Thursday, 17 September 2015

Medical marijuana for some or medical marijuana for all?

A couple of weeks a back I was visiting a psychiatrist in Hamilton seeking an assessment and a form of supervision to bounce around my ideas. He finds me quite interesting as I discussed my study of cannabis and post graduate research and he urged me to continue my study and complete my masters degree. I informed him that higher academic study may get me heard at a higher academic level but I am probably past thirsting for knowledge. I'm too comfortable at home with my grandson and preparing for a new baby. A dog or fur baby. He also said he meets once a month with a few other professionals each month and they discuss issues, including cannabis. So it was pretty good. On Sunday night there was a great medicinal story on cannabis about dravets syndrome and how one mother has been giving her child cannabis oil, extract of CBD. This is as illegal as any other use of cannabis and she has risked both her arrest and possible involvement of CYfs with the fact she is giving an illegal preparation to her child. This Mother, like Rose Renton has been operating in secret and isolation until now. There is also a bit of a split occurring and factions within medical marijuana and the medical users community. Green cross has been around in New Zealand in several locations with several different founding members still working hard for the cause. The most well known and out spoken was Billy McKee and Neville Yates and Danueil clarke before him. Billy McKee follows the traditional green cross recognition of the whole plant and a persons right to grow their own. A split and a bit of strengthening of the GreenCross and medical model arrived when the synthetic cannabis hit the streets. Any person worth their salt, user or grower of cannabis instantly disliked this product and saw it as unsafe and not part of a cannabis law reform debate. This is a corporate takeover and development of a new product to fit an existing market. Pure business and no bottom line, no real health concerns. Then Sativex and GE pharmaceuticals entered the New Zealand market. dr David Hadorn one of the originals with GW lives in New Zealand. sativex needs a specialist to prescribe and is prohibitively expensive. Dearer than buying several ounces per month , kind of expensive. It may be a great product if you have lots of money but not many of the green cross patients I know are financially able to afford this. in fact if you know a bit about about cannabis use in New Zealand you will know that the financial situation after a cannabis conviction is unlikely to be too rosey. Like most people who are sick or invalid they are not working, so their income is meagre. The number of difficulties I have encountered when trying to organise a medical marijuana gathering has been very difficult due to lack of mobility and lack of funds. So the split between those who want to follow the current medical model and have a doctor prescribe and those who want to grow their own plants is mostly due to affordability.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Cannabis and our health system. And me.

Cannabis is recognised as medicine in California since 1996. Since that time another twenty or so other States in America have also legalised the use of medical marijuana. Two states have gone even further and have legalised cannabis for recreational use for those over the age of 18. In New Zealand we have had several high profile cases in the court trying to get the use of medical cannabis tried but all of these seem to have resulted in severe penalties for the accused. I know of a one case where an exemption to use cannabis was given but the case was in Christchurch and being a health related issue I do not want to comment. I lived in the United States for several years in the late 1980's and in that time began to understand more about the uses of cannabis. I got into education and became a teacher and then left teaching when I discovered that over a thousand school aged children are excluded from school for cannabis use. This figure astounded me. I could not believe that excluding children from school for cannabis. It's always cannabis, never smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol which are also prohibited to people under 18 while not illegal . The harms from smoking and drinking far out weigh any cannabis use. Plus the stupidest part of expelling children from school is in doing this the youth have an extra 6 hours a day to partake in their drug of choice. Keeping children in the school system is a protective factor in their future outcome. I seriously cannot understand why we as educators understand rewarding good behaviour and yet understanding youth, being expelled from school is almost a reward, if you can prevent your parents from knowing, even better. Being bad is kudos. Keeping these pupils in a school environment and working hard to understand what lead to the cannabis use and where did it come from? Exploring this in a sensitive manner can be a turning point for a young person. The opposite is the angry man who was kicked out of school, never went back and is still smoking cannabis with the same attitude as a 15 year old, now at 40 or 50 years of age. Behaviour can become entrenched through the injustice of a situation. The medical marijuana situation or lack of one in New Zealand is what makes me consider leaving