Burglars target Christchurch woman's medicinal cannabis stash

By Phil Vine

Christchurch woman Jane* has been using medical marijuana to ease the pain. Photo / Kurt Langer
Christchurch woman Jane* has been using medical marijuana to ease the pain. Photo / Kurt Langer

A chronically ill burglary victim is making an emotional appeal for the return of prized possessions - her marijuana plants.

The marijuana stash was stolen from the 49-year-old's Christchurch home.

"They took my medicine," says the woman, whom the Herald on Sunday agreed to name only as Jane.

For six years, Jane has suffered chronic debilitating foot and leg pain after a terrible car accident. Two years ago she started smoking marijuana as an alternative to opiate-based painkillers.

"Other drugs upset my system so badly. I have tried all the pills, none of them agree with me. Tramadol put me in hospital, damaged my pancreas. I rely on cannabis - it's the only thing that doesn't upset me."

After learning about the pain-relieving properties of marijuana, she asked "the acquaintance of a friend" to instruct her in the ways of marijuana cultivation.

Jane, a former medical sales rep, has been growing six plants at a time.

"I don't supply it for anyone I just grow it for me."

On Thursday afternoon Jane went to her little shed in the backyard to find the door open and 300g of cannabis missing.

"I went in there and my heart dropped."

It had just been harvested and was hanging up to dry. In two days it would have been ready to use.

"I just had enough to last until Christmas."

The stolen cannabis is a particularly potent variety called "Afghan Kush", specifically tailored to her pain-relief needs.

"I can't have any old stuff. I need the stuff that numbs me. I know that does it beautifully. Other varieties I need to take three times the amount to get the same effect, just so I can walk without screaming."

On Christmas Day 25 years ago, weeks before Jane was due to marry, her fiance drove their car into a power pole, seriously injuring her feet and legs.

"I got married in a wheelchair with my legs in plaster."

Jane developed the neurological condition Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome, following surgery. It is characterised by prolonged and excessive pain.

Before Jane started using marijuana medically she had only tried it once before, at a party when she was 33.

"I didn't much like it," she says.

Now the illegal recreational drug is a vital part of her pain relief regimen.

Jane says she smokes about one "tinny" daily. She claims she's not addicted and doesn't get "stoned" just taking "little puffs" on her pipe all day, to keep the pain at bay.

"I need numbness to be able to walk. I have no padding on the bottom of my left foot."

A mother of four, Jane says her kids fully approve of their mum's illicit medicine.

"They've seen me on pills and they've seen me on marijuana. They prefer cannabis. I can do things with them. And I can talk to them."

Jane has a firefighter brother and a nephew who's a policeman. She's the only one in the entire family who smokes cannabis.

"I have a mother who is 84 years old. She's seen me on the pills, in hospital. She approves of me smoking. As far as she's concerned hers is the only permission I require."

Cannabis cultivation is unlawful in New Zealand.

There is no dispensation for growing marijuana for medical reasons. One legal cannabis-based product, Sativex, is available, but it has to be approved by the Government on an individual basis. It costs around $1200 a month, four to five times the cost of the equivalent amount of blackmarket marijuana.

Campaigners have been calling on the Government for some time to provide safe legal access to cannabis-based pain relief.

"Legitimate and high-needs patients such as [Jane] are forced to go to the blackmarket by the high bar for access of a comparatively safe analgesic," says Shane Le Brun from Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand.

"The alternative to the blackmarket is taking the issue of supply into your own hands, which carries its own risks, as demonstrated by the situation [Jane] finds herself in."

Stolen photo albums, children's Christmas presents, thieved traveller's backpacks are all regular subjects of police appeals, and are often returned.

But Jane doesn't feel she has any recourse to the law.

"I can't go to police. There's nothing we can do legally, absolutely nothing."

Jane feels her only hope is appealing through the Herald on Sunday to the thieves' better nature. She's politely asking them to bring back her marijuana.

"Just put it in a bag and leave it on the front door. Please."

• If you are have any information about Jane's missing medicine please contact Phil.vine@nzherald.co.nz

- Herald on Sunday

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