Great-grandmother among speakers at pro-medicinal cannabis march
About 200 protesters turned out in Auckland on Saturday for a rally in favour of medicinal cannabis.
They gathered in Aotea Square in the CBD at midday before marching down Queen St at 1pm.
Organisers want safe, legal and affordable access to cannabis, and invited others around the country to organise coinciding marches.
Chris Fowlie, president of campaign group NORML (National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), said the rally was intended to make a statement to parliament.
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Fowlie said the government's response to the issue had been inadequate.
"We know the only way to change the law is to change the government," he said.
Prime Minister Bill English recently told Newshub's The AM Show he was opposed to legalisation of the drug.
"We just think the long-term damage of large-scale use of marijuana is pretty bad," he said.
That's disputed by the Green Party, which has made full legalisation one of its policy platforms for this year's election.
Greens health spokesperson Julie Anne Genter was among those who spoke at Saturday's rally.
She said cannabis should be treated as a health issue rather than a legal issue, and called for urgent action from politicians.
"The rest of the world is making it easier to access medicinal cannabis, and New Zealand is falling behind," she said.
Genter said current cannabis extract treatments such as Sativex were out of reach for most Kiwis.
"Why should we pay thousands of dollars a month when people can just grow a few plants and receive the same benefits? That's a compassionate approach, and there's no way it would lead to any further harm in society," she said.
Auckland great-grandmother Pearl Schomburg also spoke at Saturday's rally.
Schomburg uses medicinal cannabis illegally, and said she was determined not to live in fear of being raided by police.
"I will not be bullied or terrorised by this bad law," she said. "It's a cruel law, and I will stand up to it until my last days."
Schomburg said the case of tetraplegic Ben Clifford showed police were not exercising discretion in their targeting of suspected drug offenders.
Clifford broke his neck two years ago while pool diving, and used cannabis to calm his muscles so that he could have as normal a life as possible.
Police raided his home in March and confiscated his supply of the drug.
His mother Kellie Aitchison said she was "in shock" over the way events had unfolded.