Great-grandmother among speakers at pro-medicinal cannabis march

Medicinal cannabis protesters march along Auckland's Queen St on Saturday afternoon.
CRAIG HOYLE/FAIRFAX NZ

Medicinal cannabis protesters march along Auckland's Queen St on Saturday afternoon.

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.

Around 200 protesters gathered in Auckland to call for the legalisation of medicinal cannabis.
CRAIG HOYLE/FAIRFAX NZ

Around 200 protesters gathered in Auckland to call for the legalisation of medicinal cannabis.

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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"Throughout history whenever there's been social change, people had to march," he said. "They had to get out on the streets and make their views known."
It is currently illegal to grow, sell or use cannabis in New Zealand, for either recreational or medical reasons.
GRANT MATTHEW/FAIRFAX NZ

It is currently illegal to grow, sell or use cannabis in New Zealand, for either recreational or medical reasons.

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.

Rally organiser Chris Fowlie urged supporters to join the protest and send a strong message to the government.
LAWRENCE SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

Rally organiser Chris Fowlie urged supporters to join the protest and send a strong message to the government.

"We just think the long-term damage of large-scale use of marijuana is pretty bad," he said.

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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.

Green MP Julie Anne Genter believes cannabis should be treated as a health issue rather than a legal issue.
SUPPLIED

Green MP Julie Anne Genter believes cannabis should be treated as a health issue rather than a legal issue.

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.

Auckland great-grandmother Pearl Schomburg uses medicinal cannabis, and says she won't be bullied by police.
DAVID WHITE/FAIRFAX NZ

Auckland great-grandmother Pearl Schomburg uses medicinal cannabis, and says she won't be bullied by police.

"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.

Tetraplegic Ben Clifford used medicinal cannabis until his supply of the drug was seized in a police raid.
SIMON MAUDE/FAIRFAX NZ

Tetraplegic Ben Clifford used medicinal cannabis until his supply of the drug was seized in a police raid.

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.

 - Stuff

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