Danuiel Clark, Tetraplegic Medicinal Cannabis User
This is the story of a man in a wheelchair who has become the most prominent advocate of medicinal cannabis in New Zealand. A tetraplegic, Danuiel's application for exemption from the prohibition of cannabis was denied in 1994. He continued to grow cannabis in defiance of the law and has been repeatedly prosecuted for it. This outlaw activity has made him vulnerable to criminals, who have repeatedly stolen Danuiel's medicinal cannabis. In 1999, Danuiel was imprisoned after he refused to accept any lesser punishment for growing his own supply.
Recently, Danuiel has been in trouble with the law again over his use of this natural herb, which is for him a vital medicine. Again convicted of possessing and cultivating cannabis, Danuiel was sentenced to 100 hours of Community Service for each offence. He is now being prosecuted for burglary! While awaiting trial, his renewed application to the Ministry of Health for permission to use medicinal cannabis continues.
At the bottom of the page there's links to news items about Danuiel.

Danuiel Trevor Clark, born on the 7th November, 1969, has spent the past decade in a wheelchair as the result of injuries he sustained in a car crash while overseas on the Greek island of Corfu in 1991. He'd arrived in the Mediterranean island with his brother, Shaun, just before the start of the tourist season. The pair had got to know the locals and found work as bouncers in a local tourist bar. Danuiel describes himself, back then, as "just like your average Kiwi. I was right into martial arts; I wasn't really into drugs". He had fallen in love with a beautiful Australian girl and was having the time of his young life when disaster struck. One night after work, Danuiel and his brother accepted a lift in the back of a ute (utility vehicle, or pickup truck) driven by one of their Greek mates. En route, the vehicle skidded on gravel, spun out of control and hit a retaining wall. Danuiel and Shaun, who had been lying in the back of the truck, gazing at the stars, were catapulted into the dust. Shaun escaped with a broken hand, but Danuiel was maimed.

He couldn't move or feel his limbs and supposed he was going to die there in the dust of a foreign country, on the far side of the world from home. In fact, Danuiel's neck was broken. An initial x-ray of his cervical spine showed a compression fracture of the sixth vertebra (C6). Upon his return to Auckland, a further x-ray showed anterior wedging of the C6 vertebra and that the body of C7 is vertically compressed. Consequently, Danuiel is classified as a C6 tetraplegic, effectively paralysed from the neck down. He can bend one wrist and both arms at the elbow and he can lift one arm above his shoulder, but can barely make his permanently crooked fingers move and cannot feel a thing. From the neck down, Danuiel has no feeling at all, except for phantom pain: a sharp tingling sensation that shoots up his legs, pins and needles that feels more like being scraped along gravel.

Danuiel Clark's condition confines him to a wheelchair and renders him incapable of washing, dressing, or going to the toilet without assistance, so that he requires almost constant supervision. With spinal injuries, the higher the break, the less support one's spine is able to give the body. Since Danuiel's back is broken so close to the top of his spine, he has very little trunk support and is therefore prone to falling from his wheelchair. He currently receives 135 hours nursing at home each week from a team of registered care givers.

After the accident, when he was eventually flown home via London, Danuiel spent four months in the Spinal Injuries unit of Auckland Hospital. This was where he first learned from other patients about the value of cannabis as a medicine to control the muscle spasm, or spasticity, that is characteristic of tetraplegia, which in Danuiel's case is further complicated by a condition called autonomic hyper-reflexia. Typical of spinal injury patients whose lesion is high - C6 and above - hyper-reflexia is characterised by the phenomenon of skin vasodilation in the head and neck, bradycardia, hypertension, intense headache, and sudomotor activity with excessive sweating above the lesion. As central hyperthermia rises, vasodilation above the lesion is intensified and, together with the unrelieved hypertension, magnifies the pounding headache. All these reactions are a vain attempt by the body to lower blood pressure. It is potentially so serious that Danuiel could suffer a stroke.

The conventional treatment for hyper-reflexia relies upon two drugs, Prazosin (Minipress) and Baclofen (Lioresal). Unfortunately, conventional medication caused Danuiel Clark to be plagued by unacceptably severe side effects. With Minipress, he had raging headaches, was short of breath and felt dizzy. Lioresal made him badly depressed and sedated. He had difficulty passing urine and couldn't achieve an erection. As Danuiel puts it, "the pills turn you into a zombie. It's like you're dragging around a corpse."

