A bill that gives terminally ill people a legal defence for using illicit cannabis products has passed its third reading in Parliament today.
The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill also gives them a defence to possess utensils for using cannabis.
That defence comes into force as soon as the bill receives royal assent.
The National Party, which flip-flopped on its support for the bill, today called it decriminalisation of cannabis by stealth and voted against it.
But it passed with the support of all coalition partners.
The bill passed just shy of a year since it was introduced to Parliament as part of the Government's100-day plan improve access to medicinal cannabis for terminally ill people and those in chronic pain.
Last month, during the bill's second reading, Health Minister David Clark made changes to the bill that expanded the defence to all people needing palliative relief, rather than just those with a year or less to live, as it previously was.
The changes also created a requirement for regulations for the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme to be in place no later than one year after the law comes into effect, allaying concerns that it could take as long as 2020 before the regulatory framework was in place.
It made clear that cannabis varieties already in New Zealand could be used for medicinal products, prompting at least one therapeutic cannabis company to call for illicit growers to come forward with their unique strains.
National supported the Government's bill at first reading but then pulled its support in July with its own bill which it said set out a more comprehensive and well-researched regime for the use of medicinal cannabis.