Life and Death and Cannabis

Helen Kelly has a guest post at The Standard on Life and Death and Cannabis.

I am taking Cannabis Oil to manage my pain as my lung cancer takes over my body. It’s sort of as simple as that really. For some people talking about dying is confronting but actually talking about it allows us to think about how it happens – it is actually as much a social event as a physical one and knowing someone is comfortable, getting good treatment and pain relief is very much part of the social dimension as the physical one.

She then details what is required to get to use a cannabis derived medical product. And what she is having to try because that’s such a rigmarole.

I have been taking Kytruda (the drug all the publicity is about – a break though for melanoma and has had some success with lung cancer but not with me). I have paid for is (this is what Kiwisaver will be for in the future – to subsidise our underfunded health system). It is completely experimental and the Doctors admit it – they don’t know who it works with, why, exactly how or really even how to administer it the most efficiently – but oh fill me up with it – exactly because I have nothing to lose. I have also had whole brain radiation – massively dangerous – huge side effects possible – I have been lucky – but I can’t take cannabis?

What she wants:

 I would like a referendum on the issue at the next election – and I am hoping a Bill might be sponsored to that effect  (collecting signatures is not necessary and John Key has shown with the flag – you just need a Bill). It could be run at the election to save money and my bet is it will be overwhelmingly supported.

I think we could change this situation with a little more push – a few leaders speaking out in support, an exposure of the current system refusal by refusal and with real stories of people with real illness just wanting to live the end of their life with a bit of dignity.

It’s very sad that a dying person is having to hope that our politicians will stop ducking for cover, avoiding addressing something that many other countries are advancing on, including the US, Canada and Australia.

It’s bloody stupid that one of the mostly widely used drugs in the country cannot legally be used by someone in the last months of their life.

The whole post is well worth reading – especially by our politicians.

Life and Death and Cannabis.

Poll: 91% support medicinal cannabis

A Roy Morgan poll  shows A massive majority of Australians support the legalisation of medicinal marijuana.

The question, ‘In your opinion should the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes be made legal or remain illegal?’

  • Yes, legal: 91%
  • No, not legal: 7%
  • Can’t say: 2%

Interestingly the 50+ age group showed stronger support:

  • 14-24: 85%
  • 25-39: 90%
  • 50+: 94%

This may be due to older people seeing more chance of needing and benefiting from medicinal use of cannabis based products.

Older age groups are also more likely to be voters.

** This special telephone Morgan Poll was conducted over three nights, October 20-22, 2015, with an Australia-wide cross section of 644 Australians aged 14+.

Canada promise to legalise cannabis

Canada’s new Prime Minister Just Trudeau has promised cannabis legalisation policy since becoming Liberal leader two years ago and hios Government has repated it’s pledge.

The Guardian reports: Canada’s new Liberal government repeats promise to legalize marijuana

Canada’s new Liberal government has repeated its pledge to legalize marijuana in a speech outlining its agenda as parliament resumes after the 19 October election.

A speech delivered by governor general David Johnston reiterated new prime minister Justin Trudeau’s plan to legalize and regulate the recreational use of marijuana. It is a position Trudeau has held since becoming leader of the Liberal party in 2013. However, for the first time, the government said it will restrict access to marijuana but did not elaborate.

Trudeau has said that legalizing marijuana would fix a “failed system” and help remove the “criminal element” linked to the drug. He also has said Canadians would benefit from analyzing the experiences of Colorado and Washington state, which recently legalized pot.

I think it’s just a matter of time before this change of tack on recreational cannabis use works it’s way around the Western world at least.

I wonder if Trudeau talked to John Key about this when they met recently at an APEC meeting.



Medical cannabis availability issues explained

Here’s a detailed article from BuzzFeed on how recently evolving the issue of medical cannabis is in the USA (and we are further behind in New Zealand, virtually in wait-and-see mode).

