25 Jan 2017

'Compassion' over state house tenant's medicinal marijuana

8:15 pm on 25 January 2017

An Auckland state house tenant has escaped eviction for growing and smoking marijuana for pain relief.

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Ida Murrie after her meeting with Housing New Zealand: "It went a lot better than I thought." Photo: RNZ / Benedict Collins

Ida Murrie, 61, was arrested last year for growing cannabis in her Housing New Zealand (HNZ) home.

Ms Murrie struggles to walk. She said she was in constant pain and cannabis provided relief.

Police charged her and HNZ started proceedings to evict her. The housing agency said it did not tolerate illegal activity in its properties.

Before before her meeting with HNZ last week, Ms Murrie suspected the agency would finalise her eviction and she would end up on the street.

"I'm 61, I'm an invalid, I've got heaps of health problems," she told RNZ just before the meeting.

"I've been there 20 years - never had a complaint, always paid my rent, always kept the place tidy and they're treating me like some sort of demon.

"They're kicking me out, they're giving me 90 days and I've got nowhere to go. I get $108 a week - what the hell am I going to do?"

Ms Murrie said she needed two knee replacements. Her ankles and hips were shot, the bones in her legs twisted. Marijuana helped her cope with the pain, she said.

Peter King from the Tenants Protection Association had said he would call on HNZ to show Ms Murrie "some humanity", but he too thought she had zero chance of being allowed to stay.

"She's not a criminal, if you have a look at her you'll see the pain that she's in."

HNZ tenancy manager Neil Adams would not allow RNZ to attend or record the meeting, despite Ms Murrie giving permission.

When she emerged 20 minutes later, Mr Murrie said the agency had changed its mind about kicking her out.

"It went a lot better than I thought it was going to go," she said.

She could stay "as long as I give them a guarantee there will be no illegal activities or smoking of drugs on the property or growing or anything like that and they'll do three monthly inspections for a year".

In a statement, Housing New Zealand said while it did not allow illegal activity in its properties it treated each case on its merits.

It said Ms Murrie was a long-term tenant with a good record and that it had taken into account personal matters relating to her situation.

"She has made an assurance that she will not repeat the actions that nearly resulted in the end of her tenancy and has agreed to being monitored every three months to ensure this is the case," the statement said.

Ms Murrie faces one charge of cultivating cannabis.

She said she would approach her doctor about accessing a form of medical marijuana legally, but was not sure she could afford it.

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