Medicinal cannabis user's pain over being charged

A medicinal cannabis user busted in 2017 for growing it has opened up about the pain of going through a court process while battling cancer. 

Four months ago, Craig Gray was given two weeks to live after being diagnosed. He uses a medicinal cannabis tincture and oil to help him sleep, eat and relieve the pain.

It's an alternative to the drugs he's prescribed. He said if he was on codeine, morphine or tramadol, "You wake up in the morning [and] you feel groggy, dehydrated, can't go to the toilet, you feel like a zombie and you're depressed". 

"The easiest way I can explain dealing with cancer is having someone follow you around 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with a loaded gun and you're just waiting for that click," he told Newshub. 

In 2017, Craig was charged for growing cannabis. He had already been diagnosed with a rare blood cancer and knew that time was precious. 

Eventually, after 16 months, the judge told Craig he had bigger fights to fight. He was ordered to pay a $50 court fine. 

Despite sweeping changes planned for medicinal cannabis in New Zealand, people are still being arrested and charged for using the drug medicinally. 

Lawyer Sue Grey, who defended Craig and other people fighting medicinal cannabis charges, told Newshub police should be exercising greater discretion not to prosecute. 

"Look, it's awful because you've got very sick people, in some cases, they're dying, and the last thing they need is to be dragged before the courts and go through a whole other process on top."

Last year, 3099 people were convicted for cannabis-related offences, 497 were sent to prison, and 364 were discharged without conviction - or like Craig Gray ordered to pay court costs.

The Government changed the law late last year giving people who are dying a 'get out of jail free' card if caught using cannabis. 

Health Minister David Clark revealed details of New Zealand's Medicinal Cannabis Scheme on Wednesday. It showed that patients won't be able to smoke cannabis medicinally or grow their own. 

Clark defended those details, saying: "Unfortunately that cannabis that's grown by people in their back gardens is not a known quality or quantity."

Some patients feel let down by the Government's medicinal cannabis proposals, saying they're afraid it won't make the expensive, hard to get drugs accessible enough. 

When asked if he had struck the right balance, Clark told Newshub: "This consultation document is the opportunity for patients, prescribers, and exporters to give their feedback."

You can read the discussion document and provide feedback before 7 August here.