If you get this in time, I'm going to do a live interview on Radio 1 tonight (Friday) at 9PM New Zealand time (midnight CA time) regarding my and my family's inexcusable and inhumane ordeal and treatment at the hands of NZ Customs and Immigration agents two weeks ago; please spread the word to any of your local buds (pun intended) who might find the story interesting.
As the outpouring of support for my situation indicates, it is crystal clear that both Kiwis and Americans believe not only that a grave injustice was committed by New Zealand's Customs and Immigration agents, but that the right and decent thing for the government to do in this case would be to offer a formal apology, offer a complimentary Business Class roundtrip for both me and my wife so we can actually take the vacation ruined by said agents (and compensate me for all of the expenses undertaken then unused by their agents' misguidedness), and -- most importantly -- erase the red mark from my passport that now unfairly and groundlessly labels me as a Drug Smuggler (again and for the record, I *DECLARED* my *medicine* both on the Customs arrival form and in person to the Customs agent who processed us; nothing else was found in our suitcases, and therefore, the accusation that I was smuggling drugs -- and the deportation itself and mark on my passport -- is completely without merit).
As of this writing and despite several assurances that my case is under review, I have yet to receive an apology or anything else directly from Minister Of Immigration Woodhouse; perhaps he'll respond in time for me to include said response in my interview (I continue to hold out hope that justice will in fact be done in this case, but so far, have been given no indication that such justice is even being considered).
Here's the link; I hope you can tune in: http://www.r1.co.nz/
Shane, cannabis has been proven to drastically minimize and even completely eliminate seizures in epilepsy patients.
Here's just one of many stories:
In the spirit of accuracy and as indicated in my initial letter, I am a film producer, not director. Let's not give directors a bad name. ;)
Russell, I regrettably failed to previously and personally thank you for bringing this situation to light; please allow me to do so now. I'm not some media whore trying to get famous at the cost of my dignity and the emotional upset of my family; I'm honestly trying to turn a poison into a medicine (an unfortunate turn of a phrase), and use my situation to help illuminate a path by which all citizens of New Zealand can improve their lives.
You mention that domestic production of cannabis for trial purposes is "not a quick or cheap process," and this underscores the point I'm trying to make. When more people on the planet die each year from aspirin or ant bites than they do from cannabis, there is no trace of logic or reason or defense in making the empirical exploration of such proven beneficial and NONLETHAL, naturally occurring plant anything BUT quick and cheap. I grew three plants in my backyard, and have thereby grown my own medicine for the cost of the planting vessel, the soil, and the water and minimal organic nutrients used to help it grow. After my cannabis was confiscated, the Customs agents commented on how potent it smelled (likely due to his never having been in the presence of actual cannabis), to which I replied that it's medicine, and SHOULD be potent (unlike your wholly impotent, synthetic "pot pills").
Big Pharm is understandably terrified of having its LETHAL POISONS eschewed in favor of their current customers NOT becoming addicted to -- nor paying thousands of dollars per year for -- the very highly addictive, LETHAL POISONS upon the sale of which (and to the very real damage done to their captive customers' bodies and lives) they enjoy their staggering profits.
First, let me say how much I truly appreciate the sympathy I've gotten from many reasonable, rational, compassionate Kiwis horrified by the way my family was treated. That said and while I would urge you to speak out against such injustice perpetrated by your governmental agencies, the worst injustice is to deny the citizens of New Zealand the facts and science necessary to overcome the propaganda involved with cannabis.
It seems to me that as long as your government allows citizens aged 18 and over to legally consume LETHAL POISONS (and allows for the widespread advertising, celebration and promotion of said LETHAL POISONS), it should refrain from demonizing a naturally occurring NONLETHAL plant with myriad medicinal, agricultural, industrial, economic, health and other benefits (at all, let alone to the extent that paved the way for my wholly avoidable and wholly inexcusable experience at the hands of your Customs and Immigration representatives).
Big Pharm (i.e. the companies responsible for your ludicrous, ineffective and prohibitively expensive "pot pills") are laughing at your mandated ignorance and hypocrisy all the way to the bank. Cannabis (actual cannabis, not the poor synthetic substitutes being passed off to you as cannabis) is proven effective for pain management for patients such as me, appetite increase in cancer patients, relief for glaucoma patients, as a natural and effective sleep aid, and a host of other benefits...all from a non-addictive, naturally occurring, NONLETHAL plant that has never killed a single human being in all of recorded history. My recent plight is meaningless as long as society continues to groundlessly demonize health and nature while keeping legal, celebrating and promoting that which KILLS HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE EACH AND EVERY YEAR.
