A Kiwi film director who has helped Rose Renton in her fight for drug reform and medicinal cannabis use is also facing drug charges.
Arik Reiss, 43, who lives in the Auckland suburb of Parnell, is charged with possession of a pipe to consume cannabis and possession of a cannabis plant.
The cannabis campaigner directed the 2015 documentary Druglawed, a film about the use of the drug and its law reform debate in New Zealand.
The film also focuses on how the US war on drugs has affected countries like New Zealand.
Last August Reiss posted photos online with Golden Bay woman Rebecca Reider holding a jar of cannabis at Auckland Airport.
He captioned the images as a "huge victory" for patients in New Zealand and reported Reider had "breezed through" Customs with several ounces of medicinal cannabis and concentrates, which were prescribed to her in Hawaii.
New Zealand law allows people who are prescribed a medicine overseas to bring one month's supply into the country for their own use.
Reiss has been associated with Renton, who yesterday appeared in the Nelson District Court to also face cannabis-related charges.
She spoke at a screening of Druglawed in 2015, and was interviewed for Reiss' sequel to the documentary, Fairfax Media reported at the time.
Renton has campaigned for the use of medicinal cannabis since 2015 when she fought for her son Alex Renton to be treated with its medicinal form.
The 19-year-old, who suffered from prolonged seizures, died on July 1 of that year after he become the first person in New Zealand to be treated with medicinal cannabis in hospital.
Reiss was charged earlier this year, but appeared in the Auckland District Court last Wednesday.
The court heard that police will determine whether to continue with the prosecution against the film director at his next appearance in December.
Renton faces charges of cultivating high cannabidiol (CBD) cannabis plants, processing cannabis products and possessing cannabis for supply and will appear in court again next month.
According to court documents she is alleged to have had in her possession cannabidiol (CBD), cannabis balm and cannabis brownies for the purpose of supply.
Another well known “Green Fairy” is due to appear in the Nelson District Court today charged with offences relating to cannabis.
Medicinal cannabis advocate Rose Renton faces charges in the Nelson District Court today of growing medicinal (high CBD) strains of Cannabis and making (high CBD) products for hospice patients and others with chronic pain.
Rose Renton presented a 17000+ signature to Parliament earlier this year seeking safe affordable medicinal access to cannabis.
Lawyer Sue Grey said the recent prosecution of at least three Green Fairies by the NZ Police is a tragedy for hundreds of sick and dying New Zealanders and their caregivers as their medicine has been seized by police. Many are suffering from life threatening conditions, debilitating pain and/or chronic auto-immune disorders and report considerable relief from various cannabis products.
Law reform is urgently required said Sue Grey. Cannabis is now widely recognised internationally as being extremely beneficial for chronic pain and for an array of serious auto-immune disorders. Over 85% of New Zealanders support medicinal access to cannabis and most of our political leaders have also expressed at least some support. Our last government sat back while the world moved forwards to facilitate access to cannabinoids to take advantage of their effectiveness and absence of serious side effects. The snails pace law reform here has been too little and too late with the result that New Zealand has fallen well behind best international practice. “We have barely missed having a government during the prolonged coalition talks, however this is one issue where Parliament could make a huge difference for many peoples lives” said Sue Grey.
New Zealand has huge potential for a clean green hemp and medicinal cannabis industry. We have the environment and expertise to grow and process safe, affordable and effective medicine. At present, instead of supporting this opportunity for economic development, government and our police continue to crushing it, prosecuting some of our most vulnerable and sick citizens and the Good Samaritans who are trying to help them.
Law reforms that came into force last month to facilitate doctors to prescribe CBD products are symbolic, but make no real difference. Official information released recently by the Ministry of Health shows that so far no CBD products have been approved. Sue Grey has issue a challenge to our new government to step up and prove it cares about sick New Zealanders by urgently reforming the law.
New research suggests that the cannabis-extract cannabidiol could help treat autism.
Autism is challenging to treat pharmacologically because there’s no single cause. Autism can be caused by genetic factors, environmental factors (e.g., pesticide exposure) or a combination of both. Depending on the underlying cause, the severity of symptoms ranges across a spectrum, thus leading to the classification of autism as a spectrum disorder.
But a recent study suggests that cannabidiol (CBD) could offer relief for people on the spectrum. Here's why.
A Broken Gate
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is characterized by communication deficits, aberrant social behavior, and restricted and repetitive motor behaviors. In many cases, ASD symptoms are the result of reduced inhibition in the brain. For instance, genetic causes can lead to the reduced activity of inhibitory brain cells, thus tipping the brain’s balance towards excitation. This is reflected in hypersensitivity to stimuli, such as to lights, odors, noises, or tactile stimuli that makes the individual act “abnormally” in social situations.
The individual who retreats from a social situation may be doing so because they’re overwhelmed by a strong odor, anxious from direct eye contact, or a host of other reasons brought on by an insufficient inhibitory gate in the brain. In about a quarter of ASD cases, the reduced brain inhibition is so profound, and the resulting increase in brain excitation so great, that seizures result. These cases, in which epilepsy and ASD co-occur, generally reflect the severe end of the spectrum and what scientists are seeking to treat.
Restoring inhibition in the brain thus seems like a reasonable approach to treatment. In mice that were genetically altered to express autism-like behaviors, scientists from Stanford University used a technique called “optogenetics” to increase the brain’s level of inhibition. The researchers could activate inhibitory brain cells by turning on a light-emitting diode (LED) in the brains of mice. When the light was off, the mice avoided social interaction. However, when they flipped the light on, the mice engaged in normal social behavior. Unfortunately, at this point we can’t use optogenetics in humans yet. So we need a new strategy to restore the brain’s inhibition.
CBD to the Rescue
Our research team at the University of Washington sought to similarly treat a mouse model of autism, but instead of using light, we used CBD. CBD has gained recognition and respect in the medical community for its success in treating seizures in children with Dravet Syndrome, a severe childhood epileptic disorder characterized by frequent seizures and autism. While these clinical trials showed that CBD was an effective anti-epileptic in these patients, they never investigated CBD’s effects on ASD. In fact, no clinical study has ever looked at the potential for CBD to treat ASD. To date, there’s only one clinical study being conducted in Israel, but it’s not expected to be completed until 2019. And there’s never been a study of CBD in animal models of autism…until now.
Nearly a decade ago, our lab created a genetic mouse model of Dravet Syndrome by mutating the same gene that causes the disorder in humans. And just like humans, mice have spontaneous seizures and exhibit autism-like behaviors. My colleagues and I used these mice to test whether CBD could treat not only seizures, but autism as well.
Autism is a human disorder, so how do you test autism in mice? Of course, there’s no perfect test, but scientists can model certain common aspects of autistic behavior such as preference to engage in social interaction along with the quality of that interaction. In one test, a mouse chooses between interacting with another mouse or an inanimate object. Generally, mice prefer spending time with the other mouse over the object. But autistic-like mice, such as our Dravet Syndrome mouse, are indifferent, and spend an equal amount of time interacting with the mouse as the object. We gave these mice CBD and the amount of time they spent interacting with the other mouse shot way up (notably, we only needed to give them 10-20% of the anti-epileptic dose to achieve this effect).
Looking at the quality of the social interactions, we found that our autistic-like mice tended to dart away from a social interaction and huddle in the corner of their testing box. This escape can be thought of as social anxiety, perhaps because they’re overcome by socially-related sensory stimuli. However, CBD reduced the frequency of these escapes and improved the quality of their social interaction. So in both of our measures of autistic-like social behavior in mice, CBD improved performance.
To understand how CBD was treating autistic-like behavior in our mice, we recorded the electrical signals in individual brain cells. We found that CBD increased brain inhibition and restored balance by blocking a brain receptor called GPR55, which affects how brain cells communicate with one another. GPR55 is one of CBD’s many brain targets which makes it such a diverse therapeutic tool for treating everything from pain to autism.
Social behavior in mice remains an imperfect model of ASD in humans. But as long as the federal government cannabis classifies alongside heroin as a Schedule I drug — a classification reserved for dangerous substances that have no accepted medical use — then it’s unlikely that we'll see large-scale human trials of CBD and ASD in the United States anytime soon. So for now, we hold our breath as we await the results of Israel’s clinical trial, but can sleep easier knowing that we’re finding success…at least in mice.
A mother has been forced to make cannabis oil at home to treat her nine-year-old daughter's seizures because the Australian government refuses to legalise it.
Katrina Spraggon from Queensland's Sunshine Coast has been petitioning lawmakers for three years to no avail, even when they allegedly threatened to stop providing her daughter Kaitlyn's bottled oxygen supply.
The single mother says Kaitlyn relies on the THC in raw cannabis oil to ease the chronic pain in her back and hips that trigger seizures as a result of her severe brain injury.