This shows how it’s not just a simple matter of passing legislation to enable the use of medical cannabis. Product development and testing is in it’s early stages.

There’s a lot of conflict and debate over allowing CBD only products (without the intoxicating THC component of Cannabis) to try and make it easier to have enabling legislation but there are credible claims that THC and some resulting level of intoxicant is beneficial for some things, especially pain relief.

It’s a long article but worth reading if you have an interest in this topic.

Member’s Bill on Medical Cannabis

In Mid-October Helen Kelly admitted to have used cannabis to self-treat her cancer, NZ Herald reported MPs back calls for medicinal marijuana.

Union boss Helen Kelly’s call for better access to medicinal marijuana has been backed by MPs from both sides of the House.

Ms Kelly, who is terminally ill, has admitted to using cannabis oil for pain relief and wants Government to improve access to the drug.

It was also reported that Damien O’Connor was drafting a member’s bill in support of medical cannabis.

Labour’s West Coast MP Damien O’Connor is drafting a bill private member’s bill which would improve access to cannabidiol.

He started work on the bill after the death of a Nelson teenager Alex Renton, who had taken a hemp-derived treatment for repeated seizures.

Last week the Greymouth Star also reported on this:

MP to draft medicinal cannabis bill

West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O’Connor is drafting a private member’s bill to allow the medicinal use of cannabis.

You need a subscription to see the whole article but it was republished by the ODT:

O’Connor drafting medicinal cannabis Bill

West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O’Connor is drafting a private member’s bill to allow the medicinal use of cannabis.

He says high profile cases such as terminally ill trade union leader Helen Kelly, who is using cannabis oil for pain relief because it does not make her sick like morphine, have helped changed public attitudes.

He stressed he was not advocating the decriminalisation of cannabis.

Mr O’Connor said today he had believed in the benefits of medicinal cannabis since the 2000s, when he was on a select committee which backed its use.

He said Labour Party technical staff were now helping him draft a private member’s bill.

There has been suggestions that O’Connor may have fibbed about who he is consulting with.

Every drug had some side effects, and it was important they were minimal and not harmful. Cannabis would have to be prescribed by a GP, and GPs in turn would need to be comfortable with it. It would need to be of consistent quality.

“It’s really important no one pushes too hard, too fast,” he said, as that could derail the process.

“People like Helen Kelly and others exposing the careful use of it – people understand there’s value.”

The value of medicinal cannabis products is still up for debate as the growing number of products haven’t been comprehensively tested yet.

Drafting the private member’s bill would take some time. He was also talking to other political parties including Health Minister Jonathan Coleman.

I presume he will also talk to Peter Dunne, odd that he doesn’t mention him here. Dunne as Associate Health Minister has represented the Government on cannabis matters.

I hope O’Connor also actually consults with people in New Zealand that have useful knowledge on the use of medicinal cannabis.

As a Member’s Bill this will go in an occasional draw with 60-70 other bills, with 3 or 4 usually drawn at a time.  So the chances of progressing this through a Member’s Bill are low.

Cannabis Party versus Peter Dunne

Cannabis Party leader Julian Crawford has taken issue with things Peter Dunne said on Q & A on Sunday – in fact he claims Dunne lied.

Dunne and UIC ‘misleading the public’

The Cannabis Party is accusing Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne of misleading the public over medical cannabis.

Dunne told TVNZ’s Q+A programme that although “we talk about medicinal cannabis, actually there’s no such thing”.

Cannabis Party leader Julian Crawford said Dunne was lying when he claimed that raw cannabis was not medicinal unless it was packaged into a pharmaceutical product.

“In 23 States of the US they have legalised medical cannabis in its raw form, without the need for any involvement from the pharmaceutical industry. The pharmaceutical industry has a vested interest in keeping medical cannabis illegal,” Crawford said.

“Peter Dunne has deliberately deceived the New Zealand public when he claimed that raw cannabis was not medicinal. In reality around 40% of New Zealand’s cannabis users are using it for medical reasons. Even when smoked it has medicinal benefits.”

