Pubdate: Mon, 13 Jun 2011 Source: Timaru Herald (New Zealand) Copyright: 2011 Timaru Herald Contact: http://www.timaruherald.co.nz/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/1039 POTS OF TROUBLE Timaru man Peter Davy has found himself the poster boy for the medical marijuana debate. But as he faces a prison sentence, he tells features editor Claire Allison this wasn't how he wanted his life to be. In just over a week's time, Peter Davy could be in prison. It is a daunting prospect - not for him, he says, but for what it will mean for his partner. Tracey Perrin is severely crippled by multiple sclerosis. Davy is her partner and full-time caregiver. She relies on him for the simplest of tasks - getting out of bed, showering, preparing food. If 52-year-old Davy is sent to prison - and he has been told that's very likely - the impact on her will be severe. "I'm screwed." Perrin is likely to have to go into rest home care. It's not what either of them want, and Davy is guilt-stricken by the situation he's created for Perrin. "I'm not worried about me, I'm just worried about what happens to her. I carry a lot of guilt over what I have done ... and I've had some really negative feedback from complete strangers over the internet about what I have done to Tracey ..." What Davy has done has brought upon himself charges of possession of cannabis, cultivating cannabis, importing cannabis seed and unlicensed possession of a rifle. He has pleaded guilty to the charges and is to be sentenced on June 22. A judge has warned him a prison sentence is likely. This is not Davy's first conviction for cannabis offending. When police raided the Dunkirk St home he and Perrin share, they found dozens of cannabis plants, about 10,000 dried cannabis seeds - local and imported - and the rifle. Davy is aware the numbers don't look good. But he says what he was growing were medical strains; less potent, less yield, zero commercial value. "These grow thin and spindly and take forever to flower. If you were trying to deliberately do it commercially, you wouldn't use that strain." Davy says he tried to get a permit to legally grow cannabis for his research. He hasn't been successful. "No-one can stall you like a bureaucrat. "So the whole time behind the scenes I was saying I wanted to do this. It's not like I was trying to hide my intentions from everybody. And that's the problem." His backyard operation was news to Perrin. How could she not have known? She is wheelchair bound, practically blind. Davy says he was careful not to involve her. "Tracey used to ask me if I could get her any. I used to say I didn't know anyone who I could get it from ... even when I had it, I didn't give it to her ... I knew if I gave her some and got busted, she'd be arrested. But that was because it's illegal, not because I didn't think it wouldn't help her, because I think it would." But Davy's belief that marijuana has medical benefits has put him at risk of breaking the promise he made to Perrin when they got together. Still struggling with the feeling he hadn't been there for his brother - - who took his own life - Davy swore he'd never again let anyone down. "I swore I'd never give my word again and not keep it. I've got to live with that for the rest of my life. I loved my brother, he needed me, and I didn't recognise it. And I swore to Tracey that as long as she wanted me here, I'd be here. And if she wanted me to leave at any time, she just had to tell me. That's the rules we have lived by. But I gave her my word, 'if you want me, I'm here for you'." Once again, he may not be able to keep that promise; the couple feel there is a behind-the-scenes motivation to get Perrin into a rest home. "That's why I got so angry. I've never hurt anyone in this town. I've just kept to myself. I thought I was doing a really good job, everyone was telling me I was. But there's just this little group of people who all on their own decided Tracey would be better off in a home. "Me and Tracey were quite happy. We weren't causing any harm to anybody. We were just trying to handle the situation as best we could." Perrin is adamant it's not what she wants. "They never bothered to ask me. But I still have a brain, I've still got my speech." In all else, she is reliant on Davy for day-to-day living. "I can't stand, I can't get on to the couch without him lifting me, into bed without him lifting me, I can't get into my shower chair without him lifting me, I can't cook, because I shake too much - everything would just land on the floor." The last few weeks have been incredibly stressful for Perrin. "And you know as well as I know that stress is not a good thing for those with MS - that's the worst thing possible." The situation Davy and Perrin are in is a long way from Davy's earlier life. "I was a super geek, IT manager for the South Taranaki District Council for 10 years. I wore a suit and tie every day, was earning $68,000. I used to have coffee with the mayor, go to full council meetings ... I didn't even drink alcohol, I