At the moment the youngster is only being provided with oxygen and the option of CPR when a seizure strikes - neither of which are long-term solutions.
Ms Spraggon said the cannabis oil has been the only remedy that keeps her daughter alert and able to interact with her siblings.
The problem is, this particular strand is illegal.
In an interview with Nine News, the Queensland mum said Lady Cilento Hospital in south Brisbane where trialling a cannabis oil but it makes Kaitlyn sick.
'My daughter has a quality of life now. They can't expect me to go back to giving her CPR,' she said.
'They're saying I'm a cannabis activist but its got nothing to do with that. I have given my daughter a quality of life and I've proven doctors wrong.'
In response to her claims Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick said: 'We just want to make sure it's safe for her and the child that is receiving this product.'
Ms Spraggon's Facebook page is very open about her use of the drug and has garnered widespread support.
One post in particular reads: 'I will not be silenced. I am my daughter's voice.'
She claims that Malcolm Turnbull 'gave his word and shook on it' that more would be done to look into Kaitlyn's case.
Doctors are able to prescribe raw cannabis if they believe it will benefit patients but Ms Spraggon was allegedly told it was illegal to use cannabis in Queensland outside that framework.
Doctors should be allowed to prescribe medicinal cannabis to patients in chronic pain throughout New Zealand, an advocacy group has said.
The call, from Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand, comes after Taranaki mother-of-one Helen Old gained approval to source medicinal cannabis (MC) products from Canada after a 12 month battle.
The 56-year-old, who has been battling multiple sclerosis, a disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord that has left her paralysed from the neck down, is one of only three people who have been given the green light to use different varieties of MC to treat pain.
It took Old, and her husband Peter, more than nine months to get her application before the Ministry of Health which took another two months to approve it.
Shane Le Brun, of Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand, said the process needed to be changed to benefit the tens of thousands high needs patients in New Zealand.
The advocacy group aims to "Put Patients before Politics" and help others get access to MC in New Zealand through legal means.
"It wouldn't have taken nearly as long if the GP had the knowledge of cannabis based products and it was clearly communicated that GPs were able to prescribe them," Le Brun said.
"What we'd propose is that for products that have been approved in other cases, GPs who have a demonstrated learning of cannabis can make the applications themselves."
He said the move would require a proactive, forward-thinking approach to the medicinal use of cannabis, with doctors being educated about the products from medical school.
Le Brun said there had been a 100 per cent success rate getting Canadian products approved by the ministry and the country had a really good system which he would like to see New Zealand adopt.
He wanted to see the products made available as unregistered medicines and manufactured in New Zealand.
"We would get the best cost that we could get for the patients, and as unregistered medicines GPs could prescribe them and notify the Ministry of Health that they are using it and what they are using it for, as opposed to having to seek permission every time."
Le Brun said it was a multi-faceted issue but the group would keep working towards its goal.
"We want to keep pushing the boundaries on this non-pharmaceutical process to lower the cost of entry.
"We want to make products like Canada does and we want to do that in New Zealand."
The move would require an agency to be set up within the Ministry of Health to oversee cannabis cultivation and MCANZ was keeping a watch on who would be forming the next government.
The majority of new patients seeking MC didn't want to grow it, they just wanted safe, sterile and easy to use products, Le Brun said.
Peter Old said the couple had received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback, from people right around the world, since their story was published.
"It has been quite amazing.
"Everyone has been very supportive of the fact that people in pain that have been down the road of conventional pain relief, which doesn't work for them, should have the option of trying something that doesn't effect anybody else's life."
The couple are now working through the process of getting the approved products into New Zealand.
Lincoln University has been approached to help carry out a medicinal cannabis trial.
A university spokeswoman said a private New Zealand company asked Lincoln to assist with the technical aspects of a medicinal cannabis project.
She said the university needed to gain the appropriate licenses before commencing the commercial contract.
“Due to the confidential nature of the contractual arrangements, we are unable to comment further at this stage.”
After widespread campaigning to make cannabis-based medication available in New Zealand, former Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne delegated approval for medical marijuana use applications to the Ministry of Health in February.
In June, he announced restrictions would be removed on pain relief cannabidiol so doctors could prescribe it without Ministry approval.
Ministry Medsafe group manager Chris James confirmed licences had been issued to Lincoln for the trial. It had also provided advice about the legal and regulatory requirements, he said.