A Christchurch man dying of cancer fears he will have to become a criminal if he cannot legally access medicinal cannabis.
The 63-year-old man, who only wanted to be known as Bill for fear of persecution, said he was convinced of the therapeutic benefits of cannabis for cancer sufferers.
“It makes you sleep better, it makes you eat better and when you reflect on your life, as a person in my position would do, coming up to death, you can see it clearer.”
Bill was diagnosed with a rare form of colon cancer called mucinous adenocarcinoma in February 2014, undergoing surgery in October 2015 to remove his large intestine.
The cancer had since spread to his small intestine, making it inoperable, and doctors had given him five months to live.
He had sourced raw cannabis through a friend, but had depleted his supply, he said.
“I will have to [get it from a criminal source] – I’ve got no choice, it’s very difficult.
“I don’t know any criminals, and I don’t want to know any criminals or become a criminal myself.”
If professionals were able to grow cannabis of consistent quality and strength, it could be manufactured into cannabis oil or edible products, rather than people having to smoke the dried herb, Bill said.
“I would recommend it to anyone who’s old, even if they haven’t got cancer, because it relaxes you.”
Bill’s beliefs were echoed by a raft of Grey Power presidents who came out in support of easier access to medicinal cannabis.
Northland’s Otamatea Grey Power group unanimously voted to lobby the Government on the issue, with president Beverley Aldridge saying the country “should have a referendum and have a choice”, just as it did with the flag.
Aldridge said watching a friend die from cancer and the medication available in hospice care convinced her of the potential benefits of cannabis.
“He was zonked out on methadone or something like that, and was completely lost.
“If he had been given a toke, he would have been able to say goodbye to his family – he lost his dignity.”
Christchurch Grey Power president Ian Brownie, 87, said revelations cricketing legend Martin Crowe had medicated with cannabis brought the issue to his attention.
“If it’s going to help people, particularly people with cancer, and if it’s been proven that it is a help, then I certainly agree.”
Brownie said three of his brothers died of cancer and he thought they would have used cannabis if it was available.
“I agree with access through the doctor, that’s all – this backroom thing I don’t agree with.”
Waimate Grey Power president Ann Wright said she agreed with the Otamatea group, but could not speak for her group, a sentiment echoed by her Ashburton counterpart Jim Burgess.
“I would like to think that, if it was me, everything available would be done to help me,” Wright said.
Newly-appointed national Grey Power president Tom O’Connor said individual groups were legally autonomous, and Grey Power did not have a policy in relation to medicinal cannabis.
“My personal opinion is, let’s have a look at it, and if it does have benefits, and it’s distributed by a doctor with proper regulations, then I don’t see a problem with it.”
In relation to Otamatea’s decision to lobby the Government, O’Connor said he would “never put a barrier in the way of people seeking knowledge”.
“I don’t mind people pushing boundaries and mounting intelligent investigation.”