By Cheeky Bud
Medical marijuana, healing herb, whimsical weed — today I ask the question — does marijuana actually have health benefits or are people just looking for an excuse to have a naughty blaze? Within this very informal discussion, I, the mystical wizard of Massive will compile real life research alongside an interview with a widely renowned activist for the legalisation of weed, alongside some personal experience.
I struggle with migraines and anxiety as a result from a neurological condition called epilepsy. With these things comes a lot of medication in the form of pills, pills and more pills. When I first came to uni, I found marijuana use to be quite a common thing, and I thought I would be keen to try it out as I had never done it properly before. So, one night, I hit this dirty as hell Gatorade bottle in the basement of an Aro Valley flat, with a few close mates. Instantly I found a cure for my migraines and anxiety, I mean I felt good for the first time in a while. The chance to maybe cut down on some of the pills that I took daily intrigued me. Stuff as simple as codeine can be so fucking dangerous, especially if you have an addictive personality. So for my first year in study I was now a stoner and hey, I had no seizures that entire year. I was so proud of myself and even my whanau was supportive of my decision.
Within my second year of study, I stepped into an important work position so I decided to stop smoking. Straight away my seizures came back, bringing with them the migraines and anxiety… Does smoking weed keep my seizures at bay? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. But a lot of overseas research alongside my personal experience points to yes – it does.
According to the National Organisation for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws (Norml), hundreds of thousands of Kiwis smoke-up every day. Official statistics from Auckland University’s Alcohol and Public Health Research Unit show half of Kiwis aged from 15 to 65 have tried cannabis. One-in-six define themselves as regular users. That’s about 1.5 million Kiwis who have tried cannabis, and around 400,000 Kiwis who continue to use it.
For the purposes of this story I was lucky enough to chat with Rebecca Reider from Norml, and she opened my mind even more to the decriminalisation of cannabis. Reider is actively out there advocating for the legalisation of cannabis. She herself uses marijuana to treat chronic pain and sometimes insomnia. But she is most well-known for being the first person to bring an ounce of weed and some cannabis oil into New Zealand for medicinal use, without being stopped by customs.
She had been prescribed the drugs in California, where they are legal before bringing them back to our shores.
“It felt both ecstatically victorious, and ridiculous,” she says of her achievement. “It was fun to be part of a positive news story that gave people hope – but cannabis should be legal for everybody, not just someone who goes to crazy lengths to import it.”
Currently the use of cannabis in New Zealand is governed by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, which means unauthorised possession of any amount of cannabis, for medicinal reasons or otherwise, is illegal.
Recently the Green Party came out saying it would legalise cannabis if it came into government this year. Leader of the Labour Party, Andrew Little says it’s not a priority for the party and current Prime Minister Bill English is not in favour of legalising the drug.
Reider says the government’s current stance makes it both frustrating and rewarding to be a spokeswoman for the decriminalisation of cannabis in Aotearoa.
“It’s frustrating because the government is so resistant to public opinion on this, and it will continue to be that way as long as the National Party is in power,” she says.
“But it’s rewarding because we know the public are on our side, and because I get contacted regularly by fellow patients who are so grateful. I know so many people will benefit from this change once we win, and that keeps me going.”
Reider says there is a 100 per cent benefit of using marijuana for illnesses, including cancer, epilepsy or anxiety.
“Cannabis is such a good medicine for people suffering from these exact things,” she says.
“It is really good for people with terminal illnesses, such as cancer patients and also a huge boost for people with things such as depression.”
So what have I realised? Having a good toke every so often can be so good for you. I personally believe it is long overdue that we follow our American counterparts, such and make this wonderful weed available to people who need it. After all, it is just a plant, so it has to be better that taking so many pills a day. I simply just don’t rate that.