New Zealand to go back to America is very appealing. I have spent a decade conducting qualitative research from cannabis users and medical users who are very knowledgeable. I find it disappointing that we lack a Minister of Health willing to follow the lead America has over many countries with safe access to cannabis. Safe access means more than buying cannabis in a safe environment that isn't gang related or a tinny house. A safe access to cannabis may include a number of different controls or regulations surrounding the sale of cannabis. Guaranteed weight is the biggest problem in buying cannabis in New Zealand. The price of cannabis may be as high as $500.00 an ounce when there is high demand but although an ounce is a common weight when buying a supply of medical marijauana but often under weight bags are common. Smaller bags of cannabis either a hundy or a fifty has no guaranteed weight . The dollar value is set and the buyer takes it or leaves it. A tinny isn't likely to be medical grade marijuana and being wrapped in foil as they often are you can't see what you are buying but they are likely to be less than 1 gram for $20 or even $25.00. The quality is unlikely to be consistent and may be poor with leaf, seeds or stalks. In contrast to the street sale of cannabis, a medical marijuana dispensary requires several things. ID is the first. An age restriction of 21 was not unusual in America and I'd must be produced without a medical card. The marijuana for sale in a medical dispensary is on display and named and the person behind the counter is knowledgeable about the medicinal properties of the differnt strains. Some cannabis is good for uplifting a low mood or low energy and other strains can be for pain relief or even sleep. It is a wonderful smelling plant when growing and has a pungent aroma when smoked. Many health professionals get bothered about the smoking of cannabis and see it as a pathway to lung disease and heart problems as well as mental health problems with the most often touted is the link between cannabis use and schizophrenia. Just as many studies show no causal link or even correlation between the two. I have worked in mental health and on a methadone programme while training. Addiction and depression were two of the areas I felt most confused about as I had been diagnosed with depression and prescribed Prozac in 1989 while living in Maryland USA. I also saw an amazing psychiatrist who recommended me to reads a book by another doctor called the Road less travelled. Dr Scott Peck. I gained a great deal of insight into my feelings and low mood and we agreed to call my depression homesickness and I left my husband and returned to New Zealand. As soon as I stepped of the plane in New Zealand my depression disappeared. From that point on I became quite sceptical about the depression is a disease when my disease didn't step of the plane. I hated taking antidepressants and didn't get any real lasting benefit from them either. I know what happiness is and I know what makes me happy. I have always known, it's the same things at five and fifty in my case. I love being outdoors, I love summer and clear beaches. I love horses and farms and occasional trips to the horse races. I love coffee and I love cake. I love autumn leaves and bonfires. I love fire works and gardening. I love fruit picked of a tree and eaten . I also love cannabis. I didn't at 5 or even the first time I tried it. But as part of my social circle cannabis was a big element. When I couldn't access cannabis in America I developed depression perhaps and going back to New Zealand aliviated that problem addiction or depression? One thing for sure, antidepressants didn't make me happy. My depression is always a result of a stuck thought pattern. Instead of learning skills to cope with rumination I developed a run away technique. When I got stuck in a problematic situation I had only one and I moved. If it was a job, I quit, if it was a relationship , I ended it and moved. I trained as an addiction counsellor and worked on a methadone programme. It was working with these really "unwell " people that I got confused again. These people in almost every instance had developed drug habits that grew out of coping mechanisms for dealing with trauma. Others developed an addiction to pain relief after an accident. These were people who had best friends die in front of them, had grown up with violence or abuse,some had discovered dead bodies of the parents or child. Such sad and tragic things had happened that anyone would wonder , how can I live with this? Addiction was an escape, seeking drugs or money or gambling stops the thinking or flashbacks,yay- no memories. I found much of the behaviour quite understandable. Harder to understand was the shaming and way we view addiction and yet even the criteria for addiction and drug dependency varies. I felt that much of the health system is more schizoid and delusional than many sick people. I say this because of the blatant chosen ignorance about medical marijauana despite thousands of research articles and just it being such common knowledge and common practice in eastern medicine. When dealing with mental health professionals in New Zealand almost all take the view that cannabis use is bad for mental health. This flys in the face of research on Post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Ptsd is the same as shell shock and the phenomenon of traumaed