It's about pain, cost and quality of life - Dr Hickey on medicinal cannabis

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

A medicinal cannabis advocate says the Government's Bill is too conservative and says sufferers living on the breadline won't get access. 

Dr Huhana Hickey (Ngāti Tahinga, Whakatōhea) is a research fellow at the Auckland University of Technology and an outspoken medical cannabis law reform campaigner.

"I watched a friend pass away last year and they did give him medicinal through oil and he died a good death. I've seen it with others I've heard it with others. Then I've heard others who, in the last stage of begging for access, don't get it and don't die that nicely," she says.

Hickey lives with multiple sclerosis, she uses medicinal cannabis to deal with the pain.

"There are days when I was without my pain relief where I was crying and begging my partner to end my life, I don't want to end my life let's say that now, but if euthanasia was legal I'd probably be dead rather than getting access to medicinal cannabis because that's how bad it can get," she explains. 

She is the first person in New Zealand to use Tilray, a medicinal cannabis oil, but she's having to pay $1000.00 a month for it.

"A lot of disabled, a lot of sick people cannot work, a lot of them cannot afford it and one of the key factors is if you're going to give legal access don't provide it purely for the rich, for those that have the resources to buy it.  You have to be able to provide it for those who lack the resources," she explains.

Hickey says New Zealand should look to other countries where medicinal cannabis models have been a success.

"By replacing that with a health model, they now have a healthy approach to how one uses it.  If it's abused, people can go get help for it, so we need to look at this from a holistic viewpoint."

Hickey is seeking support to lobby the Government to hear from the community of medicinal cannabis users.