Pubdate: Fri, 04 Mar 2016
Source: Nelson Mail, The (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2016 Fairfax New Zealand Limited
Author: Nina Hindmarsh


A Golden Bay woman who won a legal victory for medicinal cannabis 
says suffering patients are being treated like criminals, and it's 
time Parliament caught up.

Rebecca Reider, 37, appeared in Nelson District Court on Monday 
facing a raft of criminal charges including importing medicinal 
cannabis products and another five charges relating to possession.

The maximum sentence for importing is eight years imprisonment.

The Californian-born Collingwood resident was cleared of all six 
charges and received a discharge without conviction, meaning she will 
have no criminal record.

Under the Sentencing Act, a judge may grant this sentence under 
circumstances where "the direct and indirect consequences of a 
conviction would be out of all proportion to the gravity of the offence".

Reider argued a conviction would significantly affect her ability to 
travel abroad and to be able to visit her family in her country of birth.

Her lawyer, Sue Grey of Nelson said this is a huge " common sense" 
and humanitarian step forward for the medicinal cannabis reform movement.

"A doctor prescribed [her] medical marijuana for relief from chronic 
pain from a well documented and complex medical condition," said 
Grey. "The medical marijuana worked when no other drugs were effective."

She said New Zealand law already allows exemptions where a person 
coming into New Zealand brings with them medication that was 
prescribed overseas.

"Whether that medication is medical marijuana, or some other drug, is 
irrelevant under the law.

"The judge recognised that it should not matter whether the 
medication is carried into New New Zealand by the patient or posted to them.

"Either way there was no good reason to criminal sanction a person 
who was using prescribed pain relief for good reason."

Reider said she was hugely relieved, and said it felt like a 
significant win for the right to medicinal cannabis.

But despite the victory, Reider said she still feels like she lost.

"The police entered my home with no warning," she said.

"Violated my privacy and took away an essential pain medication that 
was helping me deal with a very challenging health condition."

The environmental researcher and activist has suffered from an 
undiagnosed, debilitating full-body chronic pain condition for nearly a decade.

In 2013 Reider began treatment with doctors in the US who prescribed 
medicinal cannabis.

She said for her family doctor to prescribe medicinal cannabis for 
the condition was a "no-brainer", which authorised her to legally 
purchase cannabis and cannabis-derived products.

On a trip back to California last year she obtained another medical 
cannabis prescription while visiting her doctor.

In November, New Zealand Customs intercepted two legally manufactured 
medicinal cannabis chocolate bars that Reider had posted to herself 
from the US.

The product is legally manufactured in the US by a company called 
Kiva. Each bar contains 180mg of THC.

When three Takaka Police officers subsequently searched Reider's home 
in Collingwood, they found four more cannabis chocolate bars, 
cannabis oil, cannabis plant material and cannabis seed.

Reider said it's distressing to be treated like a criminal while 
trying to deal with a health condition that the medical establishment 
has been mostly unable to treat.

"Prescription drugs have failed to solve my pain issues, while 
cannabis has been instrumental in relieving my muscle spasms," she said.

In February the Australian Parliament passed a bill legalising 
medicinal marijuana, adding to the growing list of countries that are 
moving forward on the medicinal marijuana reform, including some 
states in the US.

"But New Zealand is still in the dark ages," said Reider. "I'm 
grateful to the judge for his compassion, but this legal process has 
been long, stressful and expensive for me."

She said in California, getting cannabis products appropriate for her 
pain condition is safe, secure and simple.

"Since it's legal there, I'm able to ascertain that I'm getting top 
quality plant medicines, whereas in New Zealand on the black market 
it's impossible to know."

Another Takaka woman, Fiona Porter, 45, was fined $500 on Monday at 
Nelson District Court for cultivating marijuana to treat her multiple 

Reider came to New Zealand in 2005 on a Fulbright scholarship to 
research organic agriculture and has been living and working here 
since. She is an environmental activist and works as the National 
Coordinator for Organic Winegrowers NZ.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom