Hate & War In New Plymouth

New Plymouth, nestling beneath the classical volcanic cone of Mount Taranaki - a bulge on the west coastline, two thirds of the way down the North Island - is New Zealand's Energy City, the centre of a fossil fuel-burning business based on offshore fields of oil and natural gas. It's a small town with a pronounced surfing subculture that could be the Bogan Capital of Kiwiland. Bogans are white trash, the ones with the mullet hairstyles, tattoos, and hotted-up hoon mobiles. No doubt there's a more laid back side to Taranaki, a region renowned for its spectacular scenery and magic mushrooms, but I didn't come to New Plymouth to stare. I came to meet New Zealand's most prominent medicinal cannabis user, a guy in a wheelchair called Danuiel Clark.

From the perspective of the other side of the world wide web, I had fondly imagined that Aotearoa, the 'land of the long white cloud', would be God's own country for potheads. Politically, proportional representation had allocated seven Parliamentary seats to the Green Party, including a white Rastafarian called Nandor Tanczos, whom I'd known in London. In his maiden speech, the text of which was passed around the internet, the one like Nandor spoke thus: "I remember seeing an interview with Bob Marley and he was asked why cannabis was such a big issue for him. He replied that cannabis was not a big thing for him. It was, 'jus a plant y'know. It's a big thing for you'... New Zealand needs to get over its obsession with cannabis. We have the highest recorded arrest rate for cannabis in the world. Our police spend tens of millions of dollars arresting people for it. 85% of those (arrests) are minor personal offenses. Yet we have one of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world. At the same time, we hear that police do not have the resources to properly investigate burglaries. Any rational person has to agree that this has to stop. Lets allow people to grow and possess cannabis for personal use, whether they use it medicinally, recreationally or as part of their faith."

Inspired, maybe I was too busy murmuring 'right on' to register the bit about the world's highest bust rate. Naively, I supposed the grass was greener on the other side. When I arrived in Auckland, Chris Fowlie, President of NORML NZ and Nandor's business partner in The Hemp Store, soon put me straight. The population of New Zealand was less than four million, but some 25,000 citizens were likely to be busted in 2001. In the UK, there were 97,000 cannabis arrests in 1999, but the population is pushing sixty million. In the UK, they could only make the Prohibition work by issuing cautions for simple possession, but in New Zealand the only alternative to prosecution was a mechanism called 'diversion', whereby police drop charges on the condition that offenders donate a sum of money (determined by the police) to a registered charity (approved by the police). Needless to say, it favours those wealthy enough to pay and sufficiently privileged to argue that a conviction would damage their future careers. Convictions are permanently recorded, although Nandor, MP, had a 'clean slate' bill before Parliament, to erase from the criminal record after seven years such minor offenses as smoking a joint.

In Britain, medicinal cannabis users had fought several successful court cases, so that the Crown Prosecution Service was wary of taking others in a similar position to court, for fear of losing more of the argument and plunging the law even further into disrepute. Plus, along had come Dr. Geoffrey Guy, like a knight in shining armour, to take up the medicinal cannabis users' cause and begin to develop a prescribable cannabinoid medicine. Whereas, in New Zealand, where the people pride themselves on giving everybody a fair go, they were not above throwing medicinal cannabis users in prison! No, really. It made Chris feel pretty sick that he lived in a place where people in wheelchairs could be incarcerated for growing their own medicine, but it had happened and history looked set to repeat: he'd taken a call that morning from Danuiel Clark, who had been busted again. Danuiel was notorious for getting busted, as had happened numerous times over the decade since the he got broken in an accident. Paralysed from the neck down, each time he was convicted of breaking the laws pertaining to cannabis, Danuiel would declare that he used the herb to control the symptoms of his tetraplegia. He would adamantly refuse to accept any punishment. The last time, in 1999, they sent him to prison.

It wouldn't have happened in the UK, where a man with a bad back called Colin Davies had twice persuaded a jury that, although he had broken the statutory law by growing and using cannabis, his actions were justified by medical necessity. He found cannabis to be an invaluable muscular relaxant and pain killer that enabled him to enjoy some respite from the constant pain from which he suffers while still being able to function, in stark contrast to the opiates that doctors were able to prescribe. Colin, like Danuiel, has a permanent spinal injury, but it's not nearly so serious: he can walk, even if he can't work. He used to be a joiner, but in the mid-1990s, he damaged his back. The way I heard it, Colin was relieving himself against a low wall in a pub car park after a Boxing Day boozing session. The next he knew, he was at the bottom of a deep ditch on the other side of the wall with a broken back. Some prankster must have rushed up behind him.

Colin was in constant pain and used prescription opiates to manage it, but they rendered him semi-comatose and not much fun to be around, so his family was relieved almost as much as he was when Colin found cannabis. He started growing his own supply, but was prosecuted for it at Manchester Crown Court in June 1998, where he defended himself before a jury, calling several expert witnesses to support the argument that his cannabis use was through medical necessity, prescription medicines having failed to alleviate the pain of his spinal injury. Against the advice of the Judge, the jury acquitted. Encouraged by this result, but indignant that he and others in his position should continue to be denied access to their best medicine, forced to consort with drug dealers and pay street prices for their pot, Colin resolved to do something about it. In league with a couple of Multiple Sclerosis patients he met through the internet and inspired by the example of compassionate pot clubs in North America, he set up a Medical Marijuana Co-Operative and began collecting names and addresses of patients whose cannabis use was condoned by their doctors and who wanted to be supplied with cannabis of reliable quality. Colin set about growing some more plants to supply members of his co-op, but he was soon busted again. In July 2000, he again came before Manchester Crown Court after police raided his home and found 26 cannabis plants and equipment to hasten their growth. Once again, he defended himself and was acquitted by a unanimous jury verdict of cultivating, possessing and supplying cannabis.

Nobody in New Zealand, so far as Chris Fowlie was aware, had gone before a jury and made a case for exemption from the criminal law on the grounds of their medical need to consume cannabis. That had been the strategy when Danuiel had last appeared before the courts, on July 16, 1999, when he was supposed to enter a plea of not guilty - or no plea - and buy himself and his supporters some time in which to find a sympathetic lawyer and mount a proper defence. According to NORML's literature, the way bustees behave in court depends on whether they are Dumb Lambs, Stubborn Mules or Roaring Lions. Lambs go meekly to the slaughter by pleading guilty and accepting summary conviction. Mules won't let themselves by pushed around by the system and resist every step of the way until they are eventually convicted. Lions take non-cooperation a stage further by telling the Judge upon conviction that they will refuse to accept any punishment short of a prison sentence. Danuiel had determined to roar like a Lion, but had not apparently understood that this course involved going through the legal process, however reluctantly, like a Mule. Not pleading guilty, like a Lamb, and then casting the Judge in the role of Butcher. Because Danuiel did admit guilt, but told the Judge that he would refuse to pay a fine, or report for Community Service, or even do Periodic Detention. If the Judge was determined to punish Danuiel Clark, he was going to have to send him to prison. Judge Russell Callander duly obliged, handing down the minimum sentence of 21 days.

Whatever possessed Danuiel to insist upon being incarcerated, the cripple in a cell story certainly made dramatic news. Chris had a file of clippings with words like 'horror' and such evocative phrases as 'jail hell' in the headlines. Danuiel had spent 12 days in a couple of different prisons. Nandor had alerted the Green Party to Danuiel's predicament and he had been visited in the infirmary at Auckland's grim Mount Eden Prison by Jeannette Fitzsimons, the joint leader of the Party, who had subsequently asked questions in Parliament about the Department of Corrections' policy with regard to the imprisonment of people with severe disabilities, why Mr Clark was initially sent to a prison with inadequate facilities, and what was the cost of keeping a tetraplegic person in prison?

After the furore had died down, in May, 2000, Nandor, MP, had accompanied Danuiel to meet the Minister of Health, Ms. Annette King, to discuss his case for being permitted an exemption from the general prohibition of cannabis, as provided under regulation 22 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations, 1977. Danuiel had already gone through the process of submitting an application to the Ministry in 1994, but he'd been denied. By all accounts, the tone of the meeting had been quite positive and the Minister had indicated that her department would be prepared to consider a renewed application, but Danuiel had got stroppy with her, pointing out that he'd already been through the process of collecting letters from doctors to no avail. He couldn't see why they wouldn't accept the evidence that he had already submitted and wanted to know, if they wouldn't hear what his doctors had to say, whose expert opinion would the Ministry of Health be prepared to accept?

Danuiel sounded angry and frustrated and it wasn't hard to see why, but his implacable attitude evidently wasn't doing him any favours. Plus, Chris told me, there was this b-movie back story involving some shady characters that Danuiel had been associated with. Some time before his arrest in 1999, some bad guys with a gun, who tried to bully him into telling them where he�d stashed weed that they�d already stolen, had kidnapped Danuiel! For an encore, these bandits planted incriminating evidence in Danuiel's garage and informed the law on him! This part of the story was more than a bit murky, but it was clear that Danuiel deserved support. So I volunteered to go to New Plymouth.

