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Plant expert backs medical cannabis

Last updated 05:00 21/05/2014

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An international horticulturist is calling for cannabis to be legalised for medicinal use.

Dr Mike Nichols, who has travelled around the world consulting on horticulture, is a member of the International Society for Horticultural Science and former Massey University horticultural lecturer.

Earlier this month, the health select committee at Parliament considered a petition asking it to look at the decriminalisation of cannabis for pain relief and managing symptoms of chronic illness.

The petition said that, unlike opioids, cannabis did not need to be taken in increased dosages to maintain pain relief.

Nichols said cannabis had many benefits.

He said many people reacted badly to pain-relief drugs, and cannabis could provide pain relief they needed, as well as be an appetite stimulant for people who needed nutrition.

"When people get to 80, they often need to have a better appetite. And so do AIDS/HIV sufferers. Cannabis does this - have you heard of the munchies? And opiates often make people constipated. Cannabis does not."

Nichols said cannabis was legal for medicinal purposes in about half the states of the United States and New Zealand should follow.

Nichols is 80 years old, and said more people were coming out in support of cannabis use for medicinal purposes. He said he could only talk about medicinal use of the drug, rather than recreational use.

He said there was potential for some tax gains if cannabis use was legalised for medicinal use.

"Colorado is a similar population to New Zealand and gets $70 million tax from cannabis sales."

Nichols said New Zealand had missed an opportunity to grow the opium poppy for legal morphine.

"Trials were done in New Zealand 50 years ago and yields were high. There was strong possibility of growing the crop here. But we missed out and now Tasmania produces half the world's medicinal morphine."

Trials have started again in Canterbury, and they could be 50 years too late, Nichols said. 

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- Taranaki Daily News

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