Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: A handful of deeply precious days: a select committee submission

24 Responses

  • Russell Brown,

    I seem not to be the only one who sat in on these hearings and came away with the impression that the bill's statutory defence may well be extended to those with chronic illnesses. If that happens, it's huge. It's worth bearing witness.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22403 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming,

    Thanks, Russell, for taking point.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2868 posts Report Reply

  • AThrift,

    Good for you, Russell for having the energy and tenacity to follow this through, and for helping a mate out. It's just so exasperating that these hoops have to be jumped through when cannabis is a dull little herb which is less harmful than coffee.

    Wellington • Since May 2011 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Barry,

    Thanks Russell, your work in this area is very important.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 13 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to nzlemming,

    Thanks, Russell, for taking point.

    Cheers. I've thought a lot this year about when it's time to step up.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22403 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody,

    Wow - fantastic. How lucky your friend was to have you, and now how lucky scores of others in NZ are to have you telling his story and yours. Really, really, really hope these SC members get it right.

    The present situation is madness. Thanks, Russell. I think you nailed it.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 774 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    • Enable research into growing, and clinical trials. The trend in the developing global industry is overwhelmingly towards breeding plants with desired attributes – an area in which New Zealand has a strong track record of IP development.

    That’s just not assertive enough Russell:-)

    I’d have blundered on in and said: Do the research and clinical trials, your the fucking government.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3990 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    I wish they had displayed a public list of people making submissions that day as there were many I would have liked to hear and support. It was quite social in the corridor outside the two rooms at times (and did you notice the fabulous art including two McCahons?).

    I gave mine earlier in the day to the committee which included two GPs. The impression I got was that liberalisation - including for chronic conditions - was a given but they were particularly interested in practical aspects such as the best way to regulate, how to keep THC levels low, effects on children and what types of MC people were already using. One woman said she found the balm recipe on Youtube and MC was particularly effective when going through the skin.

    My particular interest in the potential of CBD for calming autism anxiety and behaviours including for children and young people. This is a new research field but already looks promising. I would really like NZ to do some research on this and other MC trials. We have good ethical frameworks around research with so called vulnerable populations such as children and could do something really significant.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3133 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    It was quite social in the corridor outside the two rooms at times

    It was! I also found it quite profound sitting there chatting with the likes of Cat Le Brun, Mark Crotty and Sam (I missed his surname) the father who had two daughters with a rare, eventually fatal condition causing status elipticus and can't even try a cannabis-based medicine through the system.

    The impression I got was that liberalisation – including for chronic conditions – was a given

    That's the vibe the MPs are giving off. I really hope so.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22403 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I mentioned Mark Crotty’s oral submission, which was shortly before mine. Mark has given me permission to post his written submission (with the request that I give it an edit for spelling and grammar). This is it:

    My name is Mark Crotty. In late 2014 I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. And my life became a living hell for more than two years.

    There were endless trips to the doctor, tests, more than 20 pills a day at times – including sleeping pills and opioids. I lost two jobs. After two years on these horrible medications I couldn’t take it anymore. I began to research cannabis.

    I accept that there is not a lot of evidence directly related to Crohn’s, but I decided to integrate cannabis into my medication regime. I tried to get get legal access and was stonewalled at every turn – even lied to by medical staff on several occasions.

    The only person who would help was my GP. In his exact words “you cant keep living like this”. He was right, I couldn’t. From that point he began to help me – but as yet it has not been successful.

    That was when cannabis came into it properly. After talking to some people in the know and learning further about how much and how often and what types would help and seeking some counselling I began using cannabis.

    Since starting to use cannabis in what I believe is as safe and controlled way as possible I am off all meds. I’m no longer suffering from the depressive tenancy that was a side-effect of my meds and am back working part time. I’m also in the process of starting my own business.

    I often hear politicians saying cannabis ruins lives. This could not be further from the truth. It is the laws around cannabis that have harmed people’s lives in many cases. I would even go as far as to say that it has saved mine, and I will continue to do what I have to do in order to live a healthy normal life.

    I have many issues with this bill in its current form but I must take this opportunity to point out my main objection. This being that it only allowed a defence for the terminally ill in court should the police decide that they wish to prosecute. The fact that you would allow a person to die with dignity yet refuse the right of a patient to live with dignity I just cannot comprehend. Furthermore, the bill does not provide protection for family or support people, making them and the patient even more at risk. It’s as if you are actually asking a terminally ill person to go to a tinnie house.

    I will give you an example of how this could have negative outcomes and I will use myself and my mum as an example. Mum has MS. It is widely accepted that cannabis can be beneficial to people with MS. What this legislation means to me is that this government expects me to watch my mum’s health go from where it is now (not the best already) to the point where she can’t move or talk and is in a wheelchair because of the pain and complications caused by MS. But hey, never mind because we will let her have some after she is told she is going to die.

