Hamilton girl’s cannabis use no longer taboo
A Hamilton mother says her daughter’s medical cannabis use is no longer taboo, with the drug receiving a green thumbs-up according to a recent survey.
Paige Gallien was prescribed Sativex, a medicinal cannabis sprayed via the mouth, two years ago.
The 13-year-old has Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy, and suffered up to 20 seizures a day. Today, Paige has two or three seizures a week.
Sativex has been legal in New Zealand since 2008 but has only partial approval, meaning each application has to be authorised through the Health Minister’s office.
Paige’s mother, Kelly Gallien, said she “jumped through hoops” to get the drug.
“We were at home at the time and saw a news piece about a little girl overseas who used medicinal cannabis and we knew we had to try it for Paige,’ Gallien said.
“At the time, I didn’t realise how difficult it would be to secure [Sativex].
“It was such a taboo word, the ‘c’ word.”
But a survey by the NZ Drug Foundation shows 64 per cent of respondents think personal use of small amounts of cannabis should be allowed.
The foundation’s director Ross Bell said the results show voters are ready for a change.
“This poll shows that it doesn’t matter what party people back, there is consistent support to move away from the criminal justice approach to drugs,” said Bell.
“The results confirm our sense of a shift in public mood.
This poll is important because it shows people understand drug law changes aren’t just a choice of either sticking with the black market status quo or lurching to sales from the corner dairy, Bell said.
“It was an old political truth that any changes to drug law was a poisoned chalice, but this poll well and truly busts that myth. There’s a message here for politicians: they no longer need to fear talking about drug law reform.”
Gallien and several other families have joined with Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand, a registered charity to help people get medicinal cannabis legally and without the stigma attached.
The charity’s coordinator, Coordinator Shane Le Brun, agreed that public perception has changed.
He said there are just under 40 people in New Zealand who are prescribed Sativex, with three of them being children.
In addition to the Sativex, Paige is also on four other medications for her epilepsy. Days after her first dose, two years ago, she drew a picture of a smiley face, which was a massive achievement.
The teen now enjoys the playground and watching musical group High-5. She weighs less than 30 kg but “is as healthy as can be”.
“Paige has trouble with walking, verbal.. just your general everyday stuff,” Gallien said.
“We’re lucky she’s still here basically.”
The spray contains half the level of THC – the compound that gives the psychoactive “high” – usually found in cannabis.
The family does not receive a subsidy for the drug, which costs about $1000 a month for three bottles.
“We have been doing some fundraising and once that goes I don’t know how we’re going to survive on doing it,” she said.
“Funding needs to happen, we just can’t live without the medicinal use of it anymore.
“The politicians they have no idea what we go through day-to-day and the life we’ve got now with our little ones. If they could see the difference it makes to [a patient’s] quality of life, they might see that it’s all worth it.”