Medical cannabis regime ‘anything but compassionate’

Prime Minister Bill English has been criticised after he claimed that there is already a compassionate legal route for patients to get medical cannabis products.

It is difficult and slow for most patients trying to obtain medical cannabis products legally, and many resort to breaking the law. Doctors have claimed possibly half of their patients are self medicating with cannabis products.

RadioLive: That’s a ‘no’ to doctors prescribing medical cannabis – Bill English on The AM Show

Fear of creating a ‘marijuana industry’ is stopping Prime Minister Bill English from allowing doctors to prescribe cannabis for medical reasons.

Speaking to The AM Show on Monday, Mr English said there’s already a “compassionate” and legal route for patients to get cannabis products – if they need them.

“The minister’s just changed the rules so that’s a little bit easier, with the Ministry of Health now approving it instead of each one going to the minister.

“As far as we can see, that’s going to work pretty well and we don’t want to take it any further.”

Medical Cannabis Awareness NZ asks English “where is the compassion?”

On Duncan Garner’s Radio show Monday morning, our Prime Minister expressed his satisfaction with the current special approvals scheme.

Just 2 days before an Oncologist on the TV3 show “The Nation” suggested that about half his Cancer patients were using Cannabis. It would be safe to assume that none of them were using legal options as they were not cost effective. Sativex contains perhaps $180 dollars equivalent of Raw Cannabis, for the cost of over $1000

MCANZ Coordinator Shane Le Brun:

“Currently perhaps 1 per 100,000 people are accessing Medical Cannabis legally. If a doctor is accepting widespread Cannabis use in his patient population, with no effort put into trying to help them go legal then the patients are at the mercy of police discretion.

“The police have shown no ability to think of the public interest and discretion around Cannabis based offences for patients.

“Just this weekend they seized a Tetraplegic’s Personal Cannabis supply, how does that make the community safer? How does the community feel about that?

”The current system simply isn’t working and is anything but compassionate.

“MCANZ doesn’t advocate for terminal patients, as they generally die before the product is in their hands, as has happened to a toddler last year who died the week he was scheduled to start on Sativex”

Le Brun says that MCANZ would like a domestic market developed for Cannabis based medicines, believing they can be produced to a high standard without the need for expensive clinical trials.

“Cannabis based products are relatively simple, It’s just another Essential Oil.

“The Current regime ensures that only expensive products will be acceptable, and that means patients will continue to break the law with the support of their specialists, and making criminals of otherwise law abiding citizens.”

It drives people who are suffering severely and in some cases dying to break the law. Helen Kelly was a prominent example, being open about illegally using cannabis products as she died of cancer.

The domestic market in Canada is considered by MCANZ to be the closest model to ideal, where products are prescribed by GPs, and the cost per mg of active ingredients are 80% less of what is paid in New Zealand currently.

Many other countries are making medical cannabis far easier and cheaper to get – and legally.

See also:

Newshub: Half of cancer patients using cannabis, say doctors

Dr Falkov says 40 to 60 percent of his patients are using medicinal cannabis, and it may have benefits beyond pain relief.

“Essentially most patients use it firstly because they hope it’ll work and improve their cancer control rates, and that’s a very important thing that’s been missed in this debate about medical cannabis. It may well increase cancer control rates.

“Secondly, they’re using it for pain, and thirdly they’re using it basically for appetite stimulation, and a lot of them are using it for anxiety and nausea and vomiting.

“What I’d really like to see is not widespread legalisation of every form of cannabis, but allowing doctors to actually ask patients about their cannabis use; record what they take; evaluate the effectiveness of various products and actually be allowed to use cannabis in research protocols with cancers that are subject to normal ethical approval; going through ethics committees, and subject to normal clinical trial constraints.

“All I’d like really is for cannabis to be treated like any other medication.”

Stuff: Mother in panic over tetraplegic son’s missing carers

Medical Cannabis Awareness NZ: website

Medical Cannabis Awareness NZ is a Registered charity, run by a group of passionate, rational like-minded people with a personal stake in the need for Medical Cannabis in New Zealand. Our ambition first and foremost is to “Put Patients before Politics” and help others get access to Medical Cannabis in New Zealand through legal means. Our ambition is to facilitate and promote the re-introduction of Medicinal Cannabis products – as prescription medicines in NZ. We aim to provide a community for patients and their carers, to promote education of both the general public and especially the medical fraternity, and work towards MC products being more widely available, without the stigma attached currently.



Seeking support for new, cheaper medicinal cannabis

A silly headline but a useful article from NZ Herald: Medical marijuana: Is NZ dazed and confused?

A conservative lobby group is seeking support for new, cheaper medicinal cannabis for chronic pain relief.

