Kiwi actress Lucy Lawless is among the growing number of people interested and now pushing for the use of medicinal cannabis.
The Xena: Warrior Princess star was speaking on a panel as part of an initiative by the Start The Conversation group - an organisation whose aim is to inform the public about cannabis; particularly its medicinal qualities and the impacts of prohibition and legalisation.
The event, held at The Pumphouse Theatre in Takapuna, also featured BMX Olympian Marc Willers, medicinal cannabis user Dr Huhana Hickey, Paul Manning from biotechnology company Helius Therapeutics and one of the group's founders, Abe Gray.
Lawless became an ambassador for the group after a request was made by the late former president of the NZ Council of Trade Unions, Helen Kelly, who died from cancer in 2016. She had long supported medicinal cannabis.
Lawless said although she was not a smoker, she was keen to understand more about how cannabis can be used to help those who needed to be free of pain.
"It's not part of my world, but I'm very, very interested in a safer society and most particularly for my friends who are suffering from cancer and conditions that cause a lot of pain and nausea.
"I think it's really cruel and unusual that we withhold a non-toxic, effective natural drug...and criminalise them or the people - their families - who try to supply it for their well-being."
The event comes after National announced last month details of a bill to allow medicinal cannabis products to be treated like any other medicines.
Lawless said she had looked at Portugal as an example of a country which was doing well after its move to decriminalise the use of all drugs in 2001 specifically to fight a heroin epidemic.
Figures showed that despite what many disbelievers thought was a hugely risky move, overdose deaths decreased dramatically and the rate of new HIV infections continues to drop each year.
"They were seeing it as a public health issue instead of a criminal issue - and the benefits to their society have been massive. They've had a reduction [in drug addiction] and deaths."
Willers, who represented New Zealand at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, is also supporting the cause after he realised he had a problem with sleeping pills and began taking cannabis to help with his sleeping issues instead.
He acknowledged that there were a lot of misinformed people when it came to cannabis and he wanted to help them better understand.
National leader Simon Bridges has committed any Government he leads to enacting the result of the upcoming referendum on recreational cannabis use.
He also said that a Government led by him would pass a euthanasia bill if it won a referendum, even though both issues were traditionally conscience issues for the party.
Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters confirmed it was his Government's intention to enact the result too, but Justice Minister Andrew Little was more cagey, and said it was still not clear if the referendum would be "binding" for the Government or not.
The referendum on legalising cannabis for personal use was won by the Greens in its confidence and supply agreement with Labour. It must happen either before or at the 2020 election.
Bridges said clearly that he would abide by "what the people want".
"Yes. I think we've got to," Bridges said.
"We've got to see the question, we're going to have an informed debate I hope on the issue, but absolutely in principle we support referendums and their outcomes."
Bridges said his party would not campaign one way or the other but would leave individual MPs to campaign on the referendum in whichever way they liked.
Peters, whose party has long supported referenda, said it would be a binding referendum.
"We don't believe in fake democracy. If the question is going to the people the people's answer will be paramount," Peters said.
But Little, who is managing the referendum, said the Government still had to decide whether to make the referendum binding or not.
"In order for a binding referendum to take place there has to be a reasonable degree of specificity and certainty about what would follow a 'yes' vote," Little said.
He conceded that even if the referendum was not binding, ignoring its result would be "politically difficult".
"Having made the commitment to have a referendum, it'd be politically difficult if the result said 'go ahead and do something' not to do something, but I think it's in the interest of the Government for its own sake and the electorate to have some certainty about what the result means."
Little said decisions about the referendum would happen in the next couple of months.
Several referendum results have been ignored by Governments, including one to reduce the number of MPs to 99 and another to end the so-called "anti-smacking" law; but these were referenda initiated by citizens.
Government-Initiated referenda, like the cannabis one, are usually obeyed at least in part by Governments.
The last major change enacted by a referendum was the introduction of the mixed-member proportional voting system in 1993.
