Takaka woman's use of cannabis to treat MS 'topical'
A Nelson District Court judge struggled to find an appropriate sentence for a woman who cultivated cannabis to help treat her multiple sclerosis.
Fiona Porter, 45, told the court on Monday that she grew cannabis for personal medicinal use after medication prescribed to treat her multiple sclerosis left her unable to see, walk or speak properly at times.
Police found 11 mature cannabis plants growing among tomatoes and corn at her Takaka home on February 9.
Porter told police that she blended leaves from the plants and consumed them.
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Choosing to appear without legal representation, Porter explained to judge Peter Hobbs that she gave up growing cannabis in 2011 after being reprimanded by the court.
Having been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2013, she decided to start growing again last year, she said.
"Since I started taking the [prescribed] medication I can't drive, I can't concentrate and it affects my liver.
"It's no excuse though. I know I broke the law and I'm willing to take responsibility for it, " she said.
Hobbs said situations like Porter's were "certainly more topical in the courts and with politicians".
He then scolded a man who called out from the public gallery in Porter's support.
"It's not a game show, we don't need responses from the back. Ms Porter's doing perfectly well by herself," Hobbs said.
However, he struggled to find a fitting sentence for Porter, whose health precluded community work.
Supervision was also inappropriate because Porter lived in Takaka and was unable to travel to reporting offices in Mapua and Motueka, the court heard.
Hobbs stood the matter down while Porter and a probation officer determined her ability to pay a fine of up to $800.
Hobbs told Porter that it was "clear that you suffer from a serious medical condition and that you have used the cannabis for medical purposes" and said he was "satisfied that a fine is the appropriate outcome".
Porter was fined $500 to be paid within seven days.
* A Department of Corrections spokesperson wished to clarify that there is a gazetted reporting office operating in Takaka. Comments on this story are now closed.