A Taranaki man diagnosed with terminal cancer says while Parliament wrestles with medicinal cannabis law reform he is being forced to live like a criminal.
The father of two, who RNZ has agreed to call John, said he has to buy marijuana in dodgy late-night deals in deserted car parks and has to navigate around his children and neighbours to manufacture his own cannabis oil.
He said it helps fight his cancer, alleviates symptoms and allows him to rest.
When RNZ visited his neat suburban home, John was processing his latest batch of cannabis oil.
There were two late-model vehicles parked out front of the weatherboard bungalow. The lawn was neatly cut and a trampoline had pride of place in the back yard.
But on the rear deck the sweet smell of marijuana bud was competing with the astringent odour of isopropyl alcohol and a black ooze was quietly bubbling in a rice cooker nestled under a work table.
An array of muslin cloths, filters and jars stood at the ready.
“Currently I’m distilling some marijuana to make medicinal cannabis oil for myself,” John explained.
Manufacturing cannabis oil on the back deck was not something the successful businessman ever imagined himself doing.
“I was diagnosed with a grade 4 GBM brain cancer. I was told 16 months ago I had an average of 14 months to live so I’ve out done that already and I’m still standing here and functioning normally. I have got a few problems but nothing too bad.”
In his early 40s John sold his business and he and his wife, who RNZ has agreed to call Sue, turned the focus onto the family and his wellbeing.
After starting with conventional treatments the couple decided, in consultation with John’s oncologist, to try a combination of conventional and alternative therapies.
“The information that is out there about the benefits of medicinal cannabis on the internet – Dr Google – is huge and you end up going ‘I need to get a hold of some of that’ and in New Zealand it’s not there.
“And so as an upstanding citizen that I am in this world … I’ve done everything by the law in my life … here I am breaking the law just to make sure I can stay on this earth and be with my family.”