Referendums have the potential to seriously shock political systems.
A 2016 non-binding referendum in the UK asking citizens whether to leave the European Union - but not specifying how exactly to do so - has seen the resignation of one Prime Minister and large fractions emerge within the ruling Conservative Party.
The Government may adopt a rarely used process to help shape drug law as the country prepares for a referendum on legalising cannabis.
Justice Minister Andrew Little told Newshub the Government could undertake a citizens jury process to guide public debate on the issue - similar to the process used in the recent Irish abortion referendum.
"I know that in Ireland in the lead up to their Abortion Referendum, they used quite a novel process - a citizens jury process to gauge public reaction.
"That's something I'm interested in looking at doing. It might be a useful device in the way we conduct our public debate here."
A citizens jury is a randomly selected group of civilians who listen to expert perspectives for several days before forming a judgement on an issue.
The groups are typically used when discussing difficult moral issues. The University of Otago hosted one on legalising euthanasia, with the jury ultimately split 10-5 in favour of a law change - a result the organisers said reflected the complexity of the issue.
Mr Little said he is in discussion with New Zealand First and the Greens about putting together the referendum, which will be held some time before the 2020 election.
He said these discussions were about the timing of the referendum, what question would be asked, and whether or not it would be binding.
Mr Little stressed the importance of an information campaign that accompanies the referendum, and how that would be delivered.
When asked whether our drug laws were working, he said there was a growing appetite for change and support for some form of liberalisation of our drug laws.
High-profile Christchurch lawyer Nigel Hampton QC says the costs of our drug laws are "astronomical" and have been morally and fiscally unsustainable for years.
Mr Hampton, who was made a Companion of the NZ Order of Merit for services to law this Queens Birthday, suggested decriminalising the personal use of drugs as an option to reduce prison numbers and harm from drug use.
Globally enforced US-led prohibition laws played into gang - including mafia - cultures, increasing our prison populations unnecessarily, Mr Hampton said. Drug laws are a cause of the development and popularity of more harmful synthetic drugs like methamphetamine, he argued.
Reform was needed, but difficult choices would have to be made about which drugs to change laws around, and whether these drugs would be legalised or decriminalised, Mr Hampton said.
His views were shared by private rehabilitation clinic founder David Collinge, who went one step further, saying completely legalising all drugs could be a way to get rid of methamphetamine.
He said the money currently spent on trying and imprisoning people could be shifted to education and rehabilitation.
He said meth was an epidemic that's tearing apart communities, but that individual users weren't necessarily to blame.
"Dependence on a substance is a health issue, and criminalising users isn't helping them at all - a lot of people have a stereotype of addicts, but I can say that pretty much all of our clients are good people who made poor decisions, or came from unbelievably poor environments where addiction was always destined to happen to them."
He said gangs would lose their business overnight if safer, cheaper alternatives to methamphetamine were made legal and regulated.
He cited Switzerland as an example of successful radical drug reform implemented by a conservative government. Switzerland began giving addicts legal, chemically pure heroin in 1994. It's administered with a doctor present, in safe clinics, using clean needles.
In 2008, a vote brought forward by the right wing Swiss People's Party aimed at ending the heroin program was rejected by more than two-thirds of voters.
Mr Collinge said removing the stress and risk of getting drugs made people less reliant on them to relax.
"With that, people were forming relationships, people were getting jobs, and from hundreds of fatal overdoses every year, not one person - zero - had [overdosed] on legal heroin. Overall drug use is down 30 percent, which is much better than our current model of criminalisation of users."
Mr Collinge said he had to run Wellington rehabilitation clinic Red Door Recovery at a loss because of a lack of Governmental funding, but that they could afford to fully sponsor up to a dozen clients every year on donations.
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 cannabis 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 cannabis 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."
Well-insured, John has spent hundreds of thousand of dollars on various treatments and even travelled to overseas clinics in an effort to beat his illness, but the decision to source cannabis locally plunged him into a perhaps even more unfamiliar world.