The Cannabis Party are calling for patients and their caregivers to be able to form non-profit organisations to grow and dispense medical cannabis in New Zealand, without all the delays and costs involved with clinical trials.

“Dunne is simply a glove puppet of the pharmaceutical lobby, he has not softened his stance one bit regarding the medical use of cannabis in its natural form,” Crawford said.

The Cannabis Party has denied that it wants to use the medical cannabis issue as a backdoor for recreational use.

“The party wants medical cannabis in its natural form available now so that thousands of patients with hundreds of illnesses can find some relief,” Crawford said.

“Dunne and United in Compassion have muddied the waters with misinformation that is preventing meaningful dialogue around the medical cannabis laws.”

TVNZ press release of the interview with Dunne:

Health Minister open to medicinal marijuana

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne told TVOne’s Q+A programme that he’s open to the possibilities cannabis based medicines offer.

“I think it would be a really good thing if we could get clinical trials in New Zealand, because that way we can work through exactly what the formulations might be, what the product should look like and who the patients who it will benefit could be, because at the moment we’ve got very general talk. We talk about medicinal cannabis. Actually, there’s no such thing. There’s medicinal cannabis products. And I think it would be very, very good to get some much more specific and scientific evidence about the efficacy before we can make decisions,” said Mr Dunne.

Both Mr Dunne and campaigner Toni-Marie Matich said there was still a stigma attached to cannabis based products:

Absolutely. We’ve written to and approached 300 organisations this year to have really logical, responsible discussion for their patients said Toni-Marie Matich. Look, it took six months and three banks to get a bank account she said.

Video of interview: Dunne open to Medicinal marijuana (13:19)

Massive poll support for medical cannabis

This is in Australia but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar result here – a Roy Morgan poll finds A massive majority of Australians support the legalisation of medicinal marijuana.

The poll asked:  ‘In your opinion should the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes be made legal or remain illegal?’

  • Yes 91%
  • No 7%
  • Can’t say 2%

That’s a significant result.

Some breakdowns on who voted yes:

  • Men 90%
  • Women 92%
  • Age 50-64 94%
  • Age 65 and older 94%
  • Age 14-25 85%

Older people are probably more concerned about the availability of medicines.

By State:

  • West Australia 97%
  • New South Wales, Victoria 92%
  • Queensland, South Australia 89%

Whichever way you look at it this is a huge majority support for medical cannabis.

The poll was taken over three nights on 22-24 October 2015 and asked 644 Australians.

Testament on recreational and medicinal use of cannabis

A Guest post from ‘Robby’.

Greetings all. Having just watched ‘Dinosaur Dunne’ give his opinion on Q&A, I thought maybe I should give mine. I have nearly forty years of life experience to date, and have used cannabis both recreationally, and medicinally within this time. So here is my testament.

As a teenager, I sat through the usual drug ‘education’ sessions, that are part of the ‘life skills’ curriculum at any high school in NZ. These involved some ex ‘user’, who was politely referred to as a ‘drug educator’, telling us how bad all drugs were, and how we should ‘moderate’ our alcohol consumption. He showed us a scary video or two warning of the dangers of using pot also. The consensus amongst everyone present was that he was ‘full of shit’.

I can remember clearly the first time myself and three of my friends smoked pot. We went out of our way to score some. As they say ,“Forbidden fruit always tastes sweeter”. Anyone who says marijuana is an antisocial drug has obviously never tried it. We spent the afternoon laughing our arses off at nothing in particular. It was great fun, & two weeks later none of us had grown milk producing nipples, which reinforced our earlier opinion of the ‘drug educator’.

It is often said that marijuana is a ‘gateway drug’, and I agree completely with this. The reason this is true, is because ‘drug educators’ tell lies to scare teenagers. “If he lied about pot, he must have lied about meth too…..”. I was fortunate enough not to fall into this trap, but one of my three friends wasn’t. Rest in peace Davo…..

