By Jeanette Saxby
Auckland, New Zealand.
Today I was fitted with an ankle bracelet that is a GPS tracking device. I am a 49 years old woman and mother of three and Grandmother of two little boys.
At 30 I got my degree and education and soon gained a diploma in teaching . I started teaching with enthusiasm until I learned that in the previous year over 1000 children in New Zealand were expelled or suspended from school due to drug use. I decided to focus on a new career. My reasoning was if you remove a young person from the education system then they have another 6 hours a day to indulge and smoke cannabis. For cannabis was the most common reason children are asked to leave school.
Children may get caught smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol but are seldom expelled. A suspension for 3 days was the most common way to deal with this transgressions. I retrained as a drug and alcohol counsellor and found employment at Odyssey house on the youth residential programme in Christchurch .
I was sentenced in the Waitakere court in Auckland New Zealand for 7 months home detention and 120 hours of community service.
On the 9 October 2014, I was at former address in Auckland visiting and collecting my belongings as I had just moved to another smaller town called Paeroa in the Waikato district. At about 9 pm while I was sitting down and relaxing with a glass of wine with my daughter’s father who now lived in the house. Earlier that day I dropped another one of my children at the airport and carried on to stay over before loading up some more stuff and heading back to Paeroa and my new home.
Dammit, the dog started barking and I opened the door to see why, and saw a flash of lights and six police officers sweeping down the lawn towards the house.
My Initial reaction was ,what the hell is happening?
There seemed to be an army descending on the house and I had no idea why?
I asked the female officer in charge who are you looking for three time before she said that they had a search warrant to search the address. I didn’t think for a minute this amount of police who were armed were here for me.
I knew that I had been informed on, because for the past decade I have been a cannabis activist. I left Christchurch to live in Auckland after the 2010 earthquake that destroyed most of the city I grew up in. In 2011 I opened my own business called the The High Tea Cafe . I intended the cafe to be an alcohol free evening venue as an alternative to the usual bar culture. I sold coffee, cakes , chocolates , cold beverages were served and as the name suggests a large array of teas were also available. High teas were available on request with a selection of chocolates and small savoury and sweet treats.
At the same address was the new Auckland Green Cross, a door separated the cafe from the office of the Auckland Green Cross. On Sundays when the cafe was closed, I ran a meeting for patients who used cannabis as a medicine for their illness. The goal was to begin an observational study purely based on the patients self reporting and gaining a set of qualitative data. There was also an urgent need to obtain the CBD oil to treat patients so that smoking cannabis was not going to be a problematic issue. A pound of plant material was found in the office and siezed by the police.
No small bags for sale were found on the premises nor was there any cannabis in the actual cafe. No one was on the premises as it was closed and I provided a key. The police went in with a drug dog and found one large bag containing the 450 grams of cannabis which we were hoping to make our first batch of medicinal CBD oil.
This was the second Auckland Green Cross to be established. The first one was across the road from the Auckland hospital and it too operated meeting the needs of many patients until it to was closed after a similar raid from the police. Once again the only victims were the patients and also the medical part of the organisation which was run by Stephen McIntyre.
He was arrested and several times the police visited him at home. On one visit, Stephen was teaching guitar to a small group of paying students when the police arrived and claimed to be able to smell cannabis. This has been vehemently denied and as a result of the pressure and stress Stephen felt alone and vulnerable and sadly took his own life. He was only in his forties.
He was a husband, a father and a talented musician who had even recorded his own album. He had had countless meeting and correspondence with the New Zealand Ministry of health and the associate health minister Peter Dunne.
Article on Stephen McIntyre published by Sunday Herald, New Zealand can be viewed at this link.
With all the evidence from other countries with a much longer historical use of medical marijuana and research papers since 1963 our Governemnt still refused the sanction the use of medical marijuana and it is believed sent a directive to doctors not to endorse the forms patients had to request the supervision of their doctor and acknowledgement of their right to chose their own treatment.
I wanted to continue the good work that had begun and waited a year or so after Stephen’s death and continue to support the patients who now had no support. The new Green Cross was not a dispensary but the beginning of a support group to begin our own study. But we really wanted to support the people who came looking for pain relief, something that didn’t have the side effects of opioid pain killers, famous for constipation. I met patients with arthritis at twenty years of age, young men with fibromyalgia, sleep disorders, nausea from other medications and people with a desire to come off the really nasty chemical synthetic cannabis that was legally sold.
