Marijuana campaigner makes 'history' getting past Auckland Airport customs

Rebecca Reider was cleared of all charges at the Nelson District Court in March 2016 relating to the importation of a ...
Robert Cannon

Rebecca Reider was cleared of all charges at the Nelson District Court in March 2016 relating to the importation of a medicinal marijuana product.

A woman is claiming victory after bringing a bag of cannabis through customs at Auckland Airport - without so much as a raised eyebrow.

Rather than concealing the drug supply, Rebecca Reider said she happily showed off her haul of one ounce of medicinal marijuana, which has now been hailed by cannabis campaigners as an historic precedent. 

Reider, a Californian-born Nelson resident, said she was excited to be the first person to legally bring raw cannabis flower into New Zealand.

"We've made history," she said. I'm the first person to possess marijuana in its natural form since the Misuse of Drugs Act was passed. It's huge."

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"It's long overdue. It's one small step on the road to a compassionate medical system here. I'm going to keep fighting for everyone else to have access because I realise not everyone can hop on a plane overseas."

The cannabis flower and cannabis oil was prescribed to her by a doctor in Hawaii for her chronic pain, she said.

She had hatched the plan months earlier and described it as a "relief" to get back through customs on Friday without incident.

"It was all very straightforward," she said.

Legally people are allowed to bring medicinal marijuana into New Zealand.

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The "loophole" law means anyone entering the country can lawfully carry with them a one-month supply of medicinal cannabis or cannabis-related product, as long as it was legally prescribed by a medical practitioner overseas.

Reider said her next step was working with others to set up a how-to guide for others going overseas to get prescription cannabis.

"We've got to keep fighting for a right to access it. Our ultimate goal is to make it legal and accessible right here on New Zealand soil for everyone who can benefit from it."

Activist and documentary maker Arik Reiss posted photos of Reider getting through customs in a wheelchair, smiling and holding a jar full of cannabis.

Reiss described it as "a huge victory for patients and progress as a whole for NZ".

The head of the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (Norml) Chris Fowlie said the situation could help pave the way for more Kiwis to bring legal cannabis into the country.

Fowlie said he was impressed that Reider took a stand on the issue.

"This is the first time that someone has done it in an open upfront way," he said.

"I'm sure others have brought the cannabis with them... I think it was very brave of Rebecca. Good on her. And good on Customs for not being d..ks over it."

Associate Health Minster Peter Dunne said in March this year that it was "potentially possible" to bring a medicinal cannabis product prescribed overseas for their own use for a maximum of one month, without repeat.

He said he had no intention to change that "loophole".

"That has been in the law for over 40 years, and applies to all medicinal products, not just cannabis related products," he said.

Dunne said any importation of a cannabis-related product would be subject to border control requirements but that it will not be possible to bring in raw cannabis as it is prohibited by law.

Reider, 37, appeared in Nelson District Court in March facing criminal charges including importing medicinal cannabis products and another five charges relating to possession. She was discharged without conviction.

Reider said at the time she was hugely relieved, and said it felt like a significant win for the right to medicinal cannabis.

Speaking on Monday, Reider's lawyer Sue Grey hoped her success bringing raw cannabis through customs would shine new light on many New Zealanders' poor access to medicinal cannabis.

"It's fantastic customs are now recognising the law and allowing people to bring medicine into the country but I remain really concerned for people who are too poor or too sick to go overseas for it.

"Peter Dunne says he's waiting for evidence ... the fact that something is improving pain or removing nausea is evidence."

 - Stuff

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