Kat Le Brun, by her own admission, is a “grumpy” Christian student teacher from Nelson, and Jacinta, a tiger mother with a quickfire voice.

What do they have in common? Pain. Not bang-your-thumb-with-a-hammer pain, but the sort of pain that lasts as long as you do.

Chronic pain.

Many people suffer from chronic pain and legal pain relief products are not always effective – and can be addictive, like  morphine.

“I believe we have to focus on the medical at this stage. It might be selfish but it’s all getting muddled up. We need to look at one issue. This is too much for the politicians to deal with.”

This conflation of medical marijuana and general legalisation may be one reason why New Zealand seems stuck, while our neighbours and allies are moving quite fast.

Medical marijuana is legal in 25 states of the United States, half the country.

In Australia, Victoria and ACT are preparing to join the party.

Ross Bell from the NZ Drug Foundation says after all these years railing against the evils of marijuana our Government is in a bit of a quandary.

“They think they are the drug warriors. Medical marijuana is confusing them, ‘we should do something but we don’t know what’. Something’s not computing. They don’t know what to do to meet the needs of the 75 per cent.”

New Zealand is certainly lagging behind the US and Australia on enabling the legal use of medicinal cannabis products.

Like Kat, Nichola’s tried marijuana and finds it transformative.

“It works and it’s a crime that it’s not available to us,” says Nichola. But just like Kat she refuses to turn herself into a criminal.

“I have quite strong values. I don’t want to blur the lines.”

In the blurry world of right and wrong all these women have had more experience with hard drugs than any of the dodgiest-looking characters on the protest.

Tramadol, OxyContin, morphine. You name it. Nichola is even taking heroin substitute methadone. She longs for medical marijuana to be legal.

“That’d be incredible. I’d be burning all my drugs my methadone and fentanyl patches.”

Patient frustration at the fringe nature of the movement has birthed a new conservative pressure group.

The co-ordinator is Kat’s husband Shane Le Brun.

“It’s been a long journey. Before my wife was injured we chucked flatmates out for drug use once upon a time. Now the tables have turned,” says the former soldier and National Party voter.

It’s called MCANZ. Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand.

They are trying to normalise the health benefits only of cannabis products.

A report to Health Minister Jonathan Coleman obtained under an Official information request says “there is a lack of robust clinical data and evidence of patient benefit”.

Kat, Nichola and Jacinta’s daughter have carried out their own personal trials and believe it works for chronic pain. For them anyway.

Not a cure or anything but a great alternative to opiates.

“It means pain relief that doesn’t affect me in a bad way,” says Kat. “A natural solution without all these massive side effects.”

With one in five kiwi adults suffering from chronic pain, Shane believes there are thousands out there who could benefit from medical marijuana.

But he’s careful not to suggest that it’s a panacea.

“At one end conservatives say it gives you schizophrenia and is so addictive and horrible. Then you’ve got those who say it will cure all ills and you never need another drug again. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.”

Getting New Zealand to catch up with that middle is a challenge given the current Government’s unwillingness to change the law.

Revelations that Martin Crowe and Paul Holmes used marijuana to mitigate the effects of chemotherapy has no doubt bolstered public opinion in New Zealand.

Since 2003 the number of people in favour of medical marijuana has doubled.

“We have people like Sir Paul Holmes using it in his dying days,” says Shane.

“You don’t have to be a hardcore lefty for that to strike a chord.”

Helen Kelly is another high profile user of medicinal cannabis, the difference being she is going public while she is still alive (albeit dying).

Shane agrees there’s a lot of compassionate cultivation going on.

“Some people will just grow and do it on the sly to self-medicate.”

But as Ross Bell warns, if you are treating kids with seizures you probably don’t want just anyone boiling up cannabis oil, you probably do want pharmaceuticals.

MCANZ is supportive of Rose Renton’s work, but as a conservative charity can’t support home-growing.

“As the only patient-led group playing within the rules we hope to be taken a little more seriously. All we care about is getting medicine into patients hands and getting rid of the background noise.”

To that end MCANZ is trying to make two cannabis-based medicines from a Canadian company called Tilray available for patients.

But there are hoops.

First they have to be assessed by the Ministry of Health, then personally signed off by Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne.

The MCANZ applications are expected to land on Dunne’s desk in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, Kat and Shane are contemplating a second baby.

They hope medical marijuana might be available by the time it arrives. Their first child was born addicted to narcotics because of all the painkillers Kat had been prescribed.

“What my son went through because of the medication … For two weeks he had to go through withdrawals. I would not wish that on anyone. That’s what opiates do.”

What is currently available legally has major drawbacks, generally and compared to cannabis products.