    That may not happen if she could be allowed to grow her own cannabis. I know in this case my mum has the support of her doctor to use cannabis based medicine (Sativex). However, at $1500-odd a month this is unrealistic for someone who is on a benefit due to health complications.

    This legislation needs to be changed in such a way that it gives people with chronic pain/illness the right to grow their own cannabis or have someone grow it for them for medicinal use. Cost should never be a barrier to someone’s health and there is no need for a patient or the taxpayer to be fishing out thousands for each patient to have a medicine they can grow at home.

    Please take the time to reconsider and allow people who are ill to grow and possess their own cannabis in order to be well with out fear of prosecution.

    The thing is, Mark told me he came away from the hearing thinking that he hadn’t done enough, or made a difference. Quite the contrary. I honestly think these personal testimonies really are making a difference.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22403 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Of course they still have to persuade a majority of the other MPs who haven't heard all that personal testimony.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3133 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Of course they still have to persuade a majority of the other MPs who haven’t heard all that personal testimony.

    What the National MPs on the committee, Shane Reti especially, say in the report and tell their colleagues is going to be crucial.

    The limits in the bill are there because of New Zealand First's conservatism. National has the power to make that not matter.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22403 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    I wish they had displayed a public list of people making submissions

    A pity this couldn't be counted as a submission....

    His lawyer Wayne Cribb told Judge Nevin Dawson that Oxton had a serious spinal injury after an accident and used cannabis for pain relief.

    Cribb said Oxton did not want to to be exposed to the criminal element of the Far North so imported the seeds.

    Cribb said the seeds were low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - the intoxication-inducing element of cannabis - but high in cannabidiol (CBD), the pain-relieving elements.

    He said the cannabis was clearly for personal use as pain relief. Oxton consumed it as a tea during the evening or at night to help him sleep as pharmaceutical pain relief did not work for him.

    ''He was involved in an accident more than 30 years ago that injured his spine, that saw him finish work and go on ACC,'' Cribb said.

    He said in Kaitaia cultivating a small amount of cannabis for personal use would generally lead to a fine or community work and Oxton was able to do community work or pay a fine.

    ''Is there a different tariff in Kaitaia than the rest of the country?'' Judge Dawson asked Cribb.

    ''In terms of cultivation, if for personal use, while prison can be imposed, it generally isn't,'' Cribb said.

    ''I understand the imprisonment rate [in Kaitaia for cultivating for personal use] is half what it is in the rest of the country.''

    Judge Dawson said it should not be.

    Cribb said it could be that the prosecution rate for cultivating cannabis in the area was twice as high as the rest of the country.

    Deepest respect to those who made submissions.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1318 posts Report Reply

  • Greg Wood,

    Thanks, Russell. Thanks heaps for representing and for your powerful combination of logic and compassion. Thanks also for pointing out the arse-ness of putting support crews in the legal firing line; specifically regarding terminal cases, Hospice crews are an extraordinary bunch of people, operating at the literal limit of human experience. I'd love to see them allowed and able to do whatever they think appropriately comforting – both for patients, and for patients' families (that drinks trolley was an incredibly grounding device!). Everything else in my experience with them has been scrupulously honest, direct, and compassionate; it seems incredibly unfair to have any of them put in such a complicated position that they have to tell someone not to help, in a way that somehow lets the patient's family know it's an option, but not to tell the Hospice they're doing it. What bullshit.

    Now back in Aucktown • Since Dec 2006 • 85 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Greg Wood,

    Hospice crews are an extraordinary bunch of people, operating at the literal limit of human experience. I’d love to see them allowed and able to do whatever they think appropriately comforting – both for patients, and for patients’ families

    Not discounting your sentiment, I sort of agree. But, I’d rather they did what they know to be appropriately comforting. I am definitely not comfortable about being given anything that might increase my anxiety levels. If I was vulnerable in in a hospice situation, I’d really especially not want anxiety drugs like THC, mabe just the CBT. So that’s why doing a half arsed job of this legislation that doesn’t bother with proper science isn’t a good idea in this instance.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3990 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to steven crawford,

    If I was vulnerable in in a hospice situation, I’d really especially not want anxiety drugs like THC, mabe just the CBT. So that’s why doing a half arsed job of this legislation that doesn’t bother with proper science isn’t a good idea in this instance.

    It'd be your choice. And most of the medical products actually aren't at all like the super-high-THC weed that goes into the recreational market.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22403 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    Yes, but that’s not what I meant. It’s not medical until we know what it is. Getting the product from green fairys is problematic. Smoothing that by giving hospice integrity freedom isn’t enough on its own. I’m agreeing with your submission, pretty much.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3990 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to steven crawford,

    It is not so much the hospice situation that MC is needed as for those living with cancer. It seems it helps relieve chemotherapy induced nausea without noticeable side-effects for adults and children, and helps with pain, eating, sleeping and anxiety. Living with and recovering from cancer can take a long time, and lots of treatment. Far fewer people will have terminal cancer and their hospice experience will be relatively short. Stronger painkillers than MC can then be used.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3133 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    You do know I get it about medical marijuana, right?

