New Zealand’s government on Tuesday passed a law that will make medical marijuana widely available for thousands of patients over time.
The legislation will also allow terminally ill patients to begin smoking illegal pot immediately without facing the possibility of prosecution.
The measures come ahead of a planned national referendum on recreational marijuana use. The government has pledged to hold the referendum some time over the next two years, but has not yet set a date or finalized the wording.
The new law allows patients much broader access to medical marijuana, which was previously highly restricted. But most patients will have to wait a year until a new set of regulations, licensing rules and quality standards are put in place.
The law will also allow medical marijuana products to be manufactured in New Zealand for both domestic and overseas markets.
Health Minister Dr. David Clark said in a statement the new law will help ease suffering.
“This will be particularly welcome as another option for people who live with chronic pain,” he said. [Read more at ABC News]