Clay Drummond can’t sleep more than 30 minutes at a time. He is permanently exhausted and in excruciating pain.
Ever since being diagnosed with an inoperable tumour seven years ago, the New Plymouth man been in agonising pain – and he says the pain is not just from the tumour but from the medication he is on.
Drummond spoke to the Herald on a day when he tried to stay off morphine and was fighting the withdrawal symptoms. His hands were clammy and sweaty, he had chills and then sweating. The pain led him to despair. It sounds extreme but he says that’s his everyday life.
“If I don’t take the pill, within about two hours the withdrawals start to kick in. Clammy, sweaty hands, chills. Seconds later you’re sweating. I have bowel problems, I get nauseous. And I become paranoid – that’s the big one for me. Morphine is a really heavy drug,” he says.
If Drummond’s not struggling with withdrawals he’s struggling with the side-effects of the medication. It’s a lose-lose situation for him and it led him to go public with a plea for New Zealanders to legalise cannabis so he can use it for treatment.
Winter is the worst. The cold and rainy days make his pain worse and he has no option but to fall back on morphine. The side-effects of the drug mean that he then has to take other drugs to minimise those, leading to a cascade of medications that still leave him in agony.
“You take that tablet then you have to take others like some for bowel and then anti-nausea that blocks you. Every tablet requires another tablet. How do you heal like that? Every tablet has side effects. It’s just adding more problems,” he told the Herald.
“I only want it if I have to have it. I take it if the pain is a 9/10, which often happens in winter.”
He says he has good results every time he has managed to use CBD oil or edibles instead of morphine, which also don’t have the negative side-effects of the prescription drug.
“I’m sore, I can’t even lay in bed for half an hour. Without cannabis, I wake up every 30mins. With cannabis, I get a 6h sleep minimum. The difference it makes! There is nothing worse than being given a tablet and having a forced sleep,” he says.
“I’m angry because I’m sitting here renting a house on a medical benefit. I sold my houses, have nothing left, I was earning $100k a year, now I’m on a medical benefit. I freak out when I am close to running out of marijuana. It stresses me out because I know I’m going to be in pain. The only thing I have to help is morphine which comes with all the side effects and all other medication I have to take because of it. It puts a lot of stress on somebody who is not well,” he explains.
“How are you going to heal with this much stress on your body?”
Drummond believes the healthcare system is too quick to prescribe medication people don’t even need but fails to consider alternatives he considers helpful.
“You sprain your ankle and the doctor will give you Tramadol straight off the bat. You don’t even need it. You take it because the doctor told you to.”
“Don’t ever let me think my only hope is morphine,” he says. “I know cannabis works for medical reasons.”
Drummond, who lost his family at a young age, says he has no support other than a few friends and lives in despair.
“I’m existing, not living,” he says. “I’m messed up because of the chemicals in these drugs.”
Desperate for help, Drummond took to Facebook to put out an emotional plea for the Government to legalise cannabis.
He posted the video “on behalf of sick people” like him, and believes too much of the debate has focused on recreational use of marijuana rather than the benefits of using it for medical purposes.
“If I’m honest with you (…) every single day that’s gone by, there’s not been one day when I didn’t think to myself ‘is today a good day to die?’ especially in winter,” he says in the video.
“What I’m disgusted about is that the New Zealand Government is still f*****g around with this when there’s people like myself that are begging for this,” he added.
“None of you care until you get sick and then you’re gonna care.”
“I don’t know how much longer I can keep going around and doing this cycle. I just don’t know how long,” Drummond says in the footage. “I think about suicide daily.”
“New Zealand Government, sort your s**t out, because I can’t keep doing this. I’m heartbroken, because you’re meant to care.”
He also believes there needs to be more education about what can and can be done in New Zealand. For example, he says very few people know you can actually get a prescription from a GP for medicinal cannabis in New Zealand.
“Most importantly this needs to be government subsidised just like any other pill. None of this $400 dollar for a bottle of CBD,” he adds.
“Yes it’s currently medically legal, but at what cost? $400 for a bottle of CBD via prescription that will last a few weeks and this is only just one component of the plant. This is out of reach for many people.
“More info and education to the doctors also with an affordable price point, just like any other thousands of pills you can pick up for $5 subsidised fee. The point i want to make here is that by making it legal recreationally, this will allow sick and suffering people the ability to make and grow their own oils without being extorted exuberant amounts of money by obtaining it via legal means. For a plant that has killed 0 people in the last few thousand years, there is quite a bit of controversy.”
Growing majority of Kiwis support legalising cannabis – new poll
A growing majority of New Zealanders support legalising cannabis for personal use, according to a new poll just three months from a national referendum.
Licensed medicinal cannabis company Helius Therapeutics commissioned the independent Horizon Research survey of nearly 1600 Kiwis. It found 56 per cent of respondents plan to vote for legalising cannabis for personal use on September 19.
Support for legalising pot continues to grow after the last Horizon poll in February registered 54 per cent support for the bill.
The poll also found women, at 59 per cent, favoured legalisation more than men, at 52 per cent.
The survey asked respondents if they would vote yes for the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill in a non-binding referendum, which will be held on at the same time as the national election.
Helius Therapeutics chief executive Paul Manning said the poll spoke to an evenly divided country on the issue.
“This result will energise both the yes and no camps. It shows just how close the vote will be.”
Support for legalising cannabis also contrasted sharply according to political allegiance with National voters by far the least in favour, at just 31 per cent.
Green voters were the most in favour of the bill with 81 per cent support.
Notably, New Zealand First voters have now shifted to support reform – 53 per cent are in favour.
Seventy per cent of ACT voters now plan to tick yes at the referendum – up significantly from 45 per cent in February.
And 72 per cent of Labour voters support the bill.
The age group most in favour of legalising cannabis was 25-34 years at 72 per cent.
The least in favour were those over 75 years of whom only 27 per cent supported the bill.
The June poll continues a trend among the Helius cannabis surveys, which have found increasing support for cannabis legalisation since August last year, when only 39 per cent of Kiwis were in favour.
However, a November 2018 Helius cannabis survey registered the highest support for legalising cannabis for personal use at 60 per cent.
Green MP Chloe Swarbrick – a vocal campaigner for relaxing drug prohibition – said attitudes towards cannabis legalisation among the public and parliamentarians had come a long way, as evidenced by the recent Horizon poll.
“New Zealanders realise that their yes vote means better community wellbeing, sensible regulation and reduced harm for a substance that is abundantly available under prohibition,” Swarbrick said.
“It’s become evident that those campaigning for maintaining criminal prohibition are more focused on moralising than actually solving any problems.
“Evidence is evidence. The evidence shows and the experts agree that the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill will increase community wellbeing and reduce harm.”
The referendum at the 2020 election will ask about support for a bill that would include:
• Allowing products to be bought only in licensed premises from a licensed and registered retailer, and banning online or remote sales,
• Banning the use of cannabis publicly, allowing it only in special, licensed premises or on private property,
• Controlling the potency of cannabis in available products,
• Introducing a legal purchase age of 20, and
• Banning advertising of cannabis products, and requiring products to carry health messages.
Respondents to the latest survey came from Horizon’s nationwide research panels and represent the adult population of the 2018 Census with results weighted by factors including age, gender, income and party voted for at the last election. The maximum margin of error is 2.9 per cent.
The online survey was conducted between June 10 to 14 and questioned 1593 adults.
– Additional reporting by Tom Dillane