Members of a Northland Grey Power group campaigning for medicinal marijuana are replacing the traditional Christmas wreath on their front doors with a cannabis leaf to protest new laws they say do not go far enough to help people ease their pain.
Otamatea Grey Power has been campaigning for more than 18 months for people in extreme pain or terminally ill to be able to have easy access to medicinal cannabis. Since then some other Grey Power groups have joined the campaign.
This week the Government announced legislation that would allow people with a prescription to pick up medicinal cannabis from a pharmacy, as well as making sure terminally ill people won't be prosecuted for having the drug.
The law change will ensure terminally ill people with less than 12 months to live won't be prosecuted for having illicit cannabis. Although it is not legal for them to use cannabis, they won't be criminalised for doing so.
Health Minister David Clark said the compassionate measure legalises what some people are already doing, and will ensure no prosecutions while the new prescribing framework is set-up. Much of the detail of how the new scheme will work is still unclear, but it aims to make medicinal cannabis more readily available for people with terminal illnesses or chronic pain.
But Beverley Aldridge, President of Otamatea Grey Power, said the law change did not go far enough and she and other members of the group would be holding a week of mourning from Christmas Day showing their opposition to the 'weak and unjust' law change.
Mrs Aldridge said they would be putting an image of a big cannabis leaf on their doors this festive season instead of the traditional Christmas wreath. She said the group wanted those suffering from extreme pain, with a medical certificate, to be able to grow their own cannabis to relieve their pain.
''At Christmas time, when we celebrate the gift of life through the birth of Christ, we must now also suffer Judas' kiss of death, with the denial of access to one of God's greatest plant gifts,'' Mrs Aldridge said.
''We are commemorating a week of mourning from December 25 to January 1, for the continued denial of this wonderful, health-giving plant for the people of New Zealand, and the persecution, prosecution and incarceration of New Zealanders who want and need access to cannabis. We are placing a picture of the cannabis leaf on our front doors, as a symbol of protection from illnesses.''
She said the new law would still mean those in pain having to fork out more than $1000 a month to access pharmaceutical-grade medicinal cannabis products.
''It's silly to make people spend that amount of money to ease their pain when they could be growing their own. We want to be able to grow the plant so they can put it in smoothies and juices, with no desire to smoke it. It's a natural product that is proven to relieve pain,'' she said.
The law will go to a select committee and she urged people who wanted the law to be eased further to make submissions.
''We look forward to common sense when all New Zealanders acknowledge cannabis is a plant with amazing healing properties, and must be re-legalised.''
To secure NZ First support the law does not go as far as measures contained in a separate private member's bill in the name of Green MP Chloe Swarbrick, which is awaiting its first reading.
Mrs Aldridge said this bill would be a far better way to deal with the medicinal cannabis issue.
The bill would make a specific exemption for any person with a qualifying medical condition to grow, possess or use the cannabis plant and/or cannabis products for therapeutic purposes, provided they have the support of a registered medical practitioner.