New Zealand's government has passed a law that will make medical marijuana widely available for thousands of patients over time.
The legislation passed Tuesday 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 that referendum sometime over the next two years, but has not yet set a date or finalized the wording.
The new law allows much broader use of medical marijuana, which was previously highly restricted.
But patients wanting to use marijuana for conditions like chronic pain will have to wait a year until a new set of regulations, licensing rules and quality standards are put in place.
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