Luckily, I got a lift and arrived around lunchtime, dropped off right outside Danuiel's place in Rossiter Crescent. A split-level house with a deck out front, sliding glass doors led directly into the lounge where Danuiel occupied a Lay-Z-Boy recliner. He's accompanied by his girlfriend and primary care giver, Coral, and his Weimaraner dogs, Bella and Chester. Danuiel's a big bloke with pellucid blue eyes and a shaven head who would easily stand over six foot tall if he had the use of his legs. Technically paralysed from the neck down, he can lift one arm above his shoulder and bend both arms at the elbow. He has limited movement in one wrist, but his hands are practically useless and his fingers permanently crooked. Danuiel offered me one of his claw-like hands and I sandwiched it in both of mine and gazed into the pale blue pool of his eyes. It was nearly a fortnight since Danuiel had been busted and he hadn't had so much as a toke on a joint in the interim, nor had he taken any of the pharmaceutical drugs that are conventionally prescribed for his condition. Consequently, his characteristic symptoms were in full effect and his suffering was not hard to discern behind the welcoming smile he put on.

Danuiel had a box file stuffed with press clippings and photocopied letters pertaining to his legal and medical history, but where to start? Figuring it best to begin at the end, I asked about the recent bust. He'd been apprehended by the police in Te Awamutu, some 200km north of New Plymouth, driving along Highway 3 in a white hatchback with his dogs in the back and three fresh cannabis plants in a bin liner on the passenger seat. He may be crippled, but Danuiel drives a specially adapted car. In fact, he had two. His pride and joy is a sky blue Chevrolet Bel Air, vintage 1962. He likes the car because it's so commodious, like a mobile lounge he can cruise around in, holding court in friends' driveways, or park up down at the beach where he goes to gaze at the waves. But his Chev. had been put out of commission by some rank idiot whom Danuiel had recklessly trusted, but had crashed it because, he said, the brakes failed. That's what he said. Consequently, Danuiel had been obliged to take his white hatchback, the Familia, when he made his run for it.

What Danuiel was running from was another character whom he had misguidedly trusted and had not merely betrayed him, but was allegedly carrying on some kind of crazed vendetta. It was this bloke, Bill, who had kidnapped Danuiel a couple of years previously, an incident recorded in a statement he'd dictated soon after to a friend:

'On May 20, 1999, at about 11pm, I lay helpless in bed at my home in Newman Street, Waihi, yelling "Get out of my house!" for fifteen or twenty minutes while two people - both of whom are known to me - ransacked my grow room. The two intruders were brothers called Brendan and Casey. They were the former tenants at Bill's house in Kontiki Road, Whiritoa. When, at last, I shouted, "I know who you are," they fled with three of my plants, which they had uprooted. On June 3rd, when Bill returned from Australia and borrowed my car, I told him about the burglary. On June 10th, Bill drove his former partner, Sharon, and their three-year-old daughter to New Plymouth. This marked the end of a ten-year relationship and the trauma made Bill very angry and unpredictable. From New Plymouth, Bill drove to Hastings to see Brendan and Casey, intending to collect some money they owed him. The next day, Bill kidnapped me and threatened to kill me

Bill knew my routine, so he turned up at his house around 2pm, an hour after my caregiver usually leaves. Bill knew my guard dogs and had their trust, so he was able to lure Bella and Chester into a car and lock them in. I was resting in bed when I heard Bill turn up and I dragged myself out of bed, into my chair, and was in the hallway when Bill came through the rear entrance to my house. Bill sat down at the kitchen table. He picked up my cell phone and placed it out of my reach. He seemed pretty mad. He said that Brendan and Casey had sent him to get me and to take me against my will, using whatever force was necessary. He said they'd told him that I had been bad-mouthing him and, in reprisal, he was going to take me to Hastings and kill me. 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 with Sharon had just ended, he was so emotionally unstable that he would have no qualms about killing me and disappearing to Australia. The whole time this was happening, my cell phone was ringing and Bill found it highly amusing that my girlfriend, Lisa, would be worried about why I couldn't answer.

Bill stood over me while I dragged himself into the car. All the time, I was scared that I might be hit at any moment. Leaving the doors of his house wide open, Bill told me that if I ever made it home again, I'd return to find my dogs dead, my house ransacked, and my classic car stolen. I was driven to Casey's partner's house, where Brendan and Casey confronted me with the story they'd made up about the so-called 'lack of respect' I'd shown for Bill and how I'd been bad-mouthing him. Bill said this lack of respect warranted execution! He became increasingly aggressive as I tried to defend myself from the lies that were being told against me, towering over me and shouting, "Shut the fuck up, or I will kick you out of your chair and piss on you".

This violence and intimidation went on from approximately 8pm, into the night, for at least three hours. Then, around 11pm, Bill and Casey took me outside and threw me, almost literally, into the car. I had difficulty getting into the car because the ground was so uneven and had to sort of haul myself into the passenger seat. I was terrified because I thought that Bill was going to take me away and execute his threats. He drove around for what seemed like a couple of hours. Finally, at around 1.15am, the car pulled into the diner area at Hooker Falls gas station and Bill removed the key and took my cell phone. He went to the diner and returned with two bags containing sausage rolls and bottles of Coke. He gave me one bag and one drink, saying, "I always feed my kidnap victims". It wasn't until he made that flippant remark that I dared to hope he might not carry out his threats in full.

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

A week later, on June 17, 1999, Danuiel was visited by the police, acting upon information received, who executed a search warrant on his house. They found six plants being grown hydroponically under artificial lighting in the wardrobe of a spare room. In the garage were a number of buckets, assorted adapters 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 in the back garden were a number of pots containing the stalks of cannabis plants, two of which were up to one inch in diameter. So it was that Danuiel Clark collected sixth and seventh convictions for growing his own medicine. This time, in the end, they sent him to prison.

Although the evidence that it was Bill who informed upon him is no more than circumstantial, under the circs, Danuiel reckons that Bill and his mates reflected on what they'd done to him and decided to turn him over to the law before he got around to making a complaint against them. Whatever the truth of the matter, Danuiel's pretty sure it was Bill who initiated the prosecution that led to him being banged up. Which makes it all the harder to understand why, not much more than a year later, he forgave the bastard and gave him the opportunity to do it to him all over again!

When Danuiel first got out of prison, fired with righteous indignation, he'd gone home to Waihi and started a cannabis plant right in his window, illuminated by a grow light. Not surprisingly, he attracted attention, but at least the local police left him alone. Danuiel hadn't pursued his complaints against the prison service and he wasn't hassled by the law. But then Bill turned up. Bill swore blind that all the trouble in the past had been down to Brendan and Casey; they'd manipulated him with their damn lies. He may have temporarily lost his head, but Bill had never really intended doing Danuiel any harm, he said. Bill told Danuiel he'd sunk so low since his wife left him that he was living in his car, at the beach. It was such a convincing performance that Danuiel took pity on him, or wanted to believe him, and was even prepared to trust him. He told Bill about his plans to start a medical marijuana co-operative, as Colin Davies had done in the UK, to supply his fellow sufferers with the healing herb. Of course, this would require him to grow a larger crop than Danuiel could manage on his own, from his wheelchair, without assistance.

Bill was enthusiastic, he wanted to help Danuiel help other ill people, of course he did, but he had other priorities. Sharon had moved to New Plymouth and she'd taken the kids. Bill could only help Danuiel with his cannabis crop on the condition that he could sell half of it to make his child support payments and also that they grow it in Taranaki, so Bill could have access to his kids. Man to man, Danuiel sympathised with Bill's predicament. His own relationship with Lisa had been turbulent and, after three and a half years, it was finally finishing. Like Bill said, he was too well known in Waihi to grow a good-sized cannabis crop without anyone finding out, but nobody knew him in New Plymouth. So it was that Danuiel was persuaded to move, in August/September 2000, with Bill as his designated care giver. It doesn't take a criminologist to predict what happened next. Once their cannabis crop was ready to harvest, just before Christmas, Bill cut the whole lot down and stole it all for himself. Candy from a baby.

Cursing, 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, Danuiel 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 aggravated burglary that, on the morning of Wednesday, February 21, 2001, he cut down three plants and loaded them into a black rubbish bag which he placed on the passenger seat of the white hatchback. Bella and Chester were in the back seat. Had Danuiel been driving his Chev, he would've put the pot in the capacious boot and may have arrived wherever he thought he was going with the cargo intact. As it was, when he got pulled over for an apparently random license check at Te Awamutu, the cops probably smelled the weed as he drove by.

Danuiel had been charged with possession of a quantity of fresh herbal cannabis, about a kilo. He'd estimated the yield would be about 24 ounces of cured and smokable buds, which represented his supply for a full year. He had retained a lawyer through the legal aid scheme and there was a meeting scheduled for the following day, so I phoned to introduce myself in advance. No sense bowling along as an unqualified English tourist and trying to tell him how to do his job. My first conversation with Grant Vosseler of Till, Henderson, King was civil, but none too encouraging. Danuiel's lawyer said he'd advised his client to plead guilty to the charge of possessing cannabis because he'd been caught bang to rights. I asked if he'd heard about any of the recent cases, in the UK or Canada, where a defense of medical necessity had prevailed? Mr Vosseler hadn't, but said he would see what he could find out about them. He reminded me that his duty as Danuiel's lawyer was to keep him out of jail and not to attempt to score political points in a court of law. So I assured him that was my concern, too, and that I only wanted to help.

