New Zealand woman fears for epileptic son's life as CBD medication remains stuck at border

A six-year-old boy's life-saving medication has been held up at the border, prompting calls for the Health Minister to intervene. 

Katy Thomas' six-year-old son Eddy has life-threatening epilepsy, which is treated with CBD oil imported from the UK. But they've run out, and the new batch they ordered is stuck at the border. 

They've already had thousands of dollars worth of medicine destroyed by Customs.

Desperate, Thomas took to Instagram showing the severity of Eddy's seizures without CBD oil.

"He could breathe sweetly all throughout the night if he had his CBD - I certainly don't want to witness it anymore," Thomas told Newshub.

"He's terrified of his seizures - they're really painful and they leave him in such a mess straight after and the following day and, as a parent, it's just hideous not to be able to say anything other than, 'I know buddy.'

"His baby brother, every single night he goes to bed, might wake up without his big brother - it's absolutely horrendous."  

In 2018, then-Health Minister David Clark's Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill passed its final reading - with the aim of allowing terminally ill people to use cannabis and utensils for medical purposes.

But it hasn't made things easier for Thomas and her son. She said the price of importing and bureaucracy are still pushing people to the black market.

"It's a level of financial pressure that we just can't afford. [The black market's] easier - no one's going to say no to you and it's cheaper. There are no hurdles.'"

That's why she's calling for an immediate amnesty for the illegal market so the medication can be accessed - until New Zealand cannabis-based medication goes on the market later in 2021.

Thomas is also calling on Health Minister Andrew Little to fix the "broken" law.

"Grant us an amnesty," she said. "Extend the transitional period until we have a working local industry."

Green Party drug law reform spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick, who's been advocating for Thomas and has written to Little about the case, told reporters the Health Minister wasn't interested in the idea of an amnesty.

"When you're talking about the case of Katy Thomas, you're speaking about her severely epileptic son - this is lifesaving medicine.

"It's just a classic instance of politics getting in the way of good policy and the wellbeing of New Zealanders.

"The only barrier is political willpower and New Zealand has the most stringent medicinal cannabis regulations in the entire world… all of that indicates that we just need to do better - and, actually, there's an opportunity for the minister to do just that."

But Labour and National have dismissed hopes of an amnesty and when asked about Thomas' case, Little said on Wednesday he wasn't "responsible for the actions of Customs".

"There's an exemption at the moment that means products that are imported don't have to meet the manufacturing standard - that allows domestic producers and importers to make sure that before they get products on the market… they can get their products up to spec. 

"The regime we have in place at the moment is the regime we have in place and we are waiting for the full implementation of the medicinal cannabis regime we legislated for the best part of 18 months ago.

"There are cannabis products on the market now, not many… I understand that there are some access issues. There will be more products available later this year - once the market is fully in action the way we expect." 

Swarbrick, meanwhile, is seeking cross-party support for decriminalisation of cannabis after New Zealanders voted against legalisation by a thin margin during the election last year.