The law will let terminally ill patients start smoking illegal marijuana, to ease pain, with immediate effect without the possibility of prosecution.
“People nearing the end of their lives should not have to worry about being arrested or imprisoned for trying to manage their pain,” said health minister David Clarke.
“This is compassionate and caring legislation that will make a real difference to people … they can use illicit cannabis without fear of prosecution.”
A referendum on the recreational use of marijuana within the next two years has been planned.
“New Zealanders will take this as encouragement that we don’t need to be stuck in the past,” added campaign manager for the #makeitlegal campaign Sandra Murray.
“We are now only two steps behind the rest of the world when it comes to sensible cannabis laws and with the upcoming referendum, we are on track to become an example of how to get it right.”
National party spokesperson Shane Reti added: “We support medicinal cannabis but strongly oppose the smoking of loose leaf cannabis in public. Smoked loose leaf is not a medicine.”