There were people who lived with chronic and debilitating pain. I began baking a range of cakes and chocolates in order to avoid smoking the plant. One person who moved me to tears crawled up the steep flight of stairs to be able to get some chocolates. The relief that ingested cannabis can give is undeniable. I pleaded with this person to tell me in advance and we would come downstairs to her car.
The raid was traumatic and I was arrested and processed down at the cells and spent the night in a cell at the police station before appearing in court the next day.
In October medical marijauaa stories in New Zealand were almost non existent. The media treated cannabis as a drug to ridicule people with. Most TV representations were of the stereotypical stoner and no mention of the healthful benefits were examined to my knowledge.
In 2005 I think, I did a Literature of the Public Health Message on Cannabis. I found almost nothing to mention any beneficial about the use of cannabis. Only the negative message that were sometime even untrue and distorted and the usual gateway drug myth. Prohibition causes exposure to other drugs. Medical cannabis users seek relief not a drug high or party pills. Cannabis users are not likely to want to advance to shooting up heroin but as moth drug use begins in the late teens and early twenties there will always be those who want to experiment.
The police insisted that I close my cafe business and exit west Auckland. The sudden closure of my cafe and exile to Paeroa meant I now had no job, no cafe, no Green Cross and no income. I had a day of teaching at my following court appearance so was able to continue to work the day out and not be incarcerated so I was extremely lucky.
I appeared in court and was applied for legal aid. I was so fortunate to have the support of other Green Cross supporters and a fund was set up to enable me to live until I applied for Government assistance . I am so grateful to others in the cannabis community. I got extremely depressed for a while but knew this too will pass.
My lawyer was Kristy Li and she was wonderful. She was serious but realistic and she sought the best advice for me from her colleagues. I had a pre-sentence hearing and the judge indicated a possible jail sentence of 27 months but he also observed that it was appropriate sentence for me would a period of home detention. The police were also slightly helpful in that they alleged several charges of possessing other illegal drugs were withdrawn. It was due the fact that their allegations that I was in possession of LSD and xtc were incorrect and suggested that both substances needed to be tested.
Interestingly in the weeks that preceded my sentencing medical marijauana burst onto the landscape and consciousness of the people of New Zealand . Two things happened – The first was a 19 year-old man ALEX Renton burst onto the news with his mother demanding that he be allowed to try cannabis CBD oil. Alex had been struck down in the peak of health with a debilitating illness and was in coma and ventilator and suffering seizures. He was heavily medicated and sedated to the point of immobility. He had been given over 30 types of medicines for his illness before his mother forced the hand of the Hospital to trial it. And slowly ALEX has been able to emerge from the coma. He isn’t fully back yet and hasn’t spoken yet but he is breathing for himself and off a ventilator. His story has been in the media and made the evening news.
The other story was our favourite hospital soap opera called Shortland Street. This long running show has been running a medical Marijuana storyline with the story focusing around a doctor who has a patient not responding to the pain relief after being treated for bone cancer. Her father tries to give her some cannabis brownie for the nausea and to stimulate appetite. The doctor is found out and suspended for her role in allowing a patient to use illegal substances. The show accurately depicts the dilemma and now several weeks many thousands of people who knew nothing about medical cannabis have been educated.
I am grateful to the court and the judge and the probation officer who wrote my report. I am not a criminal but in helping others and in attempting to bring New Zealand inline with many other developed countries who have legalised cannabis for medical use and in some places like Portugal and some states have either decriminalised or even legalised cannabis for recreational use.
I wear my ankle bracelet with pride. If I am being punished for helping others and trying to educate people so be it. I am still me. I am not broken. It has been a scary journey at times but I am encouraged by the recent developments . I hope this action to put pressure on the Government continues. As we want to be patients not criminals. And I am not a victim. I would do nothing differently if I had the time again. So for the next seven months I will be at my home busy writing and continuing to push for safe access to cannabis. By this I mean cannabis in all its forms. I don’t see the need for medical involvement for many conditions that people use cannabis. Sleep for example. Not one person has died from cannabis but many people die from medications used to promote sleep.