For the next 6 years, I was ‘blazed’ pretty much every day. In spite of my ‘addiction’, I managed to complete an apprenticeship, find a wonderful girlfriend (who is now my wife of 15 years), and purchase a house. When she fell pregnant, I gave up the weed cold turkey. Time to grow up Robby, you’ll be a father soon. And despite what the ‘experts’ might tell you, it was ridiculously easy. I have seen footage of junkies ‘coming down’, and it was nothing like that for me.

Around nine years after the birth of my eldest son, I had an accident that split the cartilage inside one of my knees almost in half. It felt pretty unpleasant, to put it mildly. Imagine someone driving a wedge into the side of your knee with a sledgehammer, and you’d be coming close to how it felt. If you were to remove the repeated hits from the hammer, and make the pain constant, you’d be even closer. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. It makes me nauseous even thinking about it.

I was prescribed Oxynorm, Tramadol, and Diclofenac to alleviate the pain while I awaited surgery. The first two did alleviate the pain, but turned me into a ‘zombie’, for lack of a better word. I would wake up in agony, take two of each, then have to wait half an hour for the pain to go away. The worst side effect was being completely ‘baked’ as soon as the drugs took hold. A close second was having to put my finger up my arse to try and have a crap.

To this day I struggle to understand how either of the above drugs can be abused recreationally. As for the Diclofenac, even with the level of pain I was in, I wouldn’t touch the stuff. I had been warned it was very hard on the stomach, and I was already having ‘digestion issues’ from the other drugs.

After just over a week of taking the legal medication mentioned above (and having two rather painful shits, instead of my regular daily), a ‘guy I knew’ stopped by to see how I was. In typical stoner fashion, he told me, “Just have a spliff ya miserable bastard, that’ll sort you out!”. Well those probably weren’t his exact words, but it was something like that. He was right, I was miserable. It was around 1pm, my morning opiates were fast wearing off, the kids were at school, and my wife was out getting groceries. I had nothing to lose, so I said “Why not?!”.

Having not smoked pot for nearly a decade, and having never used it for pain relief before, I was surprised it didn’t hit me a lot harder. The relief was immediate. The pain was still there, but all of a sudden it wasn’t so overwhelming anymore. I felt a little lightheaded, but nowhere near as wasted as I would half an hour after taking two Oxynorms. I smiled again for the first time since the accident.

Needless to say, myself and ‘the guy I know’ sorted out my ‘medication’ between ourselves.

I waited another four months for my surgery, and smoked pot every day up to it. What I didn’t do was take any more of those horrible pharmaceutical grade opiates. Trying to push a pinecone out your arse is almost as bad as having a wedge driven through your knee……

Asking for medicinal cannabis

The Dominion Post had an article yesterday on The patients asking for medicinal cannabis.

Huhana Hickey has multiple sclerosis and has been in a wheelchair since 1996. She is in pain every day.

“I’m on tramadol, morphine, Paramax and codeine.”

The medicines she takes for her condition make her tired, so now she has weaned herself off most of them.

“I’ve had to come off it, but I got all the withdrawals.”

“The tramadol gets me through that bad time and then I get on with it.”

“I’ve got a headache today, I know I’m going to be exhausted tonight, and I know that I’m going to need to take some morphine just to have a break from the pain tonight.”

“I don’t like it, I don’t want to, but I have to, because there isn’t the alternative.”

The alternative, Hickey says, is cannabis.

Her doctors have told her medicinal cannabis could help.

“They are all in favour of it, my neurologist, my pain specialist, they all want it to be legal,” Hickey says.

Under current law they could ask the Ministry of Health to be able to use it.

There is now a powerful lobby seeking more widespread public access to medicinal cannabis. It includes Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills, a paediatrician, who saw a dramatic change in one patient with intractable epilepsy after she got access through her mother to cannabidiol (CBD) oil.