had to have my arm twisted to have Friday night drinkies, I was so focused on my career, I had to keep my brain clear." At that time, Davy says he hadn't touched drugs for 20 years, and no criminal convictions since some juvenile matters. All that changed 10 years ago when Davy was diagnosed with cancer, told he had a week to live, and although surgery was proposed, he was unlikely to survive. It proved to be a misdiagnosis that wasn't discovered until he had been admitted to hospital for surgery and a priest had read him the last rites. What Davy had - and still has - is a prolactinoma; a benign tumour on his pituitary gland. He was prescribed medication to shrink it, and will have to continue to medicate for the rest of his life. Without it, the tumour grows again. The medication made him violently ill, and saw him spend most of his time lying in the foetal position on the floor. As the tumour shrank, he suffered wicked headaches. Desperate for relief, Davy tried cannabis. "It stopped me throwing up, immediately. So I went on the internet, and found a site where other people were taking the drug that I was on. People in the US said it was the only thing that had worked for them. "Until then, I thought cannabis smokers were a bunch of no-hoper potheads. I didn't really believe it. But I was so sick ... you can get so sick sometimes, you don't care about anything else but anything that makes you feel better." Davy's current medication doesn't make him vomit, but he says it really messes with him. "(The pituitary gland) controls your hormones, and they are really, really important. My hormones are out of whack. Every two weeks I have to inject myself in the butt with synthetic hormone replacement. As soon as I take that I get a boost of energy, then I go through two weeks of it slowly fading off. I'm never stable, and at the end of the two weeks I'm lethargic, my hair stops growing. My body is completely out of whack. And it's been like that for 10 years. "If I'm not smoking, I just feel like rubbish all the time. When I don't have it, I dread taking my medication, because I know I'm going to feel like crap for the next five days." Is he addicted? "I've given up for a couple of years at a time ... I don't think I am addicted, but without it, I feel absolute misery." The irony, Davy says, is that he's hardly smoked any cannabis over the last few years. Being busted before any plants are ready to harvest, and then being on bail, means he hasn't been a big smoker. Davy says he never wanted to become a criminal. "I didn't want to stop being who I was. I was making a lot of money, really a pillar of the community. Why would I want to give that up and become a pothead? I miss my old life, that's what they don't understand. I spend all my spare time trying to do computer work to keep my brain up to speed doing all the things I used to do. It was never my intention to become a criminal." But for the past 10 years, he has been researching the medical effects of cannabis. Until recently, he'd been keeping that very much to himself. "I didn't belong to any New Zealand groups or associations, but I had talked to a lot of overseas experts and organisations. I've always taken it seriously, but been scared to mention it or put my hand up. It's so mixed up with the recreational issue. If you mention it, people are immediately polarised, they're either for or against, they have very strong views." His recent court appearances and the publicity surrounding them have reinforced for Davy what a murky issue it is. He has had public support from the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and Daktory founder Dakta Green. From having six Facebook friends, he now has about 600. He is grateful for the support, but is realistic about the motivation that may lie behind it. "I'm not stupid. I know they are using me." What Davy would like to see happen to cannabis laws is probably more conservative than some of the groups that have rallied to support him. "All I've been saying is that we need to do some research ... find out if it's a myth or if it's real. I have been using it and it seems to be helping me. But I've seen it hurt people too. I've seen people smoke cannabis and have very bad reactions to it, seen them get paranoid, throw up ... and I also think it's very bad for kids. "But there are people using it therapeutically, and it's working for them; whether it's psychological, whether it's a crutch, whether they are addicted ... 150,000 New Zealanders smoke cannabis every week, but only 1 per cent are ever arrested ... The same few people are getting picked on all the time for the sake of the whole cannabis community. "I want to see New Zealand start doing proper research, so we will know one way or another. I wanted to do legal research, I would have been quite happy to grow it in a university environment, would have been happy for police to check it every day; I just wanted to be left alone to do it properly." - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.