Medicinal Cannabis on its way


At last some progress on legalisation of cannabis, albeit for medicinal purposes.

Toni-Marie Matich’s eldest daughter suffers from intractable epilepsy – a seizure disorder that cannot be controlled with conventional medicine. It led the Hawkes Bay mother-of-five to found United in Compassion (UIC), which advocates for New Zealand-based research into the therapeutic effects of cannabis-based medicines. The paediatrician caring for her daughter just happens to be the Children’s Commissioner, Russell Wills.

And that’s led to the unlikely but powerful alliance of Wills and UIC, teaming up with NZ Drug Foundation, to campaign for broader access to medicinal cannabis. It’s raised the prospect that it could soon become as readily available as morphine.

For Wills, juggling both roles could be a political minefield, but he says its not an issue: as a doctor, he can see the daily impact of what these “devastating diseases do to children and their families”. He’s not short of stories of desperate and vulnerable families who have gone to “extraordinary lengths to obtain treatments at enormous cost and extreme risk that then aren’t effective”.

“I think doctors are desperate,” he says, “to see patients have access to effective treatments.”

Research and random-control trials of cannabinoid products are underway in Israel and the United States and the results of those trials could be just months away – which could mean a New Zealand-approved product could be available by next year, once manufacturers have produced a product and passed MedSafe checks.

At that point Pharmac will negotiate a price with the manufacturers and Wills doesn’t see there being any delays because associate health minister Peter Dunne, the ministry, doctors and parents “are all on the same page”.

“Pharmac will be persuaded by evidence of effect and cost.”

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40 years for the War on Drugs…total failure

We have spent forty years on the ‘War on Drugs’ in this country, and not a single positive outcome has occurred.

It is the same around the world and is leading countries to look at alternatives. Portugal is a classic example, that shows that contrary to the nay-sayers, decriminalisation can actually work in addressing the harm of drugs.

So, in New Zealand people are now having to re-think our approach…the problem though is just a single, old fashioned old fool can hold up any real progress.

Drug law reform. Is there any better example of a heart versus head issue? Logic and rationality tells you that the system does not work, that drugs are a medical issue not a criminal one. But your gut says lock all the junkies and potheads up.

It is Ross Bell’s job to wrestle with these dilemmas. For 11 years he has been chief executive of the New Zealand Drug Foundation, a charitable trust charged with preventing and reducing harms caused by drug use.

The irony is that decriminalisation of drugs can reduce harms more effectively than prohibition. This is where the Drug Foundation now finds itself. Bell’s current angle is that our drug law turns 40 this year and is showing its age. Time for an overhaul.

The Misuse of Drugs Act became law in 1975, during the last days of Bill Rowling’s Labour government. It was that long ago, a time of dancing cossacks, disco and Fleetwood Mac. The big drug scares were heroin and LSD.

During the parliamentary debate, Rowling-era police minister Michael Connelly aired the then-fashionable view that cannabis was a gateway drug. Pot smokers would naturally “graduate” to harder drugs.

But New Zealand was really being a follower and getting behind the United States, Bell says. President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs in 1971. The United Nations agreed on a new drugs treaty in the same year. New Zealand had to keep up.   Read more »

Scientists manage to seperate cannabis medicinal benefits from its hallucinogenic effects


Scientists have discovered that inhibiting a receptor in the brain meant they could trigger cannabis’ medicinal benefits but not its unwanted side effects. This enables cannabis to shrink cancer tumours and retain its pain relief capabilities.

Scientists have, for the first time, been able to separate the medical benefits of cannabis from its unwanted side effects, it has emerged.

The research comes from the team that discovered how the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, known as THC, reduces tumour growth in cancer patients.

Their latest findings reveal how the cognitive effects of THC, such as memory loss and anxiety, are triggered by a pathway which is separate from some of its other effects, including pain relief.

That pathway involves both a cannabinoid receptor and a serotonin receptor.

When it is blocked, THC can still exert several beneficial effects while avoiding impairment of memory.

The research was carried out in mice by scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in collaboration with a team at the University Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona.

It is hoped the breakthrough will pave the way for safe cannabis-based therapies that do not cause alterations in mood, perception or memory.   Read more »

We’d rather have people live and die in pain, apparently

Our government can be heartless at times, and I’m not talking about cold state houses or not throwing more welfare at bludgers.

I mean simple law changes that would make people suffering live much more comfortable lives.

Recently the family of a Nelson boy suffering severe seizures won a dispensation from the Government to treat him with cannabis oil, opening the whole discussion about the medical use of cannabis in this country.

But there are plenty of people who believe in the efficacy of cannabis as medicine and who aren’t prepared to wait for the law to catch up.

Cancer sufferer Gareth Jones is one of those people. Given three months to live last October, he’s survived eight months so far on self-medication with cannabis, and he wants a law change in New Zealand.

Mr Jones is breaking the law, processing cannabis – a fairly large quantity of the illegal plant – and making it into oil.

“Anyone can make it,” he says.

Mr Jones is not a drug dealer; he’s dying. He has advanced bowel cancer that’s spread to his liver, and all up he’s battling four large tumours. He says cannabis is his last resort.

Two years ago Mr Jones and his wife, Tash, discovered the cruel medical reason behind his chronic exhaustion.   Read more »

Imagine the outcry if these incidents happened at a Charter School?

