Adam Poulter had a tumour the size of a tennis ball removed from his brain but his choice of medicine could land him in jail.
The 30-year-old, who two weeks ago had the tumour removed, is adding his voice to the call to legalise cannabis, though he does not advocate for the drug’s recreational use.
For him, illegally buying and taking one gram of cannabis extract each day eases the pain, and stops seizures and nausea.
He said a neurosurgeon and four doctors had told him “don’t stop” taking cannabis oil – an illegal drug.
“I have to be a criminal to have my humanity.”
Poulter’s ordeal began soon after he returned to the country from Western Australia five months ago.
He had a seizure soon after, leading to the discovery of a high-grade oligodendroglioma glioma cancerous brain tumour. “My whole life got flipped on top of me,” he said.
Two months ago Poulter started taking cannabis extract, purchased illegally, on top of his prescribed drugs and noticed a significant decrease in nausea and pain.
The seizures stopped, and only returned a two weeks ago when he was on the operating table, having stopped taking cannabis extract in the lead up to surgery.
Surgeons removed a “tennis ball-sized” tumour from the base of his skull that day.
While the surgery was relatively successful, it left him with partial paralysis on his left side and a hand he could not feel. He also has a metal plate with five screws covering the hole in his skull.
Poulter said he was still taking prescribed anti-convulsants and was not against conventional treatment.
He opposed being made a criminal by taking cannabis oil that he believed significantly helped what could be life-long issues.
“I’m no criminal – I have never been a criminal.”
Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne would not comment on individual cases, but said it was a medical issue and Poulter should discuss availability of cannabis-type medicines with his doctor.
Poulter’s calls follow that of former Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2015 and has been leading the charge to legalise medicinal cannabis.
Like Poulter, she has been openly breaking the law by using cannabis and said its medicinal benefits were significant.
Nelson lawyer Sue Grey recently revealed, through an Official Information Act request, some informal notes from Treasury, which calculated that legalisation would not only generate about $150 million a year in tax revenue, but also save $400m a year on enforcement of drug prohibition.
A recent poll found that the majority of New Zealanders supported decriminalisation of cannabis, which swaps criminal convictions for civil penalties, but neither National nor Labour backed the idea.