13 Oct 2016

Alex Renton's mum presents reform petition to Parliament

12:30 am on 13 October 2016

A woman whose son died of severe epilepsy has presented a petition with more than 15,000 signatures to Parliament, urging the government to make medicinal cannabis more readily available.

Rose Renton's 19-year-old son Alex Renton died in Wellington Hospital last year, after suffering from status epilepticus - an acute, prolonged epileptic seizure.

Part of his treatment before his death was medicinal cannabis, which Mrs Renton said provided him with some relief, but was given to him too late.

A report by Wellington Hospital specialists said the oil had no effect on his underlying seizures, and medical staff never saw any improvement.

But Mrs Renton said Alex had died peacefully.

"A lot of those drugs that were so heavily layered over the months leading up to his death were taken off and drastically reduced and the [cannabis] oil doses were increased."

The process to acquire the oil and get approval to use it was drawn out and far from easy, Mrs Renton said.

Since Alex's death Mrs Renton has campaigned for better access to safe, affordable and good quality medicinal cannabis.

Alex Renton

Alex Renton was given medicinal cannabis before his death. Photo: Facebook

Ms Renton presented the petition to Labour and Green MPs on the forecourt of Parliament today.

The presentation featured speeches by other campaigners, including a man who said he was using medicinal cannabis himself.

After handing the seven boxes worth of signatures over, Rose Renton said she felt huge relief.

"To have 17,500 individual energies released and going into Parliament where they belong, out of my bedroom, is great. It's a great feeling for me, for everyone that's supported me, I know Alex is here with me in the sense of getting the job done," she said.

Medicinal cannabis was only granted to Alex after a long battle with medical staff for backing, and after 43 other drugs had failed.

He was the first person in New Zealand to be granted an exemption to use the drugs after Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne approved it as a one-off treatment.

The Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the way the system worked now was broken.

"It is the doctors who should decide what is the best treatment for our loved ones who are sick and are in pain. And for as long as this law remains as it is, it is up to politicians to make that decision."

"How can that possibly be a rational, modern, 21st century law, that is compassionate for the people that are sick and ill?" she said.

Rebecca Reider, who had complex chronic pain syndrome, successfully brought cannabis into the country earlier this year.

She said she had also had some awful experiences with the law.

"Three police officers [were] searching my house, carefully reading all my texts and emails, and confiscating all of my medicine. I stood there in pain at the door, begging them to leave me a single dose," she said,

Officers charged Ms Reider with a list of offences that could have sent her to prison for nine years.

"I only spent 15 minutes locked in a tiny cell in the courthouse basement, but it was long enough to know that this is a totally inappropriate response on behalf of our justice system," she said.

Labour MP Damien O'Connor had a Member's Bill in the ballot which would make it easier for patients to access medicinal cannabis products.

"National have acknowledged this is an area that should be looked at, I think we just need to prod the Minister and the Government to get on and take action," he said.

The petition will now be considered by a parliamentary select committee.

Members of Parliaments, lobists and supports gathered outside Parliament with petition to legalise cannabis, 17,000 people signed the petition. Rose Renton.

Rose Renton, who presented the petition, says medicinal cannabis gave some relief to her 19-year-old son - and obtaining it was far too difficult. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Members of Parliaments, lobists and supports gathered outside Parliament with petition to legalise cannabis, 17,000 people signed the petition. Rose Renton hands over the petitions

Ms Renton hands over the petition to Labour and Green MPs. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Māori make up more than a third of those convicted for possession and/or use of an illicit drug.

The petition for was signed by more than 15,000 people. Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King

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