“The child had a 50 per cent reduction in seizures as well as a substantial improvement in quality of life,” Wills told The Dominion Post.

Patients report that cannabis and medicinal cannabis not only relieve pain and stop seizures, they can transform their quality of life.

But Wills –  and the Government – are cautious. The science of medicinal  marijuana “is still in its infancy,” says Wills.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne says the issue is about giving people “access to a high quality, pharmaceutical product that is safe, reliable and that will alleviate their ailments.”

Dunne tweeted a couple of corrections about the article.

Generally good piece on medicinal cannabis in today, but with two gating errors: my approval is not required for Sativex and 1/2

Australia has not legalised medicinal cannabis – they have merely announced they will permit clinical trials, something already ok here

There will be an interview with Dunne on Q & A this morning about medicinal cannabis, along with CEO of United in Compassion, Toni-Marie Matich

Do you think more New Zealanders should have access to medicinal marijuana?

We interview Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne and Toni-Marie Matich, a mother who has started a campaign for medical trials and better cannabis based medicines.

Watch Sunday 9am on TVOne

Matich has been working heroically for a sensible approach to enabling the use of medical cannabis in New Zealand.

Is it too much to ask for medicinal cannabis? As long as it proves to be safe enough then no. It should be a given.

A link to the interview: Dunne open to Medicinal marijuana (13:19)

Government moves to legalise growing medicinal cannabis…

…in Australia. But changes there will put further pressure on the Government in New Zealand to look at similar changes here.

Government moves to legalise growing medicinal cannabis in Australia

The Federal Government has announced it will legalise the growing of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Health Minister, Sussan Ley, says the Government wants to give people suffering from debilitating illnesses access to the most effective medical treatments.

Medicinal cannabis can already be provided under a special scheme, but Ms Ley says global supplies are relatively scarce and expensive.

SUSSAN LEY: I have heard stories of patients who resorted to illegal methods of obtaining cannabis and I have felt for them because with a terminal condition the most important thing is quality of life and relief of pain and we know that many people are calling out for medicinal cannabis.

It is important therefore that we recognise those calls for help, that we put in place what we know will support a safe, legal and sustainable supply of a product.

LOUISE YAXLEY: The Government intends to amend the Narcotic Drugs Act to allow cannabis to be grown for medicine or science, and that would ensure that Australia is not in breach of international drug treaties.

SUSSAN LEY: This is not a debate about legalisation of cannabis, this is not about drugs, this is not a product you smoke, this has nothing to do with that. 

Most commonly the product is an oil or a tincture that you put on your skin.

The shadow assistant Health Minister, Stephen Jones, said Labor would have a nationally consistent scheme.

STEPHEN JONES: It’s a truly national scheme to make medicinal cannabis available and it shouldn’t be a matter of whether you live in New South Wales or Victoria or somewhere else in Australia – if you are suffering from a terminal illness or if your child has drug resistant epilepsy, suffering from life threatening fits, then you should have available to you through medical advice and appropriate channels, medicinal cannabis.

Forget Dunne, I think he’s pushing as hard as he can in a difficult situation. He’s copping all the pressure, but the thing holding up faster change here is National.

Pressure John Key and target National MPs who might look favourable and compassionately on looking at better ways of alleviating the suffering of people.

Like Zoe Jeffries , a 7 year old girl with uncontrolled epilepsy, spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy, microcephaly, cerebral visual impairment, is tube fed and who has had severe seizures since birth.

After two years her parents have got Ministry of Health approval to use the only available cannabis derived medicine in New Zealand, Sativex. At a cost to them of $250 per week. See Ministry of Health approves medicinal cannabis treatment.

For much to happen this term National need to change their intransigence substantially.

It would also help if the Greens and Labour pushed far more strongly and positively on this.

And public pressure needs to be strong but positive, a slanging match won’t change anything for the better.


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