I only hope that the good people of New Zealand take it upon themselves to demand that their government treat its citizens with the same level of science-and-facts-based conversation, legislation and promotion of health (and eradication of criminal elements as a direct result) that we enjoy here in California and elsewhere in the U.S. (but to be clear, much of the U.S. is operating under the same decades-old propaganda as you are; this is indeed a worldwide issue, and one which Big Pharm has a vested interest in manipulating to its economic benefit regardless facts or science).
I am embarrassed by this whole situation, but see an unexpected opportunity to use my plight as a starting point for logical, reasonable, facts-and-science-based conversation about the ways in which your country can be raised up and improved rather than remain mired in propaganda to the direct detriment of its citizens.
I hope that you take advantage of the opportunity.
Dear Good People Of New Zealand:
I am writing to relay the recent experience I had while visiting New Zealand for the very first time. My wife and I are from California (I am a film producer, and she is an attorney and mediator), and a trip to New Zealand was at the top of our Bucket List when our son got a job on Waiheke Island, so we decided to spend 3 weeks touring your country with him.
I have always considered New Zealand to be a fairly progressive country from what I’ve read and stories I’ve heard from both natives and visitors. For example, your decision to allow the use of cannabis-related medicine is indicative of a society that recognizes science over propaganda. I use cannabis medicinally for pain management because I had been previously prescribed opioid painkillers, which are highly addictive and render the user unable to function in a coherent manner…and if taken in too large a dose, are highly toxic and LETHAL POISONS; cannabis, on the other hand, is non-addictive, does an excellent job of minimizing pain, allows the user to function in a coherent manner, and is 100% nonlethal (there has never been a case of anyone dying from an overdose of cannabis in all of recorded history).
I researched the topic prior to our trip, and learned that it was legal to bring medicinal cannabis into New Zealand under the Misuse of Drugs Act, s8(2)(l)(iii), with the relevant text as follows:
“a person may, while entering or leaving New Zealand, possess a controlled drug required for treating the medical condition of the person or any other person in his or her care or control, if the quantity of drug is no greater than that required for treating the medical condition for 1 month, and the drug was—
lawfully supplied to the person by a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, optometrist, midwife, designated prescriber (as defined in section 2(1) of the Medicines Act 1981), or dentist in New Zealand; or
prescribed by a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, optometrist, midwife, designated prescriber (as defined in section 2(1) of the Medicines Act 1981), or dentist, and lawfully supplied to the person in New Zealand; or
lawfully supplied to the person overseas and supplied for the purpose of treating a medical condition.”
I was pleased to learn that I would be visiting a country that has compassion for its citizens and visitors, and therefore decided to follow the law and bring my medicine with me. As regards the preceding prerequisites, 1) I am legally allowed to possess up to 8 ounces of medicinal cannabis, but packed less than 2 ounces for my personal medicinal use while in New Zealand; 2) I arrived with my doctor’s prescription for cannabis, and 3) I declared the cannabis upon arrival on the official declaration form.
The Customs agent informed me that since my cannabis was not one of the 3 “strains” available in New Zealand (which it turns out refer not to actual cannabis strains, but to synthetic pills containing who-knows-what), my declaration would now be considered a “drug intercept” involving the police. While removing all of our packed items from our suitcases and bags and throwing them in indiscriminate piles on the Customs tables, the Customs agent interrogated me and my wife as if we were common criminals, asking incredibly personal and mostly irrelevant questions about our lives (to make matters worse, we were filmed by a cameraman for the TV show Border Patrol; not wanting to in any way appear anything but law-abiding and cooperative, I agreed, but I requested that both of our faces be blurred). The Customs agent then checked all items and informed us that we would need to go to Immigration before being allowed into the country. We put the now-unpacked items from all of our suitcases back in piles, not wishing to take the time now necessary to re-pack them in their original suitcases.
Before we were escorted to Immigration, a police officer came out and informed us that after reviewing the circumstances, he believed this to be a complete and total misunderstanding, and not criminal activity that warranted further investigation or charges being pressed. He offered to walk with us to Immigration to let them know personally that the police did not consider this a criminal matter, and indicated that we would likely be released soon. After spending nearly 3 hours in Customs, we were then escorted to Immigration, where we waited for several more hours, at which point the police officer reappeared and expressed surprise that we were still there (the Border Patrol cameraman also showed up and mysteriously knew the access code or had a swipe card for the locked Immigration office door; we also saw the cameraman coach the Customs agent get on how to enter then re-exit the Immigration office for the best dramatic effect). I was finally interviewed, and was informed that the law had indeed allowed me to bring medicinal cannabis with me, but that the law had just changed last month without my knowledge, now making my importation of medicinal cannabis a crime.
For the record, I was not importing heroin. I was not importing weapons. I was not importing poison. I was not importing ANYTHING that would cause any harm to anyone. Instead, I was following the law as I understood it, and pointed out that if I had intended to “traffic” in drugs, then not only would I likely have tried to bring more than $300 worth into the country, but I would most certainly never have declared that I was doing so. Again, I was nothing but forthcoming about my understanding of the law that had been in place until a month ago, and explained that if I knew about the change in the law, I *NEVER* would have brought any of my medicine with me. This was a completely honest error, and one that posed absolutely ZERO threat of any type of harm to any human being in New Zealand or anywhere else on the planet.
I then went back into the waiting room with my wife for another hour or so until Agent Steve told my wife that since she was not a “person of interest,” she should wait for me in the airport terminal. She and I requested that she remain by my side, as we are truly a team; however, Agent Steve said that she had to bring her suitcase with her and leave. I told her I would see her in a little bit, and to please remain patient and calm while I dealt with the situation (she was in tears after being told she couldn’t stay with me).
Agent Steve read me some boilerplate statements stating that since I was guilty of importing illegal drugs into New Zealand, and that while my wife would be allowed to remain, I would be prohibited from entering the country, and would be put on the first plane back to California. I’m a fairly calm guy, but I started to cry as I realized that the 3-week vacation and visit with my stepson would now be ruined, and that I was now being considered a Drug Trafficker (I have never been arrested, have no criminal record, and as you can see by this whole exchange, always do what I can to operate within the letter of the law). I begged and pleaded with him to consider my case and the fact that 1) I brought a relatively small amount of cannabis into the country, 2) I had a doctor’s prescription, and 3) I declared it. He said he understood, and even said that he wished more people would be as honest as I am (even though he said that given the amount, I could technically be charged with Intent To Distribute…even though I declared the fact that I had the cannabis!!!).
So what did my honesty get me? It cost me many thousands of dollars to spend 12 hours being detained inside the New Zealand airport’s Immigration office before being sent back home without ever leaving the airport, and paved the way for Immigration to rip our family apart at the very beginning of our very first much-anticipated visit to New Zealand (my wife had been worrying on her own for nearly 4 hours in the airport terminal waiting for me to update her, was in tears upon hearing the decision on the phone, and was so upset that she said she wanted to come back home with me; I thankfully was able to convince her to stay, so she is now making the most of the time she has with our son while I might now have to wait another year before seeing him). My only request at that point was to be able to say goodbye to my wife and give her her items from my suitcase (which were only there directly due to the Custom agent’s utter lack of concern for our personal belongings or the time we took to carefully pack them), the items we had brought for our son, and a goodbye kiss. I was denied this very simple request like some sort of terrorist or violent criminal. I was photographed, fingerprinted, and escorted by an Immigration agent from the office to the plane, and wasn’t given my passport back until I was ready to walk off the plane in San Francisco.
I am not a criminal. I am not a drug smuggler. I am an adult who uses a naturally occurring, non-addictive, nonlethal plant to control my pain, and as regards this trip, I followed what I believed to be the letter of the law in trying to do so. Meanwhile, when we landed in New Zealand and made our way to Customs in the first place, we were led through a sprawling Duty Free gift shop with mountains of bottles of alcohol accompanied by signs indicating that we could bring 3 bottles of spirits and 6 bottles of wine onto airplanes. New Zealand’s minimum age at which to legally consume both tobacco and alcohol is 18.
Regardless one’s opinion of cannabis, the way my case was treated and the humiliation my wife and I suffered being treated as the worst kind of criminals -- and ripping our family apart in the process (at all, let alone at the very beginning of our vacation and given your very public celebration and promotion of LETHAL POISONS THAT KILL HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE EACH AND EVERY YEAR) -- is hypocritical, shameful, and leaves me with a very bad first-person impression of your country.