    There is also some interesting research going on for using CBD to treat some schizophrenia related symptoms.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3990 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    Good morning Russell.

    I appreciate how you put your self on the line with your latest blog post. I have thought about one of my comments and realise I wasn’t as sensitive as I should have been. I completely support your actions, as you described.

    What I was trying to say in the comments, is that basically we shouldn’t need to be doing these things. Medical professionals ort to have the ability to use pharmaceutical quality drugs. I don’t think there’s room for negotiation on that. Giving hospices legal dispensations isn’t all good or bad. It’s a good humanitarian thing, and not so good, if the green fairy mixes a bad batch. And potentially a bad human rights thing if It all gets clumsy on the consenting to do amateur medical trials.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3990 posts Report Reply

  • Ray Gilbert, in reply to steven crawford,

    That is one thing that I find a bit perplexing about the widespread adoption of medicinal cannabis across the US in the past years. The regulations governing the manufacture and sale of medicines and medical devices are extremely onerous, in principle anyway, for patient protection. There seems to be less requirements for MC products. Although a quick search does show the industry seems to be trying to come to grips with this there is still a long way to go before anything as sophisticated as current GLP and cGMP standards are reached or a standard is adopted by all suppliers.

    Does anyone know if there are any regulatory requirements for MC set by the FDA or in the USP and European Pharmacopeia?

    I’m not saying this should be a road block for the introduction of cannabis based medications, especially as the interactions between multiple constituents on raw cannabis is not fully understood, but if a legitimate green fairy cooks up a bad batch then lack of an rigid industry wide standard could set things back significantly.

    Since Nov 2006 • 99 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Ray Gilbert,

    There seems to be less requirements for MC products. Although a quick search does show the industry seems to be trying to come to grips with this there is still a long way to go before anything as sophisticated as current GLP and cGMP standards are reached or a standard is adopted by all suppliers.

    Oh hell yeah. California seems particularly loose. One reason Helen Kelly's application was knocked back was because the manufacturer couldn't provide a product assay.

    But even GMP products don't pass muster in NZ – or, rather, they face a case-by-case ministry approval process. MoH officials have become considerably more flexible in what they're willing to sign off though. It's not out of the question that raw flower products could be approved – it's just difficult.

    I’m not saying this should be a road block for the introduction of cannabis based medications, especially as the interactions between multiple constituents on raw cannabis is not fully understood, but if a legitimate green fairy cooks up a bad batch then lack of an rigid industry wide standard could set things back significantly.

    I think there has been a big improvement in product quality with, ironically, general legalisation where it's happened. Products are tested for mould and pesticide and there is an infrastructure for testing cannabinoid levels – although it does seem results can vary widely. And the likes of Rhizo Sciences, the company Hikurangi Enterprises has a supply deal with, are now offering turnkey lab and processing solutions. So it's getting more standardised.

    I might have to click my heels and summon Shane Le Brun for some more informed comment though ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22403 posts Report Reply

  • Ray Gilbert,

    But even GMP products don't pass muster in NZ – or, rather, they face a case-by-case ministry approval process. MoH officials have become considerably more flexible in what they're willing to sign off though. It's not out of the question that raw flower products could be approved – it's just difficult.

    Interesting to know things are changing these days. In my past life I’ve worked in a couple of jobs under cGMP processes. The second (nearly 20 years ago) was with NZ’s largest manufacturer of blood produced medical and research reagents, including sera that was potentially destined to be used to produce medicines and therefore was classified as a medical device. In a lot of respects sera is similar to a cannabis based medicine – essentially a lightly refined natural product with variable batch to batch product. The company underwent an upgrade from ISO to cGMP status while I was there and despite being well established with a long manufacturing history and sizeable QC and QA units it still took a dedicated team nearly 2 years to do all the validation work required. It was also nearly impossible to find any tests for the quality for end user applications in the various pharmacopeia as performance testing was way outside the usual quality tests medicines undergo. We may find the same with CMs.

    The answer may need to lie in testing regimes similar to foodstuffs, looking for CBD and THC levels alongside contaminants and microbes rather than a strict need to validate every process and instrument and track approved raw materials and other items from door to exit.

    Since Nov 2006 • 99 posts Report Reply

  • Prudence, in reply to Russell Brown,

    "Mark Crotty’s oral submission"
    Good grief. That could have been my son's submission other than I don't have MS but do manage to survive with chronic Restless Leg Syndrome and attendant depression.
    Since starting using cannabis my son's life has improved out of sight after suffering with Crohns since he was a baby.
    I just don't care anymore what the law says or what useless amendments to the law the government is proposing.
    I know someone who knows some people who have some cbd plants growing which will be producing in a few months....
    Not long to wait.

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2016 • 13 posts Report Reply

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