men returning from Vietnam was resulting in a spiked incidence of alcoholism , depression and suicides. This was not the fitting behaviour of trained soldiers. Several doctors introduced cannabis as a means of reducing the alcohol consumption and the mental health of the veterans improved. The physical health of the men improved as the cannabis did more than elevated their moods, it helped with sleep disorders and pain. In all it was a remarkable result. Here in New Zealand any use of cannabis is stigmatised. Most health professionals assume it dangerous to health and that is why it is illegal. If you use cannabis daily you are labelled a person with a Substance abuse problem. The next thing is you will promptly be prescribed drugs to help. Help what ? Using cannabis didn't make you a sick person. No one seems to grasp the fact that prescription meds are drugs with instructions to take daily or 4 hourly or as required and often supplied at 3 months at a time. Three months cannabis for a person who has pain and difficulty sleeping may use a large amount of cannabis. A three month supply of cannabis is likely to cost over a thousand dollars if at a minimal dose of a gram per day was being used.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Ministry of Health investigates Medical Cannabis

Mp Peter Dunne is at it again. Once again a slew of lies are being emitted. Ross bell of the New Zealand Drug Foundation fears that information may have been outdated.?!? California , one flight away has had medical marijuana since 1996 and a federally provided marijuana programme supplying a number of patients. There is no shortage of information available with 20,000 published articles on medical marijuana online. The New Zealand drug Foundation published their own literature review in 2006 and followed current New Zealand practiCe rather than being bold enough to suggest time for a real change. MP Peter Dunne was quoted and made a written comment that, "medical marijuana is garage". (2002) This was his response to a terminally ill man who along with another man set up the first compassionate care club dedicated to getting medical marijuana support for patients and doing extensive research both from medical use and also one person studied law. This was called Green Cross. it is not a marijuana dispensary it was for sharing information and gaining support for the hiv positive community who experience severe nausea as a side effect of the medication. In the Herald this week Peter Dunne , our associate minister of health for about a Millenia, was quoted again as saying, "For those suffering from such ailments I have enormous sympathy ... The evidence ( supplied by officials) However has been underwhelming. Well I wonder what your justification of making a comment that medical marijuana is garbage and then go on to ignore all medical cannabis forward movement but have support for the psychoactive. SubStance bill. A bill clearly almost no MP read or followed the implications and herbal highs were never mainstream. A bit like the nos phase. for a a few giddy seconds ignorant MPs signed a bill that they thought would take the general population forward and be safer when it was the exact opposite. Mr Dunne has made all sorts of excuses in holding New Zealand back from catching up with the relaxation of the prohibition of cannabis and the development of a legal and regulated cannabis industry as seen in Colarado, and California and Washington with remarkable success and rapid law changes being made. He needs to have a critical eye watch him as I think he is devious and dishonest. Cannabis law reform is 40 years of protest and the chief constant has been mr Dunne despite changes of leadership within Parliament, cannabis law reform has languished. As a person who has studied drug abuse and also been to America to study how cannabis is used in America in a medical setting it is obvious he is detrimental to gaining medical marijuana while he has a seat in the beehive. What irks me the most about Mr Dunnes attitude is that is disrespects the sick , the vulnerable and children who are routinely using cannabis overseas for neurological illness that cause seizures and other spastic like difficulties. His attitude is so pompous it says- convince me, as I am the powerful man to decide thIs matter . What he lacks is any sense of compasSion to the people who use cannabis and relieve a better quality of life. The benefits of medical marijuana are not given enough importance and it is does not to be screeds of heavy medical jargon. As a person who has trained to assist people manage their drug use I support any person who uses cannabis to improve their quality of life. Cannabis boosts appetite. Those munchies are not a joke but can be a life saver for those affected by nausea and eating disorders. One of the proven benefits of cannabis is sleep. Have too much cannabis and you will fall asleep. Not fall unconscious. Patient centred treatment is the gold standard of care. My belief is if a person has been using cannabis and feels a benefit it is a good thing. If a person has an illness and wants to try cannabis, they should not fear the law. The law is there to protect people from harm and currently the law is harming those 25,000 people arrested for cannabis use every year.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Why Dakta Green and the Daktory Three should be found innocent of any crime.

