The devastated family of a Kaikohe community leader jailed for two years for cannabis supply has lodged an appeal.
Kelly van Gaalen, a 38-year-old mother of three, was sentenced to two years in prison for possession of cannabis for supply in the Kaikohe District Court on July 30 following a jury trial. She was charged with having 684g of cannabis, 24 times the personal use limit of 28g.
She had two plants, including one that had grown "exceptionally well", a family spokesperson says.
"She was a victim of an exceptional gardening skill," the spokesperson says.
"You don't use a pile driver to pulverise a peanut."
The family applied for bail in Whangarei District Court on August 3. The application was declined.
The application has gone to the Court of Appeal and they are waiting for lawyers to file submissions.
The spokesperson says the family is devastated with the jail term. Their top priority at the moment is to get Van Gaalen home. They don't want to comment further.
Van Gaalen was an active community member. She was on the Kaikohe-Hokianga Community Board as well as the chair of the Kaikohe Community Arts Council and promotions manager for the Kaikohe Business Association. Last December she was one of 15 Northlanders to receive a Local Heroes medal.
Van Gaalen has three children aged 5, 7 and 16.
A "Free Kelly Van Gaalen" group on Facebook has gathered more than 600 followers. A Givealittle page has also been set up to support her legal appeal.
Legalise Cannabis Party member Maki Herbert was charged with cultivation for supply of 153 plants.
She was sentenced to 12 months home detention and 12 months post sentencing on July 4.
Herbert says the disparity in her and Van Gaalen's sentences is "absolutely disgusting".
"I just can't believe she got what she got," Herbert says.
"There's got to be a balance in the sentencing process.
"99 per cent of the time we're law abiding citizens. Just because we choose cannabis as our medicine it puts us on the firing line."
Kaikohe Business Association chairman Steve Sangster says Van Gaalen is a rare asset to the community.
"The problem is the injustice of the good person put in a bad place and taken away from her family and children. It seems particularly harsh in 2015."