Pubdate: Mon, 13 Jun 2011
Source: Timaru Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2011 Timaru Herald


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

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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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." 
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.