A lawyer fighting against cannabis lawsuits said she was seeing an increase in the number of people being brought to justice for using or supplying the drug as medicine.
Police do not have the discretion not to press charges when people are caught with small amounts.
Having represented the high-profile green fairy Rose Renton in court in early 2019, Nelson’s lawyer Sue Gray is no stranger to cannabis enforcement laws.
Following the case, she said there appeared to be a “prosecution amnesty” for people who use cannabis as medicine or the “green fairies” who provide it.
Over the past few months, she said that has changed – there’s about one new client contacting her every week after being caught with cannabis meant to relieve pain.
She is actively working on the prosecutions in Auckland, Hawkes Bay, Nelson Dunedin and Taranaki.
“Some of them are very, very sick and growing up for their own needs. Others are altruistic natural healers and they have grown to provide supplies to friends and family and sometimes to a slightly larger network of sick people. In some cases there isn’t any at all, ”she says.
Many of his clients have been released without conviction, but Gray said the arrest and court process is still “extremely onerous”, especially for those with chronic illnesses.
She said many couldn’t afford hundreds of dollars every month to get a medically prescribed cannabis product.
People wishing to grow medicinal cannabis face an even bigger bill.
“It costs about $ 20,000 to get the necessary licenses and it takes a long time. The process is very, very slow. What this means is that the people who have been the local community healers and green fairies cannot afford $ 20,000. it is up to the larger business organizations to try and navigate this process, ”she said.
This follows a raid on a Waikato property and the arrest of a man who told RNZ he was giving cannabis to around 50 elderly people with pain.
Jason Tong and his son pleaded not guilty to three counts of possession and supply of cannabis in Huntly District Court on Monday.
The case has since come to the attention of Health Minister Andrew Little, who said he expected the police to apply the law and exercise their discretion as well.
“Generally, I think this government has indicated that the way we want drug laws to be enforced is based on public policy considerations,” he said.
But police have now confirmed that Tong’s case does not meet the criteria for secrecy under the Drug Abuse Act, which concerns people caught with “a small amount” of drugs or drug utensils.
Police said officers located a “significant amount” of cannabis on a property in Meremere with a street value of around $ 53,000.
Drug Foundation executive director Sarah Helm said the police could not be blamed for enforcing the law.
However, she was concerned about the implications.
“We have a number of patients who are probably scared right now. Scared of being sued, or they probably had their own supply – those who were relying on those people who were convicted or arrested,” she said.
Green MP Chloe Swarbrick said she constantly hears green fairies threatened with prosecution.
She said they were just ordinary people facing jail time for relief.
Swarbrick said attempts to gain all-party support for decriminalization have so far been thwarted by the National Party.
She will meet with the Minister of Health next week to discuss the matter.
“I think everything can change as long as there is political pressure – not just inside these political walls, but also the public. To be frank with you, the patients I have met , young and old, deserve it “. she said.
Helm said decriminalization must be accompanied by urgent funding for more medicinal cannabis products.