"I just feel like I'm dodgy, you know getting text messages from dealers that delete [automatically] and meeting them in dodgy car parks around the province. It's quite funny really trying to do it. These people are who are growing it around the place I want to keep them safe too. It's part of the game, it's quite fun."
John ingests four or five doses - about the size of a grain of rice - a day and reckons half a kilo of cannabis distills down to about 20ml which will last him about six months.
Sue doesn't even consider what they are doing is illegal.
"It's just part of life now. It obviously wasn't in the long term plan but if it keeps him well by all means. I hardly even think about it. I don't feel like we've broken the law at all.
"I know we have but this feels a lot more natural and where you compare the cost of this it's very low compared to John's current treatment which is $70,000 and that's one injection every three weeks."
Sue believes cannabinoids have an advantage over other therapies.
One of the difficult things has been managing the manufacture of cannabis oil around the couple's children aged eight and 10, John said.
"It's called 'dad's medicine'. I don't make it in front of them and I keep it away from them and obviously they are at school at the moment and I'll clear this all up before they come home. And as far as my tablets are concerned they know that's my medicine and they are not to touch it."
All of this could be much easier if medicinal cannabinoids were freely available in New Zealand, but John is not a fan of the government's medicinal cannabis bill which he says doesn't go far enough.
"You can only get it or do it if you are terminal. We're all terminal, you know, and they say if you've got a year to live. Well who knows if you've got a year to live. I got told 16 months ago I had 14 months you know. It's that sort of thing you get told and you think 'stuff you I'm not going anywhere I'm staying here and I'm sticking around'."
National's member's bill addresses supply, but John's concerned it may never see the light of day.
"If the National one came through. Yes, most probably I still can't grow my own or make my own oil but the product might be cheaper and at least you won't feel deep down that you're breaking the law.
"Not having to worry about the dark side of medical marijuana and to be able to go to a doctor and get some good product would take that weight of your mind and you'd be able to focus on getting better. Part of beating cancer and getting well is your mindset."
John, however, fears that until someone in power has to go through what he is going through and others have already gone through the law won't change significantly.
"I've always said since the beginning the law will mostly not change until someone at the very top of our country, our government, is touched by what I've been touched by.
"I don't want to wish anything upon anyone, but it won't change until someone ... someone in Parliament gets this."
Hikurangi Cannabis Company is taking a keen interest in producing cannabis-based medicines but cannot start a commercial venture until there's a law change.
Managing director Manu Caddie said government's bill wasn't clear on what sort of regime would be set up for producing and purchasing medicinal cannabis.
He said National's member's bill provided more clarity and the government should incorporate some of it into it's own planned legislation.
The government still has the numbers to pass its medicinal cannabis bill when it returns to Parliament and has accused the National Party of playing politics by withdrawing its support.
The member's bill under National MP Shane Reti's name would allow for medicinal cannabis products to be approved in the same way a medicine is approved by Medsafe, with the exception of loose leaf cannabis products.
Medicinal cannabis products would be pharmacist-only medicine and doctors would decide who had access to an identification card that certified patients to buy the product.
Mr Bridges said the government's bill, currently before select committee, was totally silent on how a medicinal cannabis regime would operate in practice.
National supported the bill in its first reading but is now pulling that support and putting its own version up.
"The government has said it will increase access now and leave it to officials to think through the controls and the consequences later. That's typical of this government but it's not acceptable. So we're putting forward a comprehensive alternative,'' Mr Bridges said.
Health Minister David Clark said it was a shame the National Party was playing politics over medicinal cannabis.
"If they really wanted to do this, the obvious thing is that they could have done it anytime in the last nine years," he said.
New Zealand Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell wants the government to fix its medicinal cannabis bill by working with the opposition and including the best bits from National's member's bill.
Labour's bill allows terminally ill people to possess and use cannabis but not grow it.
