Pubdate: Mon, 25 Apr 2016
Source: Nelson Mail, The (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2016 Fairfax New Zealand Limited
Author: Jessica Long


Cannabis conversations are smoking in Nelson.

In just one hour, more than 250 signatures of support were collected 
at a medicinal cannabis rally at the Church Steps.

The gathering on Saturday saw people from all walks of life attend - 
families with children, the elderly and business people.

They were there to support legal medicinal cannabis use, or listen to 
what has become one of New Zealand's greatest debates since passing 
the law on gay marriage.

In a push to decriminalise the use of medicinal cannabis, Rose Renton 
- - mother of teenager Alex Renton, who was prescribed medicinal 
cannabis use of the drug shortly before his death last year - 
addressed the scattered crowd who wore green in support of the 
petition she promoted. She pleaded with everyone there to keep the 
conversation going.

"We need this. New Zealand needs this," she said.

"We're not asking everyone to convert to cannabis.

"We're just asking for our choice - a non-toxic, natural choice of 
medicine for us. I think that is a basic human right."

She said regulating the drug would be ideal for New Zealand and to 
grow cannabis alongside other herbs and flowers should not be frowned upon.

Legal cannabis advocate Victoria Davis said the rally was held in 
conjunction with the United Nations meeting on international 
approaches to drugs "to address the dismal failure of the war on drugs".

"It's acknowledged by all global experts now that the war on drugs 
was expensive, ineffective and made criminals out of a lot of 
ordinary people," she said. "If someone is sick it shouldn't be a 
crime to make them feel better.

"It's time to face the realities about this drug, that it's useful."

Davis said there was no drug that worked as well as cannabis to ease 
medical issues such as seizures, glaucoma and anxiety.

"It's being used [medicinally] already, if it didn't work people 
wouldn't use it."

A lawyer, Sue Grey, also addressed the rally.

She questioned why Peter Dunne wanted to commission further research 
into the drug when other countries had already done so. "What 
research does he think we're going to do here that will make a 
difference?" she asked.

"Cannabis was used for thousands of years and it was only when the 
pharmaceutical industry took hold a few decades ago that it became illegal.

"There's law changes happening everywhere. The United Nations are 
meeting about the war on drugs not working, so everything is evolving 
very fast."

Grey has worked on a number of cases where people charged with 
illegal use of cannabis were discharged without conviction.

She said it was important to raise public awareness and help those 
who needed to use the drug access it freely.

"People matter and numbers count," Grey said.

"Sign the petition and keep the conversation going," Renton said.

Steven Wilkinson of Golden Bay said he had seen a change in people's 
mentality toward cannabis users.

He considered himself a recreational and medicinal user of cannabis.

He said the "monster of prohibition" was almost dead.

"You can smoke cannabis every day and still run a life," he said.

"With any drug, you either manage the drug or the drug manages you."

Rallies are expected to be held around the country before the 
petition is taken to Parliament.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom