Pubdate: Tue, 28 Jan 2014
Source: Timaru Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2014 Timaru Herald


Getting high may be legal, medically speaking, but it helps if you're rich.

Ministry of Health figures show that almost nobody is using the 
medical cannabis mouth spray Sativex.

Medical cannabis users and advocates say that with a price tag of 
about $1300 a month, most patients were ignoring the spray and opting 
for the cheaper, but illegal, option of smoking cannabis instead.

Only four people have an active prescription for the spray and only 
48 have ever received ministry approval. The medication has been 
available with a sign-off from the health minister since 2008.

In 2010, it was approved more widely for treatment of multiple 
sclerosis. All other medical uses still require ministerial sign-off.

The low uptake of the spray has sparked renewed calls to subsidise 
Sativex and in the meantime, to treat people who break the law for 
medical reasons more leniently.

The calls also come as the Green Party seeks to reignite debate on 
the legal status of cannabis, with party co-leader Metiria Turei 
saying it would push for decriminalisation in any postelection talks.

Medical cannabis activist Billy McKee said he gained approval to take 
Sativex several several years ago but was put off by the cost.

"It was like thousands of dollars. I can't afford that," he said. 
"They don't really want people to do the right thing. They don't 
really want people to have safe medicine."

McKee had his leg amputated 30 years ago after a car accident and 
smokes cannabis to relieve phantom pains.

Last year, he fought charges of selling and cultivating cannabis all 
the way to the Supreme Court but lost and is serving six months' home 

He said he knew of several people who had been prescribed Sativex but 
none could afford to stick with it, even though it often proved effective.

Fairfax NZ
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