Kelly pushes for use of medical cannabis

  • 09/01/2016
Helen Kelly was diagnosed with lung cancer in February 2015 (Briar Marbeck)
Helen Kelly was diagnosed with lung cancer in February 2015 (Briar Marbeck)

Former union boss Helen Kelly has written poignantly about the battle she and others face to obtain medical cannabis.

The Australian federal government is planning a licensing scheme to allow cultivation and distribution of medical cannabis while the issue remains a hot topic in New Zealand.

Ms Kelly was diagnosed with lung cancer in February 2015 and stood down as the boss of the Council of Trade Unions in October.

She has spoken openly about her cancer journey and has said she's been breaking the law by taking cannabis oil to manage pain.

"I am taking nothing really that can stop this cancer killing me, and in not too long a timeframe to be brutally honest," she says in a post on the left-wing blog The Standard yesterday.

"It is my view that a good cannabis product will help me live the rest of my life in a better situation than I will without it. The fact I can't do that shows the absurdity of the whole regime."

She says she is applying to use medical cannabis but "my application is light on what the form says is needed".

"My understanding is that even if it is approved, exporting cannabis product from the States is not straight forward so I could get all that way and still not get legal access."

She tells harrowing stories of people using medical cannabis illegally in New Zealand who have been in touch with her without naming them.

Ms Kelly has taken Keytruda, a breakthrough cancer drug, but it was not successful. She paid for the drug, which is controversially not publicly funded in New Zealand.

She also said she was paying $6000 per dose for a "basic chemo drug" that would be a "bog standard treatment for me in Australia" but was not funded in New Zealand.

She did not name that drug but questioned why she was allowed to take unfunded drugs but was not allowed to take medical cannabis.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has said the Government will not be swayed by "emotional nonsense" colouring calls for wider access to medicinal cannabis.

He has said there had only ever been one application for a dispensation to use cannabis products not registered in New Zealand - for Nelson teenager Alex Renton - which he had approved.

Ms Kelly's post attracted many positive comments, including that she was fighting for the rights of other to the very end.