They are sharing this personal story in the hope the decision makers will listen.

“They should come and sit with us and see what goes on with our families on a daily basis,” says Shane.

“There’s so much suffering our people go through. All behind closed doors. The only way is to open it up.”

Seeking support for new, cheaper medicinal cannabis seems the sensible, logical, relatively safe and compassionate way to go.

Medical cannabis charity coverage

The Medical Cannabis Awareness charity has just been launched – see Medical Cannabis Awareness. Shane le Brun is been heavily onvolved with this – he has posted here at Your NZ in the past and still pops in to comment.

Use of medical cannabis in particular and use of cannabis generally is getting a lot of attention in New Zealand and in other parts of the world. Peter Dunne along with a New Zealand contingent is currently attending the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS) in New York.

The media have picked up medical cannabis as a topic and have been giving it a lot of coverage over the last few months, helped by high profile stories involving Paul Holmes, Martin Crowe and Helen Kelly.

So the launch of MC Awareness is well timed to pick up on this interest, and they are getting some good coverage.

One News: Kiwi medical cannabis charity registered

An organisation looking to fundraise for New Zealand’s medical cannabis users has become a registered charity.

Radio NZ: NZ’s first medical cannabis charity

New Zealand’s first medical cannabis charity want to help pay for patients to get legally available medical cannabis.

Stuff: NZ’s first medicinal cannabis charity fundraising for 10 patients to get treatment

New Zealand’s first medicinal cannabis charity is fundraising to provide patients with the unfunded drugs.

Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand (MCANZ) became a registered charity on Friday. Coordinator Shane Le Brun said it had launched a fundraising campaign, initially to fund Sativex for 10 patients.

NZ City: Medical cannabis charity registered

An organisation looking to fundraise for New Zealand’s medical cannabis users has become a registered charity.

Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand launched this week with the goals of raising awareness and advocating for the treatment, along with getting together funds for those already using it.

The charity – the country’s first for medical cannabis – says about 30 Kiwis currently have a prescription to one cannabis treatment, Sativex, but it can cost more than $1000 a month to acquire because it’s not Pharmac-funded.

“The cost of Sativex is a huge barrier. Already, many people have had successful crowd funding campaigns for this medicine, and MCANZ will promote and assist such fundraising through its tax-deductible status,” MCANZ co-ordinator Shane Le Brun said.

The group wants to initially raise enough money through its Givealittle page to support treatment for 10 new patients.

Newshub: Desperate families get behind marijuana charity

Pressure is mounting on the Government to cut red tape for those who want to access medicinal marijuana.

A group of desperate families are speaking out as they launch a charity to raise money and awareness in the battle for Sativex.

Newshub: Medicinal marijuana charity launched

Momentum is growing in the battle for access to medicinal marijuana, with a group of Kiwis launching a new charity.

Shane Le Brun founded “MC Awareness” to raise money and support for those who want Sativex, the only approved medicinal cannabis product, after watching his wife suffer for years with chronic back pain.

Shane Le Brun says there’s still a lot of stigma attached to prescribing Sativex, as doctors don’t want to be seen as dope enthusiasts.

This story has featured ongoing on the Paul Henry show this morning.

Shane and his team have put a lot of effort into establishing a practical means of achieving something practical to help people who would benefit from the use of Sativex.

Their Givealittle page: Medical Cannabis for 10 Patients

Fundraising for Sativex for 10 needy people in New Zealand. Conditions such as Epilepsy, Cancer, and Chronic Pain.

A fundraising pool of 10 patients, who will be revealed in due course,

First up is Jamie,

At 5 weeks of age Jamie O’mara suffered a massive intracranial hemorrhage. This left him severely brain damaged and in need of constant care. This was attributable to Jamie not receiving a Vitamin K injection at birth.

As a result of his brain damage Jamie developed severe epilepsy, which was poorly controlled by numerous anti-epileptic drugs.

At 24 years of age, in 2008, with no other avenue in sight, Jamie finally underwent hemispherectomy (removal of half his brain) This finally rid him of some seizures & as a result, a better quality of life but a lot of seizures still remained day & night.

Jamie is now 32 years old. He recently began to suffer massive aspirations during tonic clonic seizures prompting medical staff to tell the family Jamie wouldn’t make it through one night. Jamie defied all odds and survived this massive aspiration on his own, even after doctors refused him life support. Jamie is a true battler.

The only remaining option is to try Medical Cannabis. After a lengthy wait, Jamie had his first spray of Sativex this week. Time is needed now to show how effective it will be. Please seriously consider this family’s plea for help. For a family who has been so desperate to alleviate their son’s seizures that they even agreed to partial removal of his brain, their request for financial support with Sativex can only be seen as reasonable.