their so called “legal” drugs.

  • Pharmachick

    GPs are not addiction specialists. At best they’re generalists and, in terms of psychiatric and addiction care they are akin to the “ambulance at the bottom of the cliff”. It is good that Coleman is Minister of Health and has clinical health care training, but he was hardly a top line specialist. In some ways, not being a “specialist” will serve NZ well, in others I can only hope he knows when to seek expert advice.

  • His “clinical experience”…ok…that’s fine. But how about the volume of research conducted by other more significant scientists and doctors. So his subjective experience out-weights all. I don’t use the stuff but I would never frown upon others that need or choose to in lieu of other chemical remedies prescribed for pain and nausia. When I get to a resthome or hospice (one day) I trust this option is open to me. But – with my luck – they will probably have a no smoking policy.

  • paul468

    In a previous post (link above) was stated ” While most National Party supporters (53.8 per cent) favoured the status quo, almost 45 per cent supported legalisation or decriminalisation”

    All labour need to do to win the next election is take some of that vote on this single issue and combine it with the increased voter turnout you would get from young voters.

    This one issue would make the young come out to vote in much bigger numbers than the internet party had ever hoped for. It would guarantee the installation of a new government and while National are completely opposed to reform they would be doomed to fail.

    In the post election analysis they would see that you not only need to rejuvenate the front, bench and the back bench but also the younger voter base.

    I’m a true blue voter but would change for this one issue for one election; bet you ten cents others would too.

  • Dope growers don’t hold large annual conferences in luxury resorts where Doctors and decision makers get all kinds of wonderful perks laid out

    If Pfizer had a patent on weed it would be legal medically everywhere

    Instead there is no money in it for them – unlike the drugs they do make that get happy prescribed with all kinds of side effects while generating huge profits……..

    • Pharmachick

      Sadly, I agree with this comment 150%. And the pseudonym “Pharmachick” is vocationally accurate.

    • Billythekid

      You got it. My late BIL had a heart transplant that gave him an extra 12 years of life. The anti rejection drugs killed him. When he died his transplanted heart was used as a medical case study and was a big block pump still capable of max psi. His cardiologist explained to the family the nuclear holocaust that was going on inside his body due to prescribed chemicals, was beyond comprehension. We, the family however still acknowledge the blessing we had with the extension on his life.

  • JJ

    It’s always amazed me how kiwis can be world leaders on so many things yet here is something we are actually good at and would bring huge financial benefits to this country, if Colorado is anything to go by, yet we continue to lag behind on this issue as nobody has the balls to even look into researching it.

  • paul468

    I don’t think we need to do much research, just use all the research on synthetic cannabis and just say it will be far better than that crap. It’s been in use for so long we all know a bit about its effects already, a lot of us first hand.

    I think the research we should do is a comparison, line by line to research on alcohol and tobacco. Then if it’s a no greater evil then integrate it into society like alcohol and tobacco are. No mucking about. There are many other communities in the countries we compare our lifestyle too that have decriminalised, legalised and medicalised.

    • JJ

      yet we will have to deal with the legal highs drama again soon what a waste of time and resources. Just Legalise weed & no more legal high problems.

      • paul468

        Totally agree, then just ban all the legal highs

  • Timboh

    The biggest lobbyist in the world, let’s call them big Pharma, view the legalization of marijuana as a doomsday scenario. All the extremely expensive drugs they flog for things like pain relief, stress, anxiety and just getting older cannot compete.

    • Pharmachick

      That’s factually untrue. Big Pharma view a lot of stuff that you would find shocking as “doomsday scenarios”… but not cannabis.

      • Timboh

        What you said was factually untrue. Read the Harvard studies, The studies undertaken by the Swedish government and the evidence given in whistle-blower cases. Granted another of their doomsday scenarios is people realising that it is not an illness to grow old. But I guess not being in the drug business what would i know?

        • Pharmachick

          Links please. And which of the many “whistleblower cases” are you referring to?

  • Old McDonald

    Just Finished reading understanding marijuana by professor Mitch Earleywine. Fascinating history of a natural medicine. Medical use of cannabis is thought to have begun around 2737BC.

    It is virtually impossible to take a fatal dose of cannabis, yet how many people die of alcohol poisoning every year. Or asprin , or countless other prescription medicines.

  • Wendy

    There are two very separate issues here.

    One is about the legalization of cannabis for recreational use which is currently illegal in New Zealand.

    The other is the medical use of cannabis which is currently legal and available for use (Sativex) in New Zealand, though too tightly controlled (in my opinion).

    • Shane Le Brun

      And f****n expensive. Sativex is 2 strains of plant co2 pressed into Hashoil, topped up with peppermint oil, in tiny spray bottle, and costs 10-30k per anum depending on dosage needed. Surely as a country priding itself on Primary Industry we could do it a lot cheaper than that…………