As to how they would get a supply of cannabis in the first place without breaking the law is unclear.
Medicinal cannabis advocates including Mr Bell have been critical of how long the government has taken to progress legislation.
Mr Bell said he hoped the politics could an be put to one side for the sake of those who are terminally ill.
"What we would hope could happen now is that Labour and National get a room and work this out and if there's good stuff in the National bill take it out of the National bill and put it in the government bill.''
National MP Shane Reti has been travelling overseas looking at preferred models for dealing with cannabis legalisation, which is the basis for the member's bill in his name.
Other aspects of the bill include cultivators and manufacturers not being able to be located within 5km of residential land, or 1km of sensitive sites such as schools and wahi tapu.
No advertising of medicinal cannabis products to the public will be permitted and the Ministry of Health will review the legislation in five years.
Mr Bell said the problem with the government's bill was it allowed a defence for people with terminal illness in terms of their possession but did not allow for a defence for how they get hold of it.
"That was a real weakness in the government bill.''
The parliamentary committee considering the medicinal cannabis legislation is deadlocked on whether or not the bill should proceed.
Despite that, the government still has the numbers to progress the bill giving the terminally ill access to medicinal cannabis.
Labour MPs supported a number of recommendations made by the Health Ministry, including establishing a regulatory regime for production quality standards and to allow information sharing about product availibility.
In the committee report they also defended not extending the bill to people in chronic pain or with a severe or debilitating illness, and not giving legal protection to friends and family who may supply cannabis to the terminally ill.
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Andrew Little is promoting the use of a citizens' jury to inform public debate on legalising cannabis.
The government is committed to a referendum on legalising personal use of cannabis by 2020 under an agreement between Labour and the Green Party.
A citizens jury is a randomly selected group of civilians who listen to expert evidence before forming a judgement.
Richard Egan, the co-director of the social and behavioral research unit at Otago University, supported that process because, he said, a referendum relies on the public being fully informed, which is not always the case.
Dr Egan said ideally there would be a number of citizens' jury made up of people from different backgrounds and ethnicities.
Despite his own four decade stint in Parliament, Winston Peters has this morning argued "temporary empowered politicians" should not decide cannabis legalisation, and he's keeping tight-lipped with his personal views on this issue.
The Acting Prime Minister said for the last 20 years his stance on cannabis law reform, including decriminalisation and potential regulation of its sale, has been in support of a national referendum.
"It doesn't matter what I support. What I support is a more meaningful democracy where the people get to decide these issues, not politicians who are not here for long in the main anyway, but decided by the people of this country after properly organised, lengthy debate on the merits, and the pros and cons, of the issue," Mr Peters said.
When pressed on whether cannabis prohibition does more harm than good, Mr Peters conceded evidence suggested it did, but that this was not the whole story.
"There's a lot of evidence to suggest it's (prohibition) doing a lot of harm, yes, but then there's a lot of evidence to suggest its use is doing a lot of harm as well," Mr Peters said.
"In the end we've got to balance up the pros and cons as I say, and let the people decide what they think is fair and reasonable."
The NZ First leader was also unwilling to provide any clarity about what specific reform to cannabis law should be raised in a referendum - whether there should just be a decriminalisation of personal use of the drug, or whether the state should regulate cannabis sale.
Mr Peters said if a referendum does occur, it should comprise of a single question that clearly defines the law change proposed, and not a series of options for different possible cannabis law alterations.
"You've got to probably have a referendum where the issue is easily understood and where the public steer from the result of the referendum is very clear," he said.
"It's very hard to answer all these questions in that context because you could have and A, B, C, D type of question but that would seriously complicate the matter and might confuse the public.
"We should see what it is on the question of legality, or the future law we should decide, make the question fit that and then put it to the people of this country."
Mr Peters said a "small team" of politically unbiased people who understand the democratic requirements for framing a clear question could be in charge of the referendum, such as the electoral commission.