Government must 'open eyes' on cannabis

Last updated 09:20 07/07/2014

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A Rotorua woman says cannabis might help her 6-year-old daughter who suffers seizures and wants the Government to "open their eyes" on the medical marijuana debate.

Karen Jeffries' daughter Zoe was born with refractory seizure disorder and Jeffries said she was told by doctors Zoe was unlikely to live more than 24 hours.

Zoe survived, but has grown up on a "cocktail of pharmaceuticals" and continues to suffer more than 100 seizures a day. She will never be able to talk properly or walk without the aid of a frame.

Jeffries said cannabis oil, which is illegal in New Zealand, might be a solution to giving Zoe a better chance at life, but she was fighting an uphill battle to access the drug.

She is one of a growing number of New Zealanders calling for a clinical trial of medical cannabis to treat children with rare diseases.

Several parents were risking fines or imprisonment by importing the drug illegally while one mother said she grew her own plants to make cannabis oil for her teenage daughter.

Jeffries said it was an "impossible situation" for families.

"It's hugely frustrating to see your child constantly seizuring and knowing that elsewhere in the world there's medicine that possibly could be helping them," she said.

"We never expect Zoe to jump up and start dancing and things like that, but to have a break from being tired or drowsy all the time would be great.

"There's every chance that it may not help. But we just want the ability to find out."

Jeffries' Facebook group, Mothers for Medicinal Cannabis NZ, has attracted more than 550 members in less than two months, with people sharing advice and information on medical research.

She said parents were desperate for the Government to decriminalise medical cannabis, or provide subsidies for the legally-approved cannabis mouth spray Sativex, which costs $1000 for three small bottles.

"We're working on an application for Sativex ourselves but even if we get it there's no way we could afford it," Jeffries said.

"We'd need some sort of concession."

She remained optimistic the Government might eventually review the laws and legalise cannabis.

"I think if we were talking about this two, three years ago it would be a no-show, but I think there is so much pressure on, not just our government, but around the world, and so much awareness, it would be stupid for our country not to take it on.

"I just wish they would open their eyes a little bit more."

Jeffries said it was urgent that New Zealand kept up with other countries that had legalised cannabis oil.

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"We want it now and not two, or three, years time," she said.

"It could be too late for many children by then."

- Stuff

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