Conversely, cannabis had a dramatic effect on all Danuiel's symptoms. It proved invaluable in alleviating his muscle spasms and relieved the pain from which he constantly suffers. Cannabis enables him to enjoy a decent night's sleep and appears to effectively treat most if not all of the other conditions for which Minipress and Lioresal had been prescribed. Danuiel finds that all of these conditions are controlled by using about a gram of cannabis per day, or an ounce to two ounces per month, depending upon the method of administration. He prefers to inhale from a vaporiser - a device which heats the crumbled flowering cannabis buds so that their active cannabinoids are released as a vapour without incinerating the plant's organic material - which is the cleanest and most effective way to take his medicine. Alternatively, or in addition, Danuiel will crumble the buds into his food, which is an effective way of providing physiological relief with few of the mental effects of smoked cannabis (i.e.: it doesn't get him so 'stoned'). He do not generally use any other drugs, not even the legal social drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

For Danuiel Clark, the alternative to using cannabis is to swallow around two hundred prescription pills per month, which have serious and inescapable side effects such as an unpleasant tingling sensation in his legs, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, weakness, a lowered pain threshold, psychiatric manifestations, severe dizziness, depression, and an inability to achieve an erection. This last is particularly significant to his quality of life, since he needs to achieve an erection every morning in order to properly fit the urea dome that he wears over his penis in order to control his urinary function.

Since Danuiel has been using cannabis, he has ceased to use any other medication. When he tells doctors this, they often find it hard to believe that he can function without any prescribed medication, such as muscular relaxants, tranquilisers or pain killers, but this is the case. Cannabis enables Danuiel Clark to enjoy a reasonable quality of life without recourse to pharmaceutical drugs, with their unacceptable side effects. However, because cannabis is illegal and its medicinal use is not officially recognised, he has either to grow his own supply or buy cannabis from the black market. Since he subsists on a disability allowance that amounts, once the rent is paid, to less than NZ$100 per week, he really has no choice but to grow his own medicine.

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Within the legislation that prohibits cannabis in New Zealand, the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1975, a provision exists for individuals to be granted immunity from prosecution for using cannabis on medicinal grounds, providing that use is part of a properly-controlled research study. However, no such exemption from the blanket ban on cannabis has ever been granted and no approved research has been carried out in New Zealand into the medicinal uses of cannabis. Soon after he was first prosecuted, Danuiel Clark made an application to the Ministry of Health for permission to continue using cannabis therapeutically, but although his case appeared to meet all the criteria that the Department had set and was supported by two doctors - Dr John Lusk of Titirangi Medical Centre and his GP, Dr Ashwin Patel - Mr Clark's application was rejected in November, 1994.

Following this decision, in July, 1995, Dr Lusk made further submissions to Mr Boyd, the Therapeutics Manager at the Ministry of Health, about the medical use of cannabis and these submissions were endorsed by Clark's Orthopaedic Consultant, Mr O.R.Nicholson of the Otara Spinal Unit attached to Auckland Hospital. Mr Nicholson had been closely involved with the treatment of spinal injuries for some forty years, over which period he had experience of over one thousand cases. Until his retirement, Mr Nicholson was the pre-eminent authority on the treatment of spinal injury in New Zealand. Over the years, he had on many occasions discussed with patients the effects of their use of cannabis and a number of them had reported that they found that cannabis, properly used, left them with no significant after effects which interfered with their function on the following day and that their spasms were much improved. Although Mr Nicholson stated that he was opposed to the use of cannabis by patients while they were in the Spinal Unit, his extensive experience had led him to the view that "the careful use of the drug by these people in the community is appropriate".

In response, Mr Boyd replied that "requests for approval to be supplied or to supply cannabis need only be considered by the Ministry if they are part of a properly established clinical trial and even then the approval of other control agencies must be sought and their views considered". These agencies include the National Drug Intelligence Bureau, informed by the Commissioner of Police and the Comptroller of Customs who, according to the Minister of Health in 1994, "did not support the use of cannabis for medical reasons and considered that further research was required before such a request could be considered in depth". So it was that Danuiel discovered, to his immense disappointment, that in New Zealand the considered opinion of experienced doctors on medical matters can be flatly contradicted by policemen who have no medical qualifications.

As the current Health Minister, Annette King, reiterated in Parliament on March 20: "If a bona fide clinical trial was proposed and had the approval of the police, then the Ministry of Health would consider an application to supply cannabis as part of a properly constituted clinical trial." Thus operates New Zealand's very own version of what the crusading Californian doctor, Tod Mikuriya, calls "the 'Sick? Call a cop' model of health policy perversion".

In 1999, as a result of his continued use of cannabis without authorisation, Danuiel Clark was incarcerated for twelve days in prison, which caused a furore in the press and led to questions being asked in Parliament: what was the Department of Corrections' policy with regard to the imprisonment of people with severe disabilities; why was Mr Clark initially sent to a prison with inadequate facilities; what is the cost of keeping a tetraplegic person in prison?

Following his release, Mr Clark was invited to meet the Minister of Health, Ms. King, on May 30, 2000, to discuss how a further application for an exemption from the prohibition of cannabis should be prepared. Danuiel pointed out that he had already obtained the support of doctors who had been directly involved with his case, including the country's leading specialist in spinal injury, but that their recommendations had been dismissed. Danuiel asked Ms King to supply him with a list of medical specialists whose opinion her department would be prepared to accept. Although an official from the Ministry of Health now claims that such a list was subsequently sent to the office of Nandor Tanczos, MP, who accompanied Mr Clark to the meeting with the Minister, Nandor's office has no record of having received it.

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Danuiel Clark started growing cannabis in 1993 and hadn't been going a year before he was apprehended by the authorities and routinely prosecuted for it. Two days before Christmas, at Otahuhu District Court, in South Auckland, he picked up his first conviction for cultivating cannabis, and was sentenced to six months 'supervision'. Over the intervening years, Danuiel has been convicted on a total of eight charges of growing cannabis, the only medicine he finds useful to alleviate the symptoms of his permanent medical condition.

In March, 1995, again appearing at Otahuhu District Court, he received his second conviction for cultivating cannabis and was fined NZ$250, plus NZ$120 for possessing cannabis. The Judge was told about Danuiel's application to the Minister of Health to receive cannabis on prescription, but treated him just like any one of the other 23,000 people who were prosecuted that year for using cannabis. Mr Clark was warned that he would be sentenced to a period of imprisonment if he came before the courts again. In response, Clark told the Judge that he would refuse to pay the fine and was prepared to be incarcerated over this unjust law. Subsequently, in May, 1995, these fines, plus court costs of $190, totalling $560, were remitted by Judge J.P.Gittos, who appeared more sympathetic to Danuiel Clark's circumstances but was nonetheless criticised in the press by supposedly 'Christian' anti-drugs campaigners.

Danuiel had moved to the Coromandel from South Auckland in 1994 to get away from the local hoons, who had been attracted by the publicity about his cannabis use and were hanging around his house, causing trouble. But he couldn't escape the Police. Over the year following the remittal of his fines, Police came through Danuiel's home in Whiritoa on three occasions and they busted him every time. The first bust came as the result of someone in Holland sending some cannabis seeds in the post. Danuiel has no idea who this person was, or how they came to hear about him, but can only assume that they saw an item about him in the media and, in a gesture of support, took it upon themselves to send him some seeds and a growers' manual. Customs officers intercepted the package and visited Danuiel's home, bringing officers of the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) with them. Of course, they found that he was growing cannabis. While awaiting trial on this charge, plus charges of possessing the seeds and 'utensils' for smoking cannabis - that's how they described the pipes that he uses, lacking sufficient manual dexterity to roll cigarettes - Danuiel was busted again.

On January 9, 1996, two policemen came to the house. They didn't bother to knock on the front door, but opened the gate and came round the side, where they found Danuiel tending a mature cannabis plant on the back porch. Constable C677, Andrews, said they'd come to see him in relation to a traffic offence, but he couldn't say when this offence was supposed to have ocurred. The officers seized the plant and went on to search the house. Luckily - Danuiel first thought - they failed to look in the laundry room, where there was a grow light chamber containing cannabis seedlings. Constable Andrews said he knew that Danuiel was already facing charges of cultivating cannabis and so, Danuiel reckons, he'd decided to see if he could catch him at it again. Which he did. Clark explained to Andrews about the medicinal use of cannabis and his response was that there are alternative drugs that Danuiel could use, like Morphine. Once again, a policeman with no medical qualifications was patronising him by telling him which drugs he should or should not take. Danuiel Clark asked Constable Andrews to put himself in his position and consider what he would do if faced with the choice between taking an addictive opiate or using a small amount of a natural herb? "Well", all the policeman could say was, "that's your problem".

Constable Andrews having skipped the laundry room turned out to be a curse when police officers returned to the house a month later, on February 6, to seize what Andrews had left behind. This time, they had a warrant and performed a thorough search. So it was, through repeated police harassment, that Danuiel Clark collected his third, fourth and fifth convictions for cultivating cannabis and was duly sentenced on May 5, 1996, at Waihi District Court to six months imprisonment.

At the time of the trial, he developed a blood clot in his thigh. Danuiel's disability is complicated by para-articular ossification, affecting his left hip. This, essentially, is bone formation in the muscle overlying the left hip joint. He had an operation to remove the bone, which was technically successful, but his hip remains very painful and the morbidity in his legs means that thromboses are liable to form. Danuiel supposes that the Judge didn't want to send him to prison in case, through inadequate supervision, the thrombosis might've travelled to his lungs and killed him. Locking up a man in wheelchair is one thing, but having him die in prison might look bad. So, he suspended the six month prison sentence for nine months. No doubt Constable Andrews and his fellow police officers felt truly proud of themselves that day for having apprehended such a persistent criminal and seeing him punished.

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As if it isn't bad enough being persecuted by the police, the prohibition of cannabis means that Danuiel is offered no protection under the law from unscrupulous criminals who are attracted to cannabis because of the money they can make from selling it, indiscriminately, to recreational users. Perhaps it is not so surprising, then, that over seven years from 1993, and seven prosecutions for growing his own medicine, Danuiel Clark has also been robbed seven times by criminals who have invaded his home in order to steal his medicinal cannabis.

On May 20, 1999, at about 11pm, Danuiel lay helpless in bed at his home at Newman Street in Waihi, yelling "Get out of my house!" for fifteen or twenty minutes while two people - both of whom are known to him - ransacked his grow room. These two guys were brothers called Brendan and Casey; they were the former tenants of a man Danuiel thought was a friend, called Bill, and used to live at his place in Kontiki Road, Whiritoa. When at last he shouted, "I know who you are," they fled. A few weeks later, after Danuiel had told Bill about this incident, Bill went to see Brendan and Casey on June 10th to collect some money they owed him for rent arrears. The next night, Bill kidnapped Danuiel Clark and threatened to shoot him.

Bill knows Danuiel's routine and so he turned up at his house around 2pm, an hour after his care giver usually leaves. Bill knows Danuiel's Weimaraner guard dogs and has their trust, so he was able to lure Bella and Chester into a car and lock them in, preventing them from defending their master. Bill sat down at the kitchen table. He picked up Danuiel's cell phone and placed it out of his reach. Bill seemed pretty mad. He said that Brendan and Casey had sent him to get Danuiel and to take him, using whatever force was necessary. He said they'd told him that Danuiel had been bad-mouthing him and, in reprisal, he was going to take Danuiel to Hastings and kill him.

Bill threatened, "Either way, conscious or unconscious, you are getting in that car and I am taking you back to Hastings. We have a hole already dug and we're going to throw you in it and shoot you." Bill further declared that, because his relationship of ten years with the mother of his children had just ended, he was so emotionally unstable that he would have no qualms about killing Danuiel and disappearing to Australia. The whole time this was happening, Danuiel's cell phone was ringing and Bill found it highly amusing that his girlfriend would be worrying why he couldn't get to the 'phone.

Bill stood over Danuiel while he dragged himself into the car. All the time, Danuiel was scared that he might be hit at any moment. Leaving the doors of his house wide open, Bill told Danuiel that, if he did ever make it home again, he would find his two dogs dead, his house ransacked, and his classic car stolen. This car, which has been adapted so that Danuiel can drive it, is a baby blue 1962 Chevrolet Bel Air. Like Danuiel Clark himself, his car is unique. "It's my feel-good car", he says. "Something that makes you feel good. It's like my mobile lounge; I can cruise around like anyone else."

Bill took Danuiel to Casey's partner's house, where Brendan and Casey confronted him with the story they'd made up about the "lack of respect" he'd shown for Bill and how he'd been bad-mouthing him. Bill said that this lack of respect warranted execution! He became increasingly aggressive as Danuiel tried to defend himself against the lies that were being told against him. Bill stood over Danuiel and shouted, "Shut the fuck up, or I will kick you out of your chair and piss on you". This violence and intimidation went on for at least three hours, into the night, during which time Danuiel was prevented from leaving and continuously harassed.

Finally, they took him outside and threw him into the car, almost literally. He had difficulty getting back into the car because the ground was so uneven and had to sort of clamber into the passenger seat. He was driven around for a few hours more, expecting at any moment for Bill to pull over and execute his threat. Finally, at around 1.15am, the car pulled into the diner area at Hooker Falls gas station and Bill removed the key and took Danuiel's cell phone. He went to the diner and returned with two bags containing sausage rolls and a couple of bottles of Coke. He gave one bag and one drink to Danuiel and quipped, "I always feed my kidnap victims". That glimmer of humour made Danuiel think for the first time that perhaps Bill might not carry out his threats in full.

Eventually, at between 3am and 4am on the morning after this night of terror, Bill brought Danuiel back home to his address in Newman Street, where he informed him that he was going to take his Mazda Familia as payment for the so-called 'slander' Danuiel had supposedly spread about Bill's character. He also took a sleeping bag, a pair of Oakley sun glasses that cost NZ$290, and stole 14 ounces from Danuiel's supply of medicinal cannabis, half of all he had.

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A week later, on June 17, 1999, acting on information received, Police again executed a search warrant on Danuiel's house. Perhaps Bill and his mates, having reflected on what they'd done, decided to turn him over to the law before he got around to making a complaint against them? Whatever, the police came round again, they searched and they found six plants being grown hydroponically under artificial lighting in the wardrobe of a spare room. So that was cultivation charge number six for Danuiel Clark.

Located in the garage were a number of buckets, assorted adaptors and leads, fertilizer, plastic wall lining and other paraphernalia that the Police said was associated with the hydroponic growing of cannabis. Located in the compost heap at the rear of the section were a number of pots containing the remnants of cannabis stalks. Two of these were up to one inch in diameter. They constituted grounds for the seventh conviction for cultivating cannabis in the illustrious career of Danuiel Clark as a guy in a wheelchair who happens to grow his own medicine.

This time, Danuiel was determined to plead not guilty to the charges and to have his day in court, when he could argue his case before a jury. But, at Waihi District Court on July 16, he succumbed to overwhelming feelings of frustration and despair. Instead of pleading his innocence, as planned, he admitted the 'offence' of growing six plants for his personal use, but told Judge Russell Callander he refused to accept a fine, or do periodic detention, or community service. If the Judge was determined to punish Danuiel Clark, he was going to have to send him to prison. The Judge tried to postpone sentencing, pending reports, but Danuiel insisted on being sentenced on the spot. If he was sent to prison, so be it. The way he was thinking at that time, as an innocent civilian in the War on Drugs, caught in the crossfire between the cops and the crims, Danuiel could not prevail against the system. He felt beaten. He just wanted the minimum jail term possible and for it all to be over with. Judge Callander obliged by handing down a sentence of 21 days.

Danuiel Clark was despatched to Hamilton police station for custody and was thrown into the van, where he fell on his side. Then he was expected to sit on a slippery bench that he was physically incapable of remaining upright upon. When he complained, he was told, "You're in the Justice System now."

At Hamilton, he was violently-strip searched and subjected to abuse before being locked in a cell with a hard padded bed that offered inadequate pressure relief and only two blankets. The morbidity of his limbs restricts his blood circulation and, consequently, Danuiel easily catches cold. His wheelchair wouldn't go through doors at the police station so, after bashing the chair against door frames to try and force it through, the officers finally had to take the wheels off and carry him to his cell.

The following day, Danuiel was transferred to Waikeria, again in an inadequate vehicle. When it went round a corner, he fell onto his folded-up chair and the guards laughed at him. Waikeria Prison was not prepared for his arrival and his gaolers had not been given any details of his condition, but had only been told that he was in a wheelchair. During the night, while attempting to change his urine bag, Danuiel was seized by a muscle spasm and fell to the floor. He lay there for at least two hours, until around 4am, when a guard shone a light through the cell door and asked, "Are you alright?" As he turned to leave, Danuiel said, "Do I look alright?". The guard replied that some people sleep on the floor. Then he disappeared for ten minutes to get help.

From Friday, when he was sentenced, until Tuesday morning, Danuiel had no access to a toilet. He wasn't willing to eat until he knew he had a commode that would enable him to defecate into a toilet, but it took four days for one to be provided. Finally, and humiliatingly, Danuiel shat his pants in front of other prisoners. After that, his gaolers suggested that they should give him a suppository so that his bowels would move while he was in bed and they would clean him up afterwards. He wasn't willing to go along with that suggestion.

On Tuesday, July 21, Clark was transferred to Mount Eden Prison in Auckland, where he was put in the infirmary. By this time, he believes he was on the verge of a breakdown. The previous day, while being showered, he had lost his temper and told one of his gaolers, "Fuck you." The Prison Warder charged Danuiel with misconduct for using abusive language. Things were little better at Mount Eden, where the gaolers continued to treat him as an animal, or some kind of deranged drug addict. They put him in a cell with a sex offender, who was supposed to help him dress and change the urea dome for which, as mentioned, he needs to achieve an erection.

By that time, the press had got Danuiel's story and his case was taken up by the Green party, whose leader, Jeannette Fitzsimons, came to see him in prison. After that, his living conditions improved somewhat over the final week or so that Danuiel spent in prison, being punished like a common criminal for the victimless crime of growing his own medicine.

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Danuiel Clark is disabled, but not stupid. The sole reason why he persists in growing cannabis, despite repeated interference from the authorities and from unscrupulous criminals, is simply because he needs it. He isn't addicted to cannabis, but finds that it is the only substance that can relieve the pain and suffering that his disability brings every day. A small amount of cannabis, taken every day, enables Danuiel to live a tolerably comfortable life. He is far from being the only patient to use cannabis in this way. Many if not most people with spinal injuries do, too. Danuiel hadn't smoked pot much before he was injured, but started using cannabis because other patients with similar injuries recommended it as being the most effective medicine for people like themselves. In Danuiel's experience, just about everybody he's met with a similar injury uses cannabis to some extent. Obviously, they are more discreet about it, or have had less bad luck with the law.

Most people just want to get on with their lives and people with spinal injuries find that cannabis enables them to do that and to enjoy a reasonable quality of life. The fact that cannabis is illegal simply means that they keep quiet about it and are reluctant to come forward, or fight for their right to use cannabis medicinally. Who can blame them when Danuiel Clark's campaigning activities, and the publicity generated by his repeated run-ins with the law, has led to a situation in which, not only do police officers come round and harass him at their whim, but so do heartless criminal scum, for whom stealing pot from the physically handicapped is like taking candy from a baby?

Danuiel may not be stupid, but he can certainly be accused of naivety. When he got out of prison, Bill came to see him, apologising profusely for what had happened and swearing on his childrens' lives that Danuiel's arrest had nothing to do with him; it was all the fault of the other guys, Brendan and Casey. They were the wicked ones, Bill said, he had never meant any harm. He told Danuiel that he had sunk so low since his wife left him, taking their kids to New Plymouth, that he was living in his car, at the beach. It was such a convincing performance that Danuiel took pity on him and, foolishly, allowed Bill back into his life. Incapacitated as he is, Danuiel requires able-bodied help to manage an indoor cannabis crop and Bill was able to help him with his plants. Danuiel told Bill of his ambition to start a medical marijuana co-operative, along the lines of those operating in the United States, to supply other patients who might benefit from using cannabis and to teach them to grow their own supply. Bill agreed to help, so long as he could sell his share of the crop and so long as they moved to New Plymouth to grow it, so Bill could be near his estranged wife and children. Danuiel moved to New Plymouth in September, 2000, and Bill lived with him as his registered care giver. However, once their cannabis crop was ready to harvest, just before Christmas, Bill cut the whole lot down and stole it all for himself.

No doubt cursing himself for having allowed Bill to deceive him again, Danuiel set about raising another batch of hydroponic cannabis. It takes about twelve weeks, under lights, to produce mature flowering plants. As the weeks went by, he became increasingly worried that Bill was watching the house, monitoring the progress of the crop and preparing to pounce once it bore fruit. Finally, he could stand it no longer. With the plants at ten weeks old, Danuiel noticed a prowler in the yard on two successive nights and become so worried that he would again be the victim of an aggressive burglary that, on the morning of Wednesday, February 21, he cut down three plants and loaded them into a black rubbish sack which he placed on the passenger seat of his other car, a white hatchback. Danuiel's Chev. had been damaged in a crash, through the careless driving of another person he had misguidedly trusted as a friend, and this unrelated incident no doubt contributed to his agitated state of mind.

Danuiel can't say exactly where he thought he was going when he loaded his pot and his dogs into the car and hit the road. He just wanted to escape from New Plymouth and from Bill. He drove up Highway 3 toward Hamilton, as far as Te Awamutu, which is where he was pulled over by the Police, ostensibly for a vehicle licence check. The officer immediately smelled cannabis and found the three fresh and uncured plants which Danuiel had cut down that morning in the car. Danuiel estimates that these plants should have yielded 24 ounces of good quality cannabis buds, enough to supply him for a year. In fact, the police declared the dry weight of the cannabis to be 805 grams - 28 and three quarter ounces - which is not so far off Danuiel's estimate (and we don't know how thoroughly the police dried and manicured the buds).

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A month later, on March 21, Danuiel's Dad phoned him in a panic. His property at Miranda, some 300 km north of New Plymouth, in South Auckland had been raided and the police had found some cannabis plants growing there. Since these plants were intended as Danuiel's reserve supply, he told his Dad to say they were his. To save his father the stress of being dragged through the courts, Danuiel accepted responsibility for these plants, even though to do so would mean an eighth conviction for cultivating cannabis and Danuiel's twelfth cannabis-related conviction, overall. Since he had twice in the past been sentenced to imprisonment for growing medicinal cannabis, he could have gone to jail again and had resigned himself to that possibility.

In New Plymouth on April 24, 2001, Danuiel Clark pleaded guilty to possessing 805 g. of herbal cannabis and cultivating 14 female cannabis plants and was duly convicted and remanded on bail for sentencing on May 10. However, that first hearing, on April 24, was complicated by Danuiel's arrest upon arrival at the court on a burglary charge!

This bizarre twist in the tale came about because of the on-going situation with regard to Bill whom, Danuiel had found out, was now shacked up with Danuiel's former girlfriend, Lisa, at his old place at Whiritoa. Danuiel drove all the way over there with a couple of friends to confront them and to get back some of his possessions that they'd taken from him, between them, over the years. Bill and Lisa weren't there and Danuiel admits that he entered the house and made a phone call to Lisa at her work place before leaving, but he denies taking anything. The police had searched Danuiel's home and found nothing. Danuiel had subsequently moved to a house that was better adapted to his needs, with ramps and a customised bathroom. In the week before the court hearing, he received a Trespass Order banning him from Lisa's address for a period of two years. Danuiel's current girlfriend, Coral, got one too, even though she's never met Lisa! Bill had been harassing Coral: he'd left a threatening message on her answering machine and sent various text messages to her mobile phone, advising her to dump Danuiel before she "gets hurt", or saying "Danuiel is evil", or asking "why does Danuiel have a vendetta against me?" In the light of all this, Danuiel had thought this Trespass Order was just another one of Bill's paranoid stunts until he turned up at court that morning and was arrested for a burglary that's alleged to have taken place six weeks previously and five days before Danuiel's Dad was busted, on March 16.

The Police Station in New Plymouth is directly across the road from the Court House, so no doubt it was convenient for the local cops to arrest Danuiel Clark when they knew he would be there, but the timing of the police action seemed calculated to influence the judge and certainly confused the issue, even though it had nothing to do with it. Since the alleged burglary took place while he was on bail for cannabis possession, the Police prosecutor contended that Mr Clark should be held in custody pending trial. He said that, since Clark had ten previous cannabis-related convictions, he must 'inevitably' be sentenced to a spell in prison and that, therefore, there was a chance that he could abscond. Thankfully, the judge wasn't convinced that there were grounds to refuse bail on the burglary charge and remarked that there remained a wide range of sentencing options in respect of the cannabis 'offences' to which Danuiel had confessed.

On May 10, a small crowd of a dozen or fifteen supporters assembled outside the Court House in New Plymouth, carrying placards demanding that doctors, not policemen, be allowed to make medical decisions; declaring that medicinal cannabis is a health issue, not a legal one; and imploring, 'Give Danuiel his Medicine.' Other choice slogans included, 'Stop Arresting Stoned People' and 'Cannabis Can Help Some People'! Protestors lined up on the pavement opposite the Police Station and waved their placards at passing cars, some of which honked their approval. TV3 news sent a reporter, as did the local Daily News, so there was quite a media buzz when Danuiel arrived in his Chev. to face the music.

Danuiel's lawyer, Mr Vosseler, was optimistic. He said that the pre-sentence report that had been prepared by an exceptionally sympathetic probation officer, was one of the most exhaustive that he had ever read. It emphasised that the NZ Prison Service is not adequately equipped to cope with prisoners suffering from Danuiel's level of disability, as had been demonstrated in 1999, and suggested that it would, therefore, be inhumane to sentence him to prison again. Mr Vosseler was anxious about the Judge, though. There were two Judges sitting that day, one of whom had come up from Invercargill. As a rule of thumb, the further south you go in New Zealand, the stricter the Judges are. And you can't go much further south than Invercargill.

As luck would have it, however, it was the local man, Judge Christopher Harding, who was to pass sentence upon Danuiel Clark. Mr Vosseler had already made extensive submissions to the court at the time of his client's conviction. He drew the Judge's attention to the content of the pre-sentencing report and asked if he was prepared to accept its recommendation of a Community Service order without further submissions being made. And the Judge said, quietly, "yes". Sighs of relief all round. Judge Harding went into a lengthy summing up, during which he acknowledged Danuiel's predicament and said that the court had "a degree of sympathy" with him. However, all cannabis use remained illegal and he was once again in breach of the law. The judge noted Danuiel's previous cannabis-related convictions and said that, ordinarily, a prison sentence would be inevitable, but he said, "the realities of such a situation on someone like you cannot be ignored".

In the light of the pre-sentencing report's remarks concerning the treatment Mr Clark had received at the hands of the Prison Service in 1999, Judge Harding considered that it would be inappropriate to send him to prison and, perhaps, inhumane. Other forms of punishment had their various limitations. Consequently, he decreed that Danuiel should serve two sentences of 100 hours Community Service in respect of each offence, the sentences to run concurrently.

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Danuiel Clark is out of prison for the time being, but the police in New Plymouth seem to have it in for him. In the end, they didn't, appeal against the leniency of Danuiel's sentence for these latest cannabis convictions, although Detective Sue Ashton told the local Daily News that the amount of cannabis in question was "probably in excess of what he would need for his own use". Of course, Ms Ashton has no qualification to make this judgement, but she is prejudiced against cannabis and cannabis users, as she made clear in remarks to Danuiel's supporters, who returned from the Court at lunch time on April 24 to find his house crawling with police. It was Detective Ashton who had arrested Danuiel for burglary that morning at the Court House and she led the CIB team that entered and ransacked his home in search of items that are alleged to have been stolen from an address at Whiritoa, Coromandel, namely a pen, a Minolta camera, an archery bow and a big knife with a foot-long blade. Danuiel had only moved into this house a few weeks previously and the police had already searched his old address for these items, but Detective Ashton decided to obtain a warrant to perform another search on the very day when she knew her suspect would be in Court on a completely unrelated matter.

The police are determined to pursue the burglary charges against Danuiel and his two friends (although the police prosecutor suggested to Danuiel's friends that they could plead guilty to the lesser charge of trespass and would be convicted and discharged so long as they testified against Danuiel on the criminal charge of burglary). While the case has been repeatedly delayed as the police scratch around for some evidence, Bill - or someone - has waged an escalating campaign of intimidation against Danuiel and those closest to him. Coral fought off an attacker who leapt on her in the dark. After appearing in court on July 18 for a Status Hearing in respect of the burglary charge, Danuiel Clark returned home to find his dogs, Bella and Chester, missing. He hasn't seen them since.

Bella and Chester were Danuiel's beloved companions, his 'children', as he refers to them. When Bill abducted Danuiel in 1999, he had threatened to destroy the dogs. Since Bill has lived with Danuiel, the dogs knew him and he had their trust. He'd locked them in a car on that occasion. As he was getting into a cab to go to the Court House that morning, Danuiel had seen Bill driving by in his metallic bronze Pontiac Le Mans. When Danuiel returned, his dogs were gone. He reported the matter to the local dog handler, who said that he had received a telephone report from a woman who claimed that his dogs were out of the section, in the road, and causing a nuisance. The woman caller did not give her name, but Danuiel suspects that she is Sharon, Bill's ex-wife and the mother of his children, who lives in New Plymouth, and that her call was calculated to provide a cover story for Bill's abduction of the dogs. The handler responded immediately to the call, but when he got to Danuiel's house, there was no sign of the dogs. The following day, Danuiel noticed Bill's car cruising by his house on two occasions.

When Danuiel had appeared in court, with his two co-defendants, the prosecution produced a malicious letter written by his former girlfriend, Lisa McNee, which claimed that she was living in fear of Danuiel - who is physically incapable of attacking anyone and lives some 350km away - and suggested that he should be locked up for her protection. Because of this new 'evidence', Danuiel's case was postponed until August 31, then again until September 26. Now the case against Danuiel Clark and his two co-defendants is due to be heard in Waihi District Court, on February 22, 2002.

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While waiting for this burglary charge to be resolved and discharging his Community Service Order, Danuiel Clark's re-application to the Ministry of Health for a special exemption from the general prohibition of cannabis continues. He has been informed that such an application would have to contain information on various issues for the Minister to seriously consider it. These issues are:

  1. That Danuiel's condition is such that the use of cannabis medicinally is the only option left, as conventional medicines cannot resolve his pain and discomfort - and that this is confirmed with the Minister by a Medical Specialist.
  2. That Danuiel can arrange a Doctor/Specialist who is willing to prescribe cannabis medicinally.
  3. That the Doctor concerned can arrange a robust process for prescribing cannabis to Danuiel (in consultation with the Ministry of Health's Medsafe Division).

Because Danuiel had been out of touch with the medical establishment, his application has been stuck at stage one. He had only met his G.P. a couple of times since moving to New Plymouth in September, last year, and, although the doctor wrote a supportive letter to the Judge on Danuiel's behalf, he didn't feel able to support Danuiel's application to the Ministry, with the extra work that will inevitably entail. However, Danuiel has now found a doctor in New Plymouth who is prepared to support him in his efforts to obtain a legal supply of effective medicine. Before his trial in May, Danuiel's lawyer, Mr Vosseler, received a letter from the Minister of Health regarding Danuiel's case, in which she indicates that she might be persuaded to allow him to try a sub-lingual cannabis spray that is being developed in the UK by GW Pharmaceuticals. So long, that is, as Danuiel can work through all the red tape and pay for it himself!

Danuiel didn't have any cannabis for more than two weeks after he was busted and his pot was confiscated in February. Over that period, his condition deteriorated rapidly, with shooting pains and increased spasm in his legs; decreased mobility in his hands. He had chest pains and difficulty in breathing. He had trouble expressing urine, his skin became very dry and he lost his appetite. Because of the spasm in his legs, he couldn't sleep properly.

Perhaps Danuiel was punishing himself by not smoking pot, but his depressed mood also had an adverse effect on his personal relationships and his friends eventually persuaded him to smoke a joint. After a couple of weeks of suffering, it was amazing how swiftly cannabis brought relief. Within a few minutes of inhaling the smoke from a couple of puffs on a joint, Danuiel could feel the tension drain away. The spasm stopped, his shoulders relaxed and his breath came more easily. For the first time in more than a fortnight, he didn't have a headache.

Danuiel Clark needs to consume a small quantity of cannabis every day in order to maintain a decent quality of life, but it seems that he can no longer secure his own supply. Whenever he grows a crop of cannabis for his personal, medicinal use, either it is seized by the Police, or it is stolen by unscrupulous thieves. In his dreams, Danuiel would like to be left alone to continue to grow his own medicine, but he realises that is no longer possible. It seems that there is some remote chance of a prescribable cannabis-based medicine being developed in the future, but Danuiel needs it now. While his Government seems indifferent to his fate, at least this last spot of bother with the law has helped Danuiel to make friends with sympathetic citizens in the Taranaki area who can, perhaps, help him to score a bit of pot when he desperately needs it.

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Date Headline Source
26 May, 2001 Plea To Allow Medical Use Of Cannabis The Daily News (New Plymouth)
11 May, 2001 Cannabis Court Protest The Daily News (New Plymouth)
10 May, 2001 Cannabis Case Verdict : No Jail TV3 News
12 Jan, 2000 Danuiel Clark News Archive NORML Aotearoa/NZ
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