Midway through the afternoon, a couple of mates came round to see Danuiel and, mercifully, brought a bud with them. I'd been embarrassed to arrive without any herb, but no one I'd met in Auckland had been able to sort me out before I left. Danuiel had mentioned on the 'phone that he had access to pot if he needed it, but had decided to do without for the time being. He said he'd been getting too stoned, on a daily basis, for too long. The implication was that was why he'd so foolishly allowed Bill to rip him off again. "Don't beat yourself up about it," I'd told him, but I didn't really believe that Danuiel would be denying himself, absolutely. I wouldn't want to go so long as a week without a toke or two, myself, and I can't begin to imagine what it must be like to suffer a severe headache, never mind phantom limb pain and involuntary muscle spasm, as a consequence of not smoking pot.

The therapeutic effects of cannabis upon the symptoms of spinal injury are well known, anecdotally, and were in the process of being demonstrated via clinical trials of a cannabinoid spray developed in the UK by a company set up by the aforementioned Dr. Guy, GW Pharmaceuticals. Because smoking cigarettes is so injurious to health, it's unlikely that any country would license for prescription a medicine that's smoked, so the challenge to those wishing to eventually market a cannabinoid medicine is to invent a delivery system for the drug that's effective as the good old-fashioned joint, but doesn't involve smoking. GWP was utilising a sub-lingual spray, which enables the cannabinoids to be absorbed into the body under the tongue, bypassing the digestive tract, so that the effects are felt more rapidly than a pill (or a piece of cake). A contact attached to the GWP project had informed me that 'our first stage of the first clinical trials (on) pain management in spinal cord injuries has just been completed (and was) 80% successful'.

Whatever that meant, exactly, it would hardly be news to Danuiel, or most of the other people he'd met in a similar situation. Following his accident in 1991, Danuiel had spent four months in the Spinal Injury Unit attached to Auckland Hospital at Otara, where the other patients soon let him know that smoking pot was a much better option for people like them than taking the drugs that the doctors were able to prescribe, which often caused worse side effects than the symptoms they were supposed to treat. The boss of the Spinal Unit and Danuiel's Orthopaedic Consultant, Mr O.R.Nicholson, was the pre-eminent authority on the treatment of spinal injury in New Zealand until his retirement and 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. In July, 1995, Mr Nicholson wrote on Danuiel's behalf to Dr. GR 'Bob' Boyd, the Therapeutics Manager at the Ministry of Health, noting that he had, over the years and on many occasions, discussed with patients the effects of their use of cannabis and a number of them had reported that its moderate use 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'.

It made no difference. Mr Boyd wrote back 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 other agencies are, of course, the cops. And the cops don't hold with people smoking pot. Never mind that seriously sick people say that they derive some benefit from ingesting the healing herb and that their doctors back them up because, when it comes to cannabis, the cops always know best. Danuiel hated the way the cops and the courts treated him like any other of the umpteen thousand common-or-garden pot heads they persecute every year; they treated him like some diseased drug addict, like a slippery liar who had struck upon a plausible story to explain his illegal druggy activities. They treated him like a cheat.

Danuiel's story is that he is a C6 tetraplegic: his neck was broken at the sixth cervical vertebra when he was thrown from the back of a pick-up truck, what Kiwis call a 'ute' (utility vehicle). From the neck down, Danuiel cannot feel anything except for phantom pain, a sharp tingling sensation that shoots up his legs, less like pins and needles than gravel rash. His legs are dead weight, but they have a life of their own, making unpredictable spasmodic movements, which often prevent him from getting an uninterrupted night's sleep. Most seriously, Danuiel's tetraplegia is complicated by a condition called autonomic hyper-reflexia that's typical of spinal injury patients whose lesion is as high as C6 and 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. I don't know what all these words mean, but I understand that Danuiel's bodily thermostat is kaput. As central hyperthermia rises, vasodilation above the lesion is intensified and, together with the unrelieved hypertension, magnifies the pounding headache. All 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 an antihypertensive drug called prazosin (Minipress) that relieves high blood pressure and baclofen (Lioresal), a muscle relaxant. 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 has proven invaluable in alleviating his muscle spasms and relieves 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 that heats the crumbled 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 cannabis buds into his food, which is an effective way of providing physiological relief without getting him quite so stoned.

The conventional medication for tetraplegia involves swallowing around two hundred pills per month, but since Danuiel has been using cannabis, he's stopped taking any other medication. When he tells doctors this, they often find it hard to believe that he can function without any prescribed drugs, such as muscular relaxants, tranquilisers or pain killers, but it's true. Not that Danuiel was too close to the medical establishment, since it couldn't give him what he wanted. He'd only been to see his local GP once since moving to New Plymouth and had used the occasion, he told me with a smirk, primarily as an opportunity to stock up on condoms and Viagra. Danuiel didn't want any pills to treat the symptoms of his tetraplegia and, when unable to obtain cannabis, he would prefer to take nothing. Not only did the pills make him feel like death warmed-up, so that he was incapable even of raising an erection in the mornings in order to properly fit the urea dome over his penis that he wears to control his urinary function, but long-term patients built an immunity to the pills, so that their dosage had to be hiked up all the time, causing untold internal damage in the long run. Danuiel prides himself on being fairly clean living. He doesn't eat meat, quit smoking cigarettes in deference to Coral, and rarely drinks alcohol, beyond the occasional beer.

However, Danuiel hadn't had any cannabis for a fortnight and his condition was deteriorating fast. The pain that was always in the background was becoming more insistent every day and it came in combination with a pounding headache. His spastic legs stopped him sleeping. He had hot flushes, chest pains, and difficulty in breathing. He'd lost what little movement there had been in his fingers. He had trouble expressing urine, his skin was very dry, and he had lost his appetite. You might think, then, that when a joint came his way, Danuiel would be eager to get on the end of it. But, when the boys came round and skinned up, Danuiel declined to smoke with us, even though he knew that just a couple of tokes would bring him almost instant relief.

Through the smoke, I perceived that Danuiel was determined to punish himself. Typical Scorpio. I tried to talk him out of it and into taking a toke, but he preferred to suffer, mumbling some non sequitur about how if the cops were going to treat him like a drug addict, he'd show them what happened when he went cold turkey. At least, I rationalised, while making the tea and ransacking the kitchen for something to munch on, his doctor would be able to see for himself the deleterious effects of cannabis deprivation upon Danuiel's condition.

Danuiel's father was a fisherman and, as the boy grew teenaged, he spent more days floating around the Hauraki Gulf in his dad's boat than he did at school. He says he was your typical Kiwi kid, more interested in physical than cerebral pursuits. He was well into martial arts; he wasn't into drugs. Young Danuiel was no angel and he had a series of run-ins with the law for hooning around - behaving like a hooligan - which had culminated in a fine of NZ$500, plus a six month disqualification, for driving while intoxicated and without a valid license. This sentence was handed down a month before his 20th birthday and the ban had hardly expired before Danuiel took off to Europe with his brother, Shaun, in the rite of passage Kiwis call the great O.E.: Overseas Experience.

The Clark brothers arrived on the Greek island of Corfu just before the start of the summer season. They got to know the locals and found work as bouncers in the tourist bars. Danuiel fell for a beautiful Australian girl and was having the time of his life in that Mediterranean paradise when disaster struck. After work, in the wee small hours of July 22, 1991, the brothers accepted a lift in the back of a ute driven by one of their Greek mates, where they sprawled on their backs gazing up at the stars. En route, the vehicle skidded on a patch of gravel, spun out of control and hit a retaining wall. Danuiel and Shaun were both catapulted into the dust. Shaun escaped with bruises and a broken hand, but Danuiel was maimed.

He was knocked out at the moment of impact, but any loss of consciousness was momentary. He was immediately aware that 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. But that's not what happened. At the local hospital he was x-rayed and skull calipers were inserted to apply cervical traction while he was flown home, via London. Danuiel didn't die, but at the age of twenty one he was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life, unable even to wipe his own arse.

Going to the toilet is a major operation. On alternate days, Danuiel�s caregiver administers a suppository and sits him on the commode chair, which fits over the toilet bowl, to empty his bowels. This adds another hour or more to the lengthy process of washing and dressing, which takes at least a couple of hours every morning. While staying in New Plymouth, I cultivated the habit of taking a stroll in the mornings while the caregiver took the cripple through his toilet. It's wasn't just that I wanted to give Danuiel some privacy, but I didn�t want to witness whatever routine indignities he was undergoing. I don't think I've ever enjoyed the sensation of stretching my legs quite so much as during those early morning walks in the Taranaki sunshine.

God knows how one becomes reconciled to life in a wheelchair, although no doubt the weed of wisdom can help. All Danuiel would say is that you had to learn to get on with it and look forward, not back. Being dependent on other people to get around, he's learned to watch what they're doing, always thinking a couple of steps ahead on any journey to anticipate hazards, making sure that bits of his disassembled chair aren't left on the pavement and that the chair is reassembled with its rear stabilising wheels properly fitted. When your back is broken, the higher the break, the less support it's able to give the trunk of your body. Since Danuiel's break is so high, he is liable to fall like a sack of potatoes from his chair if it's tipped forward. When you're dependent on the people around you, their familiarity with and fear of your disability limit the options as to what you can do. For instance, one amazing day that summer, Danuiel and Coral drove into the countryside, to a secluded lake, where Danuiel wanted to take a dip. Coral's a fully qualified nurse and Danuiel has trained as a diver, but it took him the best part of an hour to persuade her to strip off his clothes and wheel him into the water. Had he been with me, the dude would have stayed dry.

Only Danuiel's marvelous motor car, purchased with a pay out from the Greek driver's third party insurance, confers a degree of autonomy. Adapted with a lever connected to the accelerator and brake to stop/go and a device with a slot bolted onto the steering wheel, into which Danuiel inserts a spike worn on a special glove to steer, a car gives him the freedom to cruise around like anybody else. Of course, his '62 Chev, which we collected from the garage where the brakes had been fixed and the engine tuned, is not just another car. It is unique, like it's owner. Cruising around New Plymouth one night in that magnificent old car, stoned off my face on some nasty hash oil a friend of Danuiel's had turned me onto (while he again, declined to get high), being chauffeured by a cripple, I understood that my own lack of a driving license had become a severe disability.

Over the first evening in New Plymouth, after dining on curry and chips from the Chinese fish and chip shop that delivered and with one eye on the American TV prison drama, Oz, I reviewed the criminal record of Danuiel Trevor Clark, tabulating his convictions in an html document. Danuiel started growing his own cannabis in 1993 and hadn't been going a full 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.

Danuiel managed to keep his nose clean for another year or so, but in March 1995, again appearing at Otahuhu DC, he received his second conviction for cultivating cannabis and was fined NZ$250, plus NZ$120 for possession. The Judge was told about the defendant'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 busted that year for smoking pot. 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 for his leniency in the press by 'Christian' anti-drugs campaigners.

Danuiel had moved to the Coromandel from South Auckland in 1994 to escape the attentions of 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 arrest 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 a grow book and some seeds. Customs officers intercepted the package and visited Danuiel's home, bringing officers of the Criminal Investigation Bureau 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, because he doesn't have sufficient dexterity to roll joints - 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 Clark tending a mature cannabis plant on the back porch. Constable C677, Andrews, said they'd come to see him in relation to a traffic offense, but he couldn't say when this offense was supposed to have occurred. 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 light chamber containing cannabis seedlings. Constable Andrews said he knew that Danuiel was already facing charges of cultivating cannabis and so, one might suppose, he'd decided to see if he could catch him at it again. Which he did. Mr Clark explained to Const. Andrews about the medicinal use of cannabis and his response was that there are alternative drugs that Danuiel could use, such as morphine. Once again, a policeman with no medical qualifications was patronising Danuiel Clark by telling him which drugs he could or should not take. He asked 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 natural herb? "Well", all the cop could think of to say was, "that's your problem".

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 had been 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 which affects 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 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 clot might've traveled 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 proud of themselves that day for having apprehended such a persistent criminal and seeing him punished.

Over the following three years, an uneasy truce was struck with the forces of law and order as Danuiel was left alone after he moved to Waihi. Not so the chaotic forces of crime and disorder. The kidnapping took place and then the Police came round and busted him again which, this time, led to him being locked up. Why, that day in court, had Danuiel fallen on his sword in such a dramatic fashion? He couldn't rightly say. He succumbed to overwhelming feelings of frustration and despair. The way he was thinking at that time, Danuiel could not prevail. He felt beaten. They'd taken everything from him, the cops and the robbers, so they might as well take his liberty, too. He just for it all to be over with and if that meant jail, so be it. Danuiel Clark was prepared to be a martyr.

He was dispatched 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 grimly told, "You're in the Justice System now." At Hamilton, where he was violently-strip searched and subjected to abuse before being locked up, his wheelchair wouldn't go through doors at the police station. 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. This cell was equipped with the standard prison bed with a hard mattress that offered inadequate pressure relief and only two blankets. The morbidity of his limbs restricts his blood circulation and, consequently, Danuiel easily catches cold.

The following day, he was transferred to Waikeria, again in an inadequate vehicle. When it went round a corner, he fell onto his folded-up wheelchair and the guards laughed at him. Waikeria Prison was not prepared for his arrival. His jailers had only been told that he was in a wheelchair, but had not been given any details of his condition. During the night, while attempting to change his urine bag, Danuiel was seized by 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, he shat his pants in front of other prisoners. After that, his jailers suggested that they could give him a suppository so that his bowels would move while he was in bed and they would clean him up afterwards. Danuiel wasn't too keen on that idea.

On Tuesday, July 21, Danuiel was transferred to Mount Eden Prison in Central Auckland, where they put him in the infirmary with the psychos and the sex offenders who have to be segregated from the general population. 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 jailers, "Fuck you." The Prison Warder charged Danuiel Clark with misconduct for using abusive language. Things were little better at Mount Eden, where the jailers continued to treat him as an animal, or some kind of deranged drug addict, and where Danuiel shared a cell with a convicted sex offender who was supposed to help him wash and dress. However, Nandor, MP, came to see Danuiel on the day he arrived at Mount Eden and his case was taken up by the Green party, whose leader asked questions in Parliament and alerted the Human Rights Commission.

The most recent cuttings in Danuiel's file referred to the possibility that he would sue the prison service over the treatment he had received. On the day of his release, 27 July, the Hauraki Herald reported 'Claim and counter-claim over prison care': 'The 21 year old (sic) says he was left to sit in his own excrement and not taken to the toilet or showered for four days after prison staff found they were not equipped to deal with his needs... Meanwhile Waikeria Prison manager Harry Hawthorn has dismissed Clark's allegations as untrue. He says he has investigated the situation and Clark got the best care and attention prison staff could give him.' Two days later, the New Zealand Herald's headline was 'Jail term fails to stop pot-smoker': 'Yesterday he would not talk about claims made by friends to the media that he could not get to a toilet or shower for days and lay on the floor for hours because prison staff could not care for him. He was seeking legal advice about action that he could take against his jailers. "But I'm pretty shattered and disgusted at the way I've been treated." Although his stay had been worse than expected, he believed he should be allowed to grow cannabis for medicinal reasons and would continue to fight for that right - even if it meant going back behind bars.' Finally, over a picture of Danuiel and his dogs in the Waikato Times of 10 August, 'Dope a right, says tetraplegic': '"I haven't committed a crime against the community. It's an unjust law if they must incarcerate me to keep me away from the only medicine I can use." Mr Clark is now suing the government for his treatment in Waikeria Prison, but would not discuss the issue further.'

I hadn't formed any mental image of Danuiel�s lawyer from our conversation the day before, so wasn't too surprised to be confronted by a tousled guy in his mid forties, looking like an aging surfie, with somewhat soulful eyes. We shook hands and trooped into the conference room, where Grant Vosseler quickly gave a few encouraging signals. For a start, he mentioned that he had just returned from India and I chose to interpret this as a sign that Danuiel had struck lucky in the Legal Aid lottery and been allocated a lawyer whose heart was in the right place.

Grant had checked out the Canadian cases I'd mentioned on the 'phone and was awaiting the full transcript of the most recent trial of Terry Parker, an epileptic in his mid-forties who had successfully argued in 1987 that he needed pot to control his illness and that its prohibition infringed his statutory Rights and Freedoms. His status as Canada's first semi-legal pot smoker was confirmed the following year when the federal authority lost its appeal against the decision. Despite these court rulings, Toronto police raided Parker's apartment in July 1996, where they found 71 plants growing hydroponically, but in December 1997, the Ontario Court of Justice found Parker not guilty of possessing and cultivating cannabis by reason of his medical necessity. The Feds. appealed on several grounds: Parker had not proven that no other treatment could help him; he could have used a legal, synthetic, form of THC; and he should have applied for an exemption from the Controlled Drugs Act through the Federal Minister of Health. However, on July 31, 2000, the Ontario court of Appeal ruled unanimously that Canada's law against cannabis possession was unconstitutional, because it didn�t allow for the medical use of cannabis. Three wise judges further ruled that Parliament had one year to redraft the law to accommodate medicinal cannabis users, or else they threatened to erase the offense of cannabis possession entirely from the Criminal Code.

There were parallels between Parker and Danuiel's case, Grant agreed, but the local law didn't necessarily work in quite the same way. He'd have to look into the Human Rights legislation to see if it offered grounds for a defence. He hadn't seen the details of any of the British cases I'd mentioned, but wasn't enthusiastic about the prospect of persuading a New Zealand jury to overlook the law as it stands. It did sound like a risky proposition, considering his long list of previous convictions, for Danuiel to plead Not Guilty.

Grant had received no summary of facts from the police in Te Awamutu, but the prosecution appeared to be willing to accept that all the fresh herb that was found in his car was intended exclusively for Danuiel's personal use. So long as he pleaded guilty to the possession charge, the cops had indicated that possible additional charges of cultivation and intent to supply would be dropped. Had Danuiel been charged with his eighth cultivation offence, he would've been in jeopardy of going to prison for up to seven years. Furthermore, if he was to plead guilty, the case could be heard in New Plymouth and he wouldn't be required to travel to Hamilton in order to appear in a court nearer to the place where he was arrested. For all these reasons, Mr Vosseler recommended that Danuiel should plead guilty and he agreed. A conviction for possession of pot for one's personal use, with no intention of supplying it to anyone else, carried a maximum tariff of three months in prison.

While pleading guilty, rather than risk a defence for which there was no local precedent, there would be ample opportunity to present mitigating evidence of Danuiel's medical need to consume cannabis and to make submissions to the court concerning relevant developments in other jurisdictions, where the efficacy of cannabis as medicine was increasingly being recognised and the laws prohibiting it relaxed to accommodate medicinal users. In New South Wales, for example, there was a proposal to allow sufferers from a range of serious and intractable conditions to cultivate up to five cannabis plants at a time in order to supply themselves with a continuous supply. It was deemed likely that a prescribable cannabis-based medicine would appear on the market in the foreseeable future and this experiment was intended as a compassionate interim measure. In New Zealand, as yet, no such compromise had been suggested. But Danuiel had been invited, more-or-less, to renew his application to the Ministry of Health and, as the mitigation would constitute much the same evidence that the Minister would require, perhaps the two could be prepared at the same time?

We left the lawyers' offices with Danuiel audibly calculating the worst case scenario in terms of the time he was likely to have to spend inside, but I was optimistic. Mr Vosseler had given every indication of relishing the opportunity to present detailed evidence to the court, wryly saying that the appropriate use of cannabis was a subject in which he was not disinterested and he was sufficiently optimistic to predict that Danuiel would ultimately be convicted and discharged without punishment. Let's hope. I'd brought the documentation from Danuiel's box file and, while it was being photocopied, presented Grant with a copy of Cannabis Culture, a Canadian magazine that carried an article about Danuiel as New Zealand's most prominent medicinal cannabis user. It also carried a multi-page advert for a cannabis seed company that was heavily illustrated with pictures of mighty potent plants, at the sight of which Mr Vosseler gave himself away, somewhat, by exclaiming, "That's some filthy looking pot!"

On the morning of my departure, I accompanied Danuiel and his caregiver to see his doctor at the Devon Medical Centre. Dr. Hardie Boys was surprised to hear that Danuiel had not used cannabis since his arrest, asking him why ever not? There was momentary silence. Danuiel gazed at the carpet as if looking for logic in its pattern. I knew an easy answer, so I spoke up in his stead: one reason Danuiel hadn't had any pot was because the police had confiscated his entire supply. At least, doctor, I said hopefully, Danuiel's being deprived of cannabis provided an opportunity for the deterioration of his condition to be observed and assessed. Perhaps, I suggested, when Danuiel did manage to obtain some cannabis, he could return and let the doctor see how his condition was improved by it? Dr. Hardie Boys, a chap with the kindly demeanor that befits a family doctor, recorded Danuiel's vital signs and noted the symptoms he reported. He agreed to write a letter to the Judge on Danuiel's behalf. I explained that Danuiel's re-application to the Ministry of Health would require the support of as much expert opinion as Danuiel could garner and the doctor said he would make an appointment with the Outreach Unit from the Spinal Unit in Auckland when it next visited Taranaki. Then Danuiel asked me to leave the room while he had a few words with his doctor in private. I suspect he wanted to hit him up for more sex supplies.

On the bus back to Auckland, I sifted through the papers pertaining to Danuiel's previous application to the Ministry of Health, reviewing the reasons why he'd been turned down. Letters from two doctors had supported the application. Danuiel's GP, Dr. Ashwin Patel, had initially been supportive, but it was Dr. JFB Lusk of the Titirangi Medical Centre, in West Auckland, who wrote a three page letter, dated June 15 1994, in which he outlined the details of Danuiel's case and concluded: 'if your approval is forthcoming, there would appear to be various options for the supply of the drug:
1 In its natural form, it could be made available under police supervision from seizures.
2 Danuiel could be authorised to grow his own under strict control.
3 In the research sense, marijuana could be made available as it currently is for other forms of research.
We understand that such a dispensation, if granted, would be unprecedented in New Zealand. However, in view of the circumstances of Danuiel's case it obviously would be appropriately compassionate and in keeping with changing trends internationally.'

Doctor Patel wrote briefly to the Associate Minister of Health, Maurice Williamson, on July 22, endorsing his colleague's submissions and stating his support for Danuiel's application. He received a reply, dated 19 October 1994: 'On 7 October the Ministry received minutes of the board meeting of the National Drug Intelligence Bureau (NDIB), where your letter was discussed with the Commissioner of Police and the Comptroller of Customs and their Staff. I am informed that the NDIB Board did not support the supply of cannabis for medical reasons and considered that further research was required before such a request could be considered in depth.'

I sat back in my coach seat, staring at the window rather than through it, pondering John Lusk. He'd been Mike Finlayson's doctor - the former President of NORML before Chris - whom Mike had persuaded to present Danuiel's application. Obviously, Dr. Lusk believed cannabis to be Danuiel's best medicine. The only real question in his mind was how to supply him? Considering his own use of the word 'obviously' in the closing sentence of his letter to the Ministry, I wondered how Dr. Lusk must have felt when he received this reply. What was clear was his reaction: John Lusk had refused to take it lying down. Although there was no copy in Danuiel's file, it appeared that he had written to Dr. GR 'Bob' Boyd, the Therapeutics Manager and National Medical Officer of Health (Medicine Control) on 18 July 1995, this time with the heavyweight support of a letter dated 4 July 1995 from Mr Nicholson, Orthopaedic Consultant at the Spinal/Rehabilitation Unit at Otara, who stated that 'I would endorse the submissions made by Dr. John Lusk on Mr Clark's behalf.' Boyd replied to Lusk on 14 September 1995: 'since your letter was received I have received confirmation 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 the other control agencies must be sought and their views considered. No application has been received that fits into that category and the Minister of Health does not currently have the resources or the time to develop its own research or contract for research.'

So, it transpired that Danuiel had not been allowed to use cannabis because the cops said there wasn't enough research to indicate its medical utility. Besides, the Ministry of Health had determined that Danuiel, or anyone, could only be prescribed cannabis as part of a research study. However, despite the testimony of the country's top specialist in spinal injury to the abundant anecdotal evidence from his patients of the efficacy of cannabis in relieving their symptoms, no research to verify these claims was planned in 1995 and (I was to learn) none had taken place in New Zealand over the intervening years. Years in which nothing much had happened, but Danuiel Clark had carried on growing his own medicine and the cops had carried on persecuting him for it.

It wasn't as if the NZ medical establishment was entirely disinterested in the possible therapeutic applications of cannabis. Another letter in Danuiel's file was from Nicholas Kendall, Senior Clinical Psychologist and Research Fellow and the Head of Musculoskeletal Services at the Christchurch School of Medicine. He'd been prompted by a TV documentary he'd seen to write to Williamson at the Ministry of Health on 26 July 1994, explaining that his team at the Musculoskeletal Pain Evaluation and Management Centre at Burwood Hospital in Christchurch, 'have maintained a significant interest in the issue of cannabis and pain relief, not the least because so many of our patients have told us that it is effective. However, we are also very well aware of the possible adverse psychological and social effects... I would strongly urge you, before considering taking any steps towards the implementation of dispensations for the use of cannabis, that a rational protocol be developed'. Mr Kendall outlined the factors that should be monitored in patients using cannabis for pain relief, emphasising that 'I am a scientist, and would like to see these issues appropriately studied. At this point in time, I do not believe there is sufficient evidence to be able to verify any claims regarding the safety, or otherwise, for long term cannabis use as pain relief. I suggest this remains an interesting hypothesis, but one that must be clearly differentiated from the affective (euphoric), and psychological consequences.'

I'd dug Mr Kendall's letter - together with a bland reply from the Associate Minister, saying he'd pass it on to Bob Boyd - out from Danuiel's box file and barely digested its content while putting the papers in chronological order and later, when photocopying them, except to register the remarks about the possible adverse psychological effects of long term cannabis use and wander vaguely what they might be. Perhaps it addles the brain so that lazy-minded pot smokers tend to believe that if seriously ill people say that cannabis helps them, then they should be allowed to have it on their own say so. But the rigorous scientific mindset insists that empirical evidence does not constitute adequate proof and that peoples' experiences must be verified by the clinical certainty of double-blind controlled studies. From Danuiel Clark's wheelchair-bound point of view, this lofty attitude is downright offensive. Danuiel frequently felt like he was being called a liar, or accused of using his disability as an excuse to justify his cannabis habit and carry on getting high. It was like they were saying, 'this bloke isn't really deriving any benefit from smoking pot, he only thinks he is'.

Re-reading this letter in the cold light of day on the bus back to Auckland, I suppressed a smirk at the sentence, 'I am aware that by its very nature, debates involving pain and related issues tend to be emotive'. Whereas scientists are duty bound to be scrupulously rational. Feelings, by their very nature, are not scientifically verifiable by fixed and objective criteria. Also, cannabis can be mercurial in its effects, which may vary wildly according to 'set and setting': the mindset of the user and the environment they're in. Cannabis cannot be accurately classified as a stimulant, narcotic, or hallucinogen, but may exhibit all three properties at different times and in different situations, even when taken by the same person. There's probably no other drug for which the effects are governed to such an extent by the expectations of the user. Cannabis can act as a sensitizer, magnifying moods, so you wouldn't think it would be much use as an analgesic, but Danuiel Clark says it works for him. Maybe cannabis doesn't kill the pain, exactly, but it enables him to bear it better. To sort of recontextualise the pain, so it isn't the prime focus of his being. However, the effectiveness of a drug cannot be properly determined by any indeterminate feelgood factor, but only by using what Mr Kendall calls the appropriate psychometric instruments in the context of quantifiable methodologies that are reliable and valid. I imagined what Danuiel would say, with his wry smile: "yeah, well he's not the one in the chair, is he?"

In fact, Mr Kendall's letter was ludicrously straight. Even if you could separate the pain-killing properties of cannabis from its euphoric effects, why bother? What is the crucial difference between pain relief and not being bothered by the pain? And what's wrong with giggling? Straight science frequently decrees that getting high on cannabis is an undesirable side effect in its therapeutic application, but to anyone who has ever smoked a joint for the pure pleasure of it, getting high and feeling better are substantially the same thing.

Conventional medical science seeks to identify the active component of a drug and synthesise it into a pill or capsule. Dr. Raphael Mechoulam described the chemical structure of the principle psychoactive component of cannabis, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as far back as 1964 and there are a couple of formulations of synthetic THC that are widely prescribed. Dronabinol is made by Unimed Pharmaceuticals and marketed under the trade name Marinol as an appetite stimulant for HIV/AIDS patients and as an anti emetic to stem the nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy. Nabilone, aka Cesamet, is a narcotic medication used to treat severe nausea and vomiting. Occasionally, it is also used to help improve appetite. However, patients say these pills don't word as well as natural cannabis, because they're too heavy, man. They take ages to have any effect and then they knock you out for hours. And then you come round with a hangover. Apparently, pure THC is not so effective as natural cannabis sativa, a pharmacologically 'dirty' drug that contains at least 60 other cannabinoids and more than 400 chemical compounds that moderate the effects of the THC in ways in which science cannot, as yet, explain. Of course, as potheads are prone to say, you can't improve on Mother Nature. Science can never fully comprehend nature in her infinite complexity, but scientists must surely be aware of the fundamental principle of synergy. Yin and yang. Everything is existing in harmonious relationship with everything else. I'm no scientist and most of the time I operate on crude instinct, but it seems to me that if the mind and the body are not seen as separate entities, there's precious little chance of ever being able to adequately differentiate the psychological from the physiological effects of cannabis.

Still, I thought, Mr Kendall might not have been persuaded of the therapeutic potential of cannabis in the specific area of pain relief six years ago, but a lot had happened in the interim and he might have changed his mind. Back then, he was commending the services of the academic and research department he headed as uniquely qualified in New Zealand 'to undertake such an evaluation and disentanglement of the issues'. All this time later, his academic appetite must surely have grown keener? It certainly looked like Danuiel wouldn't stand a chance of eventually obtaining permission to use pot without the backing of some top docs. Seeing as Nicholas Kendall had expressed such interest, I resolved to contact him.

Back at base, I asked Chris Fowlie for the name of a contact at the Ministry of Health and e-mailed the National Drug Policy Team Leader, asking for 'advice on the procedure that should be followed in Danuiel's application and which medical experts I might approach for their supportive testimony. From my perusal of the documents pertaining to Danuiel's application in 1994,' I wrote, 'it appears that the Minister of Health cannot approve the self-administered use of cannabis by an individual without prescription. Such use requires a license under sections 9 and 14 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1975, under which such licenses may be granted only for purposes of research and study. It seems, therefore, that Danuiel is only likely to receive a supply of cannabis as part of a properly monitored study of its effect upon his condition and I would be particularly grateful of you could put me in contact with a suitable authority, or individual, who may be prepared to conduct such a study.'

I phoned the number on Mr Kendall's 1994 letterhead and was informed by a secretary that he'd taken a new position within the ACC, the Accident Compensation Corporation, which administers welfare payments to accident victims like Danuiel Clark. She gave me a switchboard number and an e-mail address, so I took the soft option and e-mailed Mr Kendall, copying Danuiel's GP, Hardie Boys, asking, basically, if he would bring his professional expertise to bear on Danuiel's renewed application?

The Man from the Ministry replied after ten days or so, on 19 March 2001, with a chatty e-mail in which he outlined the regulatory mechanisms that a medicinal cannabis product would have to pass through in New Zealand before it could be marketed and used to treat specific illnesses. He further informed me, 'the Ministry is unlikely to approve the medicinal use of cannabis in the form of a cannabis cigarette or 'joint', on the basis that there is no control over dose, quality, or effectiveness. There are also health issues associated with smoking cigarettes, and tobacco that would work against any proposed therapeutic effects.' Yeah, right, I thought to myself, making a mental note to write back and take issue with that meretricious, but erroneous and morally vacuous statement. Oh yes.

First, I thought I'd better familiarise myself with the relevant legislation, the Medicines Act 1981. Every country has a regulatory agency that issues licenses for new drugs. In New Zealand, this agency is called Medsafe. It's standard procedure for governments to pretend that cannabis is a new medicine, insisting that its safety and efficacy must be clinically proven before it can be prescribed. Any other course, they say, would be irresponsible and might have unforeseen repercussions. The reason for such caution and stringent controls is Thalidomide, a drug that was marketed from 1957 to 1961, with advertising that targeted expectant mothers who experienced nausea, muscular cramps and associated sleeplessness during pregnancy. It was thought to be so safe that it was sold without prescription in Europe, but at least 8,000 women who had taken Thalidomide, worldwide, gave birth to deformed babies. Now, cannabis is known to be highly effective at suppressing nausea, it relaxes the muscles and promotes restful sleep. Had those prospective mothers been given natural cannabis to ease their pregnancies, their babies might have developed normally. Instead, because of Thalidomide, the regulations governing new medicines prevent seriously ill people from gaining access to effective medicine in the form of natural cannabis.

This situation had prevailed in the UK for several years, with a succession of Parliamentary spokesmen blandly saying that, of course, if cannabis were clinically proven to be a safe and effective medicine according to the criteria of the Medicines Control Agency (MCA), the government would not stand in the way, etc. and so forth. The cost of clinical trials of a new medicine is usually underwritten by the pharmaceutical company that seeks to bring it to market, in the expectation of future profit, but it was unlikely that any conventional drug company would be interested in cannabis, since its active ingredient couldn't be patented and because cannabinoid drugs could potentially undermine the market for a wide range of conventionally-prescribed drugs.

Pretending that cannabis is a new drug is absurd anyway, since it is one of the oldest medicines known to man and is mentioned in ancient Oriental texts. Preparations of cannabis were widely prescribed from the mid 19th century (Queen Victoria famously took a tincture for her period pains) and remained in the British Pharmacopoeia Codex until 1948. Not only have thousands of years of widespread use demonstrated its medicinal value, but the best efforts of the US Government over the last thirty years, through its National Institute of Drug Abuse, to establish a sufficient level of toxicity to support the prohibition of cannabis has instead provided a record of safety that is more compelling than that of most approved medicines. That�s the view of Lester Grinspoon, author of Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine, who has pointed out that controlled experiments were not needed to recognize the therapeutic potential of a range of commonly-used drugs, including penicillin and aspirin, which was accepted as a medicine more than sixty years before the advent of the double-blind controlled study.

Into this impasse, in the UK, had stepped the intrepid Dr. Geoffrey Guy, with his business credentials and experience in developing natural medicines for the market. He set up GW Pharmaceuticals and launched it on a mission to grow cannabis of 'medicinal quality' (i.e.: standardised, with a known cannabinoid profile) and to develop non-smokable cannabinoid medicines which would be thoroughly evaluated according to MCA guidelines, with a view to coming up with a prescribable product by 2003! While this development was not initially greeted with universal enthusiasm among the broader community of cannabis activists, some of whom were naturally inclined to suspect Dr. Guy's motives, the news that had leaked out from the GWP project was encouraging. Over a succession of interviews published in various magazines, Dr. Guy had been enthusiastically singing the praises of the plants he was cultivating in a top secret suite of greenhouses situated somewhere in the South of England, even boasting about the size of his colas like a competitor in the Cannabis Cup.

I'd read a report that Dr. Guy had talked about how difficult it would be to devise a method of administering cannabis that is more effective than the humble joint, which is actually a highly efficient means of extracting the active cannabinoids from the plant matter (by burning) and delivering them swiftly into the blood stream, so that the effects of a toke on a joint are felt within minutes. Patients can assess those effects before inhaling again and, with practice, learn when to stop smoking before becoming too stoned to function. When Dr. Guy had first approached the UK Government, apparently, it was with the notion of developing a cannabis patch, like the nicotine patches worn by people who are trying to wean themselves off cigarettes, but that idea proved to be a non-starter. Now he was experimenting with this sub-lingual spray. But Dr. Guy was on record, or at least had been attributed, as saying that the future lay in whole smoked cannabis. Whether or not this was actually what the good doctor had said - and his investors would be dismayed if it were - Dr. Guy had repeatedly stated his company's commitment to investigating the therapeutic properties of whole plant extracts of cannabis.

While I was waiting for a reply from the Ministry, on 14 March 2001, a committee convened by the British House of Lords, which had been cogitating upon the therapeutic uses of cannabis, published its second report. In November 1998, the committee's first report, Cannabis: The Scientific and Medical Evidence, recommended that doctors should be permitted to prescribe an 'appropriate preparation' of cannabis if they saw fit, albeit as an unlicensed medicine and on a named-patient basis. The Government had flatly rejected this recommendation on the morning the Report was published and its eventual written reply was no more encouraging. In March 1999, therefore, the Committee wrote: 'we regret that the mind of the Government appears to be closed on this issue, and hope that the results of new research now under way may cause them to revisit our recommendations at an early date.' The subsequent inquiry, convened to examine the current state of research into the therapeutic uses of cannabis, complained that 'both the MCA and the Home Office persist in treating cannabis-based medicines as new medicines' and was critical of the MCA for holding up the development of cannabinoid medicine by questioning the toxicity of cannabidiol (CBD).

CBD is another cannabinoid; it's what THC degrades to. In crude, pot head terms, THC is what gets you high and CBD is what gets you stoned, giving that heavy body buzz that will be familiar to anyone who smoked the inferior Moroccan hashish that was all you could regularly buy in the UK during the 1980s. Even the best quality soap bar tends to be stale and increasingly the criminal gangs that controlled its importation were polluting it with all sorts of stuff like henna (to bulk it out) and beeswax (to make it stick together) so that it didn't really get you high. Smoke enough of it and you ended up stoned, alright, but that's not what most recreational users are looking for. We want to get high; we want maximum THC and, Glory Be, we got it. The decline in quality of imported hash into the UK during the 1990s coincided - if there is such a thing as coincidence - with the rise of homegrown hydroponic cannabis cultivation and, increasingly, no one wanted to smoke crap hash anymore. Except the cripples. Not that I knew a lot of cannabis users in wheelchairs, but the ones I did meet through the legalisation movement tended to say that skunk got them too stoned, referring to smoke hash, or bake it into cookies, or dissolve it into warm milk and add it to their tea.

Because it seemed likely that CBD played a more important role in alleviating spasm, in formulating the cannabinoid profile of their whole plant extracts of cannabis for trials with Multiple Sclerosis and spinal injury patients, GW Pharmaceuticals would presumably have wanted to include a high proportion of CBD. But the MCA was unhappy with the toxicology data on CBD. They said that there is some evidence that CBD inhibits spermatogenesis in animals (which students of anti-pot propaganda will recognise as the "it makes you impotent" myth). The MCA insisted on further toxicology data on CBD, which could have delayed the production of a cannabis-based medicine by as much as 2 to 3 years. However, the House of Lords had put the MCA in its place, making a series of points including one which might equally apply to those who want to carry on smoking cannabis, therapeutically, as opposed to taking part in the trials of some new fangled spray: 'the potential side-effects about which the MCA are concerned might be regarded as trivial by those patients who stand to benefit... The attitude of the MCA in not allowing patients to make their own decisions could be regarded as over protective.'

While this was all very well, I supposed, it was no more immediately relevant to Danuiel Clark than the Man from the Ministry's patient explanation of the regulatory mechanisms pertaining to the licensing of drugs in New Zealand, pursuant to section 31 of the Medicines Act, 1981. Danuiel wasn't seeking to develop a novel proprietary medicine; he just wanted to peacefully continue using cannabis, the medicine that works best for him. I surfed the Medsafe web site and scanned the Medicines Act, where I read section 25 and section 29 concerning the use of Unapproved Medicines: 'An unapproved medicine is one for which there is no current consent for distribution in New Zealand. It may be a medicine that has never been approved (an application has not been made or consent was not granted) or a medicine that has previously been approved but for which the consent has lapsed because the medicine has not been marketed for more than five years'. Preparations of cannabis were prescribed in New Zealand until February 1955. So, I wondered if the Ministry might be persuaded to permit Danuiel's doctor to prescribe cannabis on as an unapproved medicine, provided he could obtain a supply? I knew it was a pipe dream, of course, as soon as the thought bubbled up in my mind, because, as the man from the Ministry put it, 'as you know, cannabis and cannabinoids (synthetic cannabis products) are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act.' It was a safe bet, I further supposed, that the Misuse of Drugs Act trumps the Medicines Act.

Having described the regulatory mechanisms and made his glib remarks about the health issues associated with smoking, the Man from the Ministry went on to summarise the meeting (from memory) between Mr Clark and the Minister of Health on 30 May 2000, at which 'the Minister indicated that she was willing to exercise her discretion to consider an application from Mr Clark' provided that his medical need to consume cannabis because conventional medicines weren't working was confirmed by a Medical Specialist; that Mr Clark could arrange a Doctor willing to prescribe cannabis medicinally; and that Mr Clark or the Doctor concerned could arrange a robust process for the prescribing of cannabis to Mr Clark. My mind briefly boggled at the phrase, 'robust process', but there would be plenty of time to worry about what that might mean. The first task was to garner sympathetic medical opinion. This is what had prompted Danuiel to lose his cool at the meeting with the Minister, who had apparently indicated that her staff would try and track down names of medical practitioners who had expressed sympathy for the prescribing of cannabis in the past. The Man from the Ministry's e-mail concluded by advising me that a list of possible specialists was passed to Nandor, MP, who also attended the meeting, but Nandor's office had no record of having received it.

A couple of days after receiving the communication from the Ministry of Health, I called to check in with Danuiel one morning, on March 21. I tried to time my calls between the end of Danuiel's ablutions and before he went out cruising in the Chev, but his caregiver told me he was still in the shower. When I called back an hour or so later, there was a crisis. Danuiel's dad had been busted! First thing that morning, the police had raided his place at Miranda, out in the South Auckland wop wops, armed with a search warrant. Some cannabis plants were discovered, growing in an out building. Details were sketchy, but my question was why? Why did the cops choose to bust in on Danuiel's dad all of a sudden? Danuiel's only answer was Bill. But why would Bill draw attention to himself by dobbing in Danuiel's dad? Because he's like that, that's the kind of thing he does. Danuiel dismissed the question as if it were obvious.

One thing that was clear was that Danuiel was resigned to taking the rap. There's this Kiwi expression, 'staunch.' It can mean bloody-minded, but mostly it's used to mean doing the right thing. Even though the plants were some 300 km away from his home, he'd never actually seen them and wasn't even sure how many there were, Danuiel was determined to be staunch. The plants constituted his final reserve supply, he was their intended end user, and so he had to accept responsibility for them.

I felt my breath caught in my throat and was obliged to sigh and sit down. Modulating my voice to the patient tone of a nursery school teacher, I took him through it gently. "Danuiel, how many convictions for growing cannabis does your dad have?" He didn't have any. "And how many convictions do you have?" This would be his eighth for cultivation and twelfth cannabis-related conviction, overall, including the outstanding possession charge. His dad would only get a small fine, at worst, and he could argue in mitigation that he was growing for his son's medicinal benefit. Danuiel had been sentenced to prison twice already (suspended in 1996) for growing pot and now he was going to put his head in the noose again over some plants he'd never even seen. Did he think his dad would want him to take the risk of being banged up again with the psychos and the sex offenders? His dad had a heart problem, Danuiel said. He couldn't subject the old man to the stress of being dragged through the courts. He didn't want that on his conscience.

I put the phone down, seething. I sucked a cigarette and slurped coffee, chewing things over. Things had been going so well. Well, not so well, but OK. Danuiel had got a laptop computer, courtesy of the ACC, and was learning how to use it. His relationship with Coral had been strained when I first met them by the weight of the bust, but they seemed solid now that Danuiel had stopped punishing himself, somewhat, and put things in perspective. At some point over the weekend after I left New Plymouth, Danuiel had relented and accepted a toke on a joint. After a couple of weeks of suffering, it was amazing how swiftly the cannabis brought relief. Within a few minutes of inhaling, Danuiel felt the tension drain away from his shattered body. The spasm stopped, his shoulders relaxed and his breath came more easily. For the first time in more than three weeks he didn't have a headache. They'd been to see the doctor, Hardie Boys, to show him what Danuiel was like after he'd had a toke or two on a kindly joint, as opposed to when he'd been deprived for a fortnight. I had high hopes of Dr. Hardie Boys, irrationally, because he shared the same name as the recently retired Governor General. At any rate, Dr. Hardie Boys had arranged for Danuiel to be examined by a Specialist - some weeks in the future - and had furnished him with a letter to set before the judge. We were still at stage one of the process outlined by the man from the Ministry, but a start had been made. Now this.