The slang saying goes, "No Victim, No Crime. Cannabis use in New Zealand in this year of 2015 should not be a crime. I caught Dakta Green in an unguarded moment and I was shocked to see his usual confidence missing. The thought of going to jail is not a pleasant one for a 60'something. Nor is Dakta Green's fiance Gizi doing well. She already went to jail for 9 weeks on an illegal search and arrest. She made bail and has been compliant the whole time. Dakta Green and his partner can no longer reside in their building nor can they operate their cannabis club. As a person who often visited the Daktory to gather research I was able to complete my Post graduate study in health science and write about cannabis clubs in Holland and around the world. I also can speak with authority using my notes gained from observational visits to the daktory. The first thing you noticed about the Daktory, was the cavernous size of the old automotive warehouse and the smell of cannabis. I was still living in Christchurch completing a post graduate degree in health studies. I worked at an addiction treatment centre but my independent study topic was cannabis use in New Zealand. I met Dakta Green in 2006 at a norml function or AGM and then was fascinated by the daktory idea. The Daktory took on board the same set of safety rules that dutch cannabis cafes used. small size of baggie only. set price per gram 5 gram max No alcohol or other drugs R 18. I think having a better cafe and regular employment for staff, with a better standard of presentation and customers bringing their own is probably the only model that New Zealand can expect to see for a few years if the court punishes Dakta Green for running a safe alternative to drinking. New Lynn is a suburb located in the west where very strict alcohol restrictions apply. The Portage Licenicing trust control the supply of alcohol and alcohol is not sold in super markets , there are very few bars and all the bottle stores are part of a chain. Young people typically pre-load in Avondale, New lynn, Henderson and Te Atatu before racing down the motor way into the city. The Daktory grew and as it grew in popularity I never saw any violence. With no alcohol consumed in the Daktory or sold at the Daktory no drunks were admitted either. There was a range of drinks and snacks for sale and the people were happy to buy lollies and talk and play pool . It was a safe environment and as a female it was a safe environment free from drunken sexual leering or banter. Usually it was quiet enough to have a conversation although there were dj's sometimes and also movie nights. I don't know what the Judge is thinking or how he will react. I know that Dakta Green has an excellent lawyer. I wasn't able to be in Auckland last week or come to court to show my support. I heard that many else thought that their solidarity would be done by someone else. I think all the people that visited the Daktory and saw the what the future of cannabis clubs look like, need to jog that memory and pay your respects to Dakta Green next week as he sits in court. Dakta Green has been a unique and passionate advocate for cannabis law reform in his own steadfast and committed way for years. Many have supported him along the path of this journey. Two others are also in court. No one should be in court for cannabis offences because cannabis should not be an offence. The use of cannabis is legal if i take a flight West to Australia or East to California. It is only a stubborn right wing government and politicians distaste to deal with the uncomfortable through relaxing of laws surrounding drug use. It isn't only the politician who is reserved about promoting cannabis law reform. I think that the tobacco lobby and the liquor industry are against any possible product that affects their profits margins. I am certain big Pharma will not be wanting to see people stop using their prescribed meds in order to go with the way they feel using cannabis. Feelings that are demonstrated in thousands of medical studies showing that cannabis is beneficial for multiple conditions. The most common are sleeplessness and insomnia, anorexia and pain relief. Why would any just and humane society sentence an old man to prison for selling a product only adults could access and then only if they wanted to. None of the people who went to that Daktory and consumed cannabis should feel any less guilty than Dakta Green or collectively you are all guilty of his crime. Not supporting Dakta Green in court this week is selfish and mean. Dakta Green deserves a rally of unequal support. This man is a legend and equivalent to status to an all black coach. He gave the people of Auckland a club. A club to allow the safe use of cannabis and free from gangs or intimidation Dakta Green should also be noted for the Armistice tour from Waiatangi, and the small posse who protested outside Parliament with a white flag- Asking for an end to the drug war and peace. He also took the bus Mary Jane to 42 cities in New Zealnd. He gave some hope to the people of Christchurch after the second earth quake and was there, in Timaru for local man Peter Davies who grew cannabis for medicine for his wheel chair bound partner. Tracey has only recently passed a way. We held an all night vigil for them outside the court to protest this injustice. We cannot give up the fight. No patient should die waiting for cannabis and Dakta Green should not be fearing a prison sentence for his project which did only good for this community. As an AOD counsellor, I had an informal discussion with police about the people who visit the Daktory, are a lot different to those leaving bars. For one they dont urinate or vomit. they don't leave empty bottles to break or cans to pick up. They don't fight each other or make loud noises. There has never been a sexual assault. The police wouldn't confirm my explanation for a lowered crime rate. but I hope that justice is served and the beginning of the end of the war on people has begun. I hope Dakta Green walks free.