Hard News by Russell Brown

25

Media Take: Medical cannabis on the media agenda

Helen Kelly was only days away from stepping down from her post at president of the Council of Trade Unions when she was interviewed on The Nation in October. But she went into the appearance with the intention of launching one last campaign.

Pretty much everything that has unfolded since was signalled in that interview with Lisa Owen: Kelly had exhausted other options in dealing with the symptoms of her lung cancer (including morphine "which is a horrible drug") and wanted access to medical cannabis. Pressed by Owen on whether she had in fact already tried cannabis, she beamed "Yeah, I've inhaled."

In that first interview, Kelly announced her intention to apply to Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne, for a "medical exemption" under the Medicines Act. The process of that application revealed significant shortcomings in the system to handle medical cannabis approval, especially for those, like Kelly, who seek cannabis for pain relief and palliative care.

But it did more than that: it put medical cannabis on the agenda. We have learned recently that the late Martin Crowe used cannabis oil to ease his last months. Then Brian Rudman revealed that Paul Holmes had used cannabis as "the one thing that could give him peace and comfort" near the end of his life. A case in which a judge discharged a woman who had mailed herself medical cannabis from the US, which might have slipped by, instead became the subject of serious legal debate.

I don't think all this would have happened without Helen Kelly sharing her story. But what now? Now that we're actually having this conversation?

On the first episode of the 2016 season of Media Take, Toi and I talk to Huhana Hickey, who has multiple sclerosis and has been using a wheelchair since 1996. She has taken a variety of drugs to deal with pain and found most of them debilitating. She actually has approval for the only pharmaceutical-grade cannabis product available in New Zealand, Sativex, but has been foiled by the price – up to $1400 for three 10ml bottles. She'd like to see Sativex and other products funded.

We're also joined by Norml president Chris Fowlie and the Rev Hirini Kaa.

And later in the show we'll talk to Stallone Ioasa, director of self-funded film Three Wise Cousins, the Samoan identity comedy that charged in the national box office Top 10 off a handful of screens in South Auckland and is now screening nationwide and across the Tasman.

If you'd like to come along to this evening's Media Take recording you'll be very welcome. Come to the front door of TVNZ at 5.45pm. We'll have you away around 6.45pm.

And the programme itself screens tomorrow night at 10.15pm on Maori Television.

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