The Labour party and teacher unions always bang on about teacher registration being vitally important for the safety of children. It is the major reason they oppose charter schools.

If a single teacher at a charter school has problems they are immediately calling for the cancellation of the programme.

But when, almost daily, ratbag teachers are hauled before the disciplinary tribunal or the courts there is total and utter silence.

Even drug dealing ratbag teachers and principals.

A Northland school teacher has been censured and deregistered after he was convicted for cultivating, possessing and supplying cannabis.

Mario Cachia, 49, was sentenced to 10 months’ home detention for possessing cannabis for the purpose of sale, selling cannabis and cultivating cannabis.

He had pleaded guilty when he appeared in Whangarei District Court in November.

The New Zealand Teachers’ Disciplinary Tribunal has now deregistered him after Cachia agreed his convictions were serious and warranted an adverse finding. Cachia is among seven teachers in Northland who were convicted of offences such as drugs and dishonesty in 2014.

Read more »

Herald Editorial lashes Peter Dunne

Ok, sure it is the Herald, but their points are valid as they call out Peter Dunne over his medical marijuana stance.

Understandably enough, the Renton family have been doing all they can to get the best possible treatment for their teenage son, Alex, who is in an induced coma in Wellington Hospital.

After more than 20 standard medications failed to cure his ongoing seizures, they set their sights on a cannabis-derived medication, Elixinol. Protests staged by the family and their supporters to try to get the Government to approve its use gained widespread media coverage. Finally, this week, they got their wish.   Read more »

Canada legalises Medical Marijuana

Canada’s Supreme Court has legalised medical marijuana in all forms.

Medical marijuana patients will now be able to consume marijuana — and not just smoke it — as well as use other extracts and derivatives, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled today.

The unanimous ruling against the federal government expands the definition of medical marijuana beyond the “dried” form.

The country’s highest court found the current restriction to dried marijuana violates the right to liberty and security “in a manner that is arbitrary and hence is not in accord with the principles of fundamental justice.”

Restricting medical access to marijuana to a dried form has now been declared “null and void” — Sections 4 and 5 of the Controlled Drug and Substances Act, which prohibits possession and trafficking of non-dried forms of cannabis, will no longer be in effect.

The respondent in this case, Owen Smith, called it “a very emotional day.”   Read more »

$30 million for cannabis research at University of Sydney

It is ironic that in New Zealand we need ministerial approval for the application of existing medical cannabis to desperate families of suffering patients.

Meanwhile in Australia a massive grant of $30 million has been given to Sydney University to push Australia forward as a world leader in cannabis research for medical treatments.

Sydney University scientists will be given more than $30 million to research the medical applications of cannabis, the largest research donation in the university’s history.

The $33.7 million donation, from Barry and Joy Lambert, is among the largest research donations to any university in Australian history.

The Lambert Initiative will bring together three of the university’s leading researchers who argue cannabis is the next frontier for medical discovery and a potential treatment for obesity, schizophrenia and drug addiction.

“This is something that is going to reverberate around the world,” Premier Mike Baird said. “We are now leading this country and, in many respects, the world”.

Mr Lambert – a BRW rich-lister who made his fortune in financial planning – said the family was inspired to make the donation after his granddaughter Katelyn found relief from epileptic seizures through cannabis-based medicine.

“When you get to the end of the road you try desperate measures,” his wife Joy said. “I never imagined she would be able to go to preschool”.   Read more »

Cannabis derived medication Elixinol – does it work?

People hear “marijuana” and start going into the usual spin.   So some facts would be nice

Assoc Prof Michelle Glass, Head – Department of Pharmacology, University of Auckland, comments:

“The reports that we have seen in the media today strongly imply that the government has approved cannabis for the treatment of Alex Renton, it is important that people recognise that this is not the case. What has been approved is oil made from industrial hemp, which is not marijuana, it is not a drug that will make the user experience any of the “high” generally associated with cannabis based products. Instead, these are plants with a very high fibre content and a negligible THC content (less than 0.2%). THC is the component of cannabis that generates a high.

“The use of high cannabidiol (CBD) strains of cannabis or hemp have recently garnered a lot of public attention, particularly in pediatric seizure disorders such as Dravets syndrome, where there have been some dramatic results in individual patients (see the media coverage around Charlottes Web). The strength of these individual results was such that the FDA awarded a pharmaceutical preparation of CBD – Epidiolex (from GW pharmaceuticals) orphan drug status, helping to drive the progress of clinical testing. Read more »


Guest Post – Medicinal Marijuana and why the current system is cruel


It is always interesting how one’s perspective changes when you have real life experience of something.  And while I wouldn’t wish the experience of pain and suffering of someone close to you, or indeed of yourself, on you it does help to understand the issues at a deeper level.

I am an older person well past retirement age but still trying to work full time in a job requiring all my accumulated knowledge combined with new learning.  And for the younger ones who would like my job and think I should retire, you are welcome to try for it – it is a competitive market.  People are buying my experience.

Unfortunately over the last couple of years I have developed several major health issues that require a variety of medications to keep death at bay.  And pain and nausea are a result of the mix.  Believe me, one doesn’t feel on top of one’s game if you are feeling sick all the time.  Read more »