22 Apr 2017

'It should be legalised ... because it is beneficial'

3:53 pm on 22 April 2017

Around 50 protesters gathered in the Auckland CBD today demanding law changes for the use of medicinal marijuana.

Two of the protesters in favour of legalising medicinal marijuana.

Two of the protesters in favour of legalising medicinal marijuana. Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

This was the latest demonstration in what has become a long-running battle between medicinal cannabis advocates and the government.

Kellie Aitchison, who spoke at the protest today, said marijuana was the only thing that gave her tetraplegic son Ben any relief from pain.

"He has full body muscle spasms which are full on violent, marijuana just full on eases those so he can actually get up and use his wheelchair and go outside with his daughter," she said.

Ms Aitchison said Ben is paralyzed from the chest down and has limited movement of his arms so he needs a constant caregiver.

However, she said since police found and confiscated Ben's cannabis three weeks ago, caregiving agencies have stopped taking care of him and he has spent every day in pain since then.

"He's [now] on the strongest baclofen, which is what they prescribe for muscle spasms," she said.

"It doesn't do anything."

A sign at a protest for medicinal cannabis on 22 April 2017.

Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

Ms Aitchison said one spinal specialist who had seen Ben's condition told him to keep using marijuana if it was helping ease the pain.

Jeanette Saxby, who said she has been a drug and alcohol clinician for the past 20 years, said she is furious at the government for refusing to help sick New Zealanders in need.

She said legalising medicinal cannabis was definitely an election issue and she hoped the government was hearing their message loud and clear.

"There are many patients who just have no backing, there's no support and they're dying," she said.

Some people passing by the protest said they supported the cause to legalize medicinal cannabis.

Crowd at protest in favour of medicinal cannabis on 22 April 2017.

Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

Mandeep Singh, 27, said he didn't see why it shouldn't be legalized if it was to improve a person's health.

"I think it should be legalized, at least in some quantity because it is beneficial," he said.

Sona Arora, 23, said other states and countries around the world had already decriminalized marijuana.

"In America, in some states weed is legal, so there must be some way to make it legal here," he said.

Both the Green Party and Labour have pledged to improve medicinal cannabis access if elected to government, however Prime Minister and National Party leader Bill English has previously said he is against legalising marijuana.

The protest was organised by Auckland Patients' Group, a group of patients, caregivers and medicinal cannabis advocates based in Auckland.

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