Not that it made any fundamental difference to Danuiel's defence. In a way, it made it stronger: Danuiel can't afford to buy the cannabis he needs from the street, so he's obliged to grow his own, but it's no longer possible for him to grow safely at home, so he asked for help from the one person who couldn't refuse and whom he could trust, absolutely. That was all fair enough. So what was making me uncomfortable? What always pisses me off? Being deceived, or told less than the whole truth. How come Danuiel had been so positive that his father's arrest was more of dastardly Bill's dirty work? Snitching did seem to fit his M.O., but what's the motive? There was, I concluded, stubbing out my fag and swilling the dregs of my coffee, more to this than met the eye.

The next day, or later the same day, the New Plymouth police came to Danuiel's house with a warrant and they searched. Surely they didn't expect to find cannabis plants growing there, or any amount of weed, so soon after another bust? Danuiel mumbled, sheepishly, over the 'phone. Something about looking for stolen property. It was more of Bill's mendacity. He'd accused Danuiel of having stolen something. The full story didn't all come out at once, but it emerged over successive phone calls and it wasn't pretty. It was pretty dumb. Danuiel had found out that his ex-girlfriend, Lisa, was shacked up with Bill. He suspected they'd been at it since before he left Waihi; that's another reason why Bill encouraged him to leave. Danuiel had rounded up a couple of friends and they had driven over there to confront Bill and Lisa. Or not to confront them. His intentions were open to conjecture, since he was unable or unwilling to define them conclusively. It sounded to me kind of like when Danuiel got pulled over at Te Awamutu; where the hell did he think he was going? He'd rather not say. He had a load of pot in the car and was taking it somewhere, somewhere he thought it would be safer than if he stayed put. He didn't want to incriminate anybody by saying where he was going, so the official story was that he wasn't headed anywhere in particular. He was simply fleeing from Bill the bogeyman.

To stick to the known facts: Danuiel and his two mates drove some 350km from Taranaki to Coromandel to visit Bill and Lisa at their abode in Whiritoa. When had they done this? On March 16th, five days before Danuiel's dad was visited by the police. There'd been nobody home at Lisa and Bills' place, so Danuiel and co. had left. They had a word with the neighbours and left. They didn't break in? No. Although they did enter the house to make a phone call (Danuiel called Lisa), but the door was open. They didn't force entry. They didn't take anything? Nothing that didn't belong to Danuiel. So there was no evidence of theft, beyond Bill's say so? The police had found nothing. So maybe it would be OK.

I wrote back to the Man from the Ministry of Health. I informed him of the progress of the GW trials, lobbed the Unapproved Medicine curve ball, and took him to task over his remarks about smoking with reference to the House of Lords' committee report from 1998, section 5.57, which states: 'Although there is general agreement that smoked cannabis carries a potential risk for long-term users, the medical application of smoked cannabis is not ruled out by all'. I quoted some other reports, as you do. Finally, I pointed out the apparent contradiction between the government's stance that smoking pot is unhealthy and its imposition of a new law, the previous year, banning the sale of water pipes, which are intended to reduce the potential harm associated with smoking. Danuiel Clark's preferred method of administration, I told him, is via a vaporiser, but he doesn't dare keep the contraption at home for fear that it will be confiscated by the cops.

I hadn't heard from Mr Nicholas Kendall and it had been nearly a month since I e-mailed him. If only some senior member of the New Zealand medical establishment would show an interest in Danuiel Clark's case, I thought, we might see some action. Surfing a surge of enthusiasm one sunny morning, I found the number for the ACC HQ in Wellington and the switchboard put me straight through to his office, where 'Nick' Kendall answered in person. He was quite matey, in the uncondescending Kiwi manner, but he didn't exactly ask what he could do to help. Our conversation proceeded along parallel lines and ended with me asking Kendall, like a cold-calling salesman, if I could send him further information. The reason he hadn't replied to my earlier mail was because he never saw it. He gave me another e-mail address and I sent him a summary of Danuiel's case, asking again if he would be prepared to add his professional weight to a re-application to the Ministry of Health for Danuiel to be allowed access to cannabis?

I wrote an article about medicinal cannabis for NORML News, the pro-legalisation newsletter, pointing out that the legal and political progress toward prescription cannabis in the UK can be almost entirely attributed to the dignified efforts of a patients' rights group called the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics (ACT). Occupying the moral high ground and scrupulously avoiding identification with potheads, who just want to get high, the Alliance had easily found supporters in Parliament and its members made impeccable witnesses before committees of inquiry. There was an official inquiry underway in New Zealand, convened under the aegis of the Department of Health, to consider What To Do About Cannabis, but it seemed that the therapeutic applications of the herb were not within its remit. So, anyway, said an article in The Listener, New Zealand's most intelligent weekly current affairs magazine, which had covered the issue a couple of weeks previously, focusing upon the case of Greg Soar.

Greg's HIV positive. Consequently, he swallows the proverbial cocktail of pills, fourteen a day, 98 per week. The pills make him nauseous, so that he wakes up feeling sick most mornings and often vomits before breakfast. Not that Greg eats a lot of breakfast these days, because his appetite isn't what it was. If he doesn't eat, not only does he get weaker, but the effect of the pills is even more devastating on an empty stomach. However, if he's able to have a smoke of cannabis upon waking, Greg doesn't throw up. He can eat something and hold it down and even relish it and then take his prescribed medication and keep that down, too. 'I thank God every day if I can wake and have some cannabis to immediately alleviate the desire to vomit,' he wrote. Besides suppressing his nausea and stimulating his appetite, cannabis calms Greg down and enables him to get a decent night's sleep. Which are important factors when you're living with a potentially terminal condition.

Greg was affiliated to the New Zealand Medicinal Cannabis Club (NZMCC) and his testimony appeared on their web site, but he'd also started a patients' rights group, MediCann (now called Green Cross). From my cursory communications with the NZMCC, I gathered that they saw their role as being to work within the system, the softly softly approach. Greg wasn't of that persuasion. He was indignant, angry. He was angry because he'd been to see his MP, who apparently advised him, behind closed doors, to "grow your own" and subsequently denied it in public. He was angry because he'd applied to the Minster of Health for a dispensation to use cannabis and she'd written back and told him, 'I am not able, or willing to help'.

Writing the NORML article preoccupied me for a week or so and, over that period, I lost touch with Danuiel. Frankly, I'd been increasingly irritated by his news, which was all about Bill. Bill had kept up a campaign of intimidation, prowling around Danuiel's house and Coral's, where someone had rattled the door handle late one night. There were abusive phone calls and vaguely threatening text messages, one advising Coral to take out home insurance... I mean, I was sympathetic, but it seemed to me that Danuiel was wallowing in self-pity and refusing to help himself. I told him to record every instance of intimidation and to report them to the police, but he wouldn't. It was as if it were against his ethical code to make complaints to the police, whatever the provocation. What was the point when the police viewed him as a crim. and probably thought he deserved whatever grief came his way?

When I finally called Danuiel again, his phone had been cut off and the new number was ex-directory. His mobile was similarly dead. I knew he'd been planning to move into a house that the ACC had found for him, a place that was equipped for a disabled person, with ramps and a customised bathroom. I vaguely knew the address, but not the new number. Eventually, Grant Vosseler, the lawyer, called to ask if I knew where Danuiel was. The trial date was approaching and Grant had been unable to contact his client. Grant told me the details of the charges against Danuiel. The police had determined the dry weight of the fresh cannabis in his car as 805 grams, or 28.75 ounces, which was not too far off Danuiel's estimate of 24 ounces (and we don't know how thoroughly the cops cleaned the buds or cured them). More worryingly, the cultivation charge involved 14 adult female plants, each of them two and a half metres high. There was no way of disputing this evidence, since not even Danuiel had laid eyes on these plants. He'd told me he thought there were half a dozen flowering female adults and another half dozen at the vegetative stage. Grant sounded as worried as I was and equally perplexed by Danuiel's determination to own up to these plants when it was obvious that he'd been nowhere near them. However, I told him what I half-remembered of Danuiel's new address and Grant drove around until he found him.

I traveled down to New Plymouth on the bus the night before Danuiel's hearing on April 24, at which he would be pleading guilty to charges of possession and cultivation of cannabis and his lawyer would be asking the Judge for sentencing to be deferred, pending reports. Coral met me from the bus and drove round to Danuiel's new place in Frankley Road, which was a great improvement. It was set back a bit from the road, so that the likes of Bill couldn't easily see in, and the back garden was properly fenced, so that Bella and Chester couldn't easily run out into the road. This time, I had managed to bring some weed and Danuiel wasn't averse to smoking some, since he might be going to prison the next day. "No you aren't," I assured him. "You won't even be sentenced tomorrow and, even if you are ultimately sentenced to prison, we can appeal." He wasn't convinced, but he wasn't depressed, either. Fatalistic would be the word to describe his state of mind and along with the fatalism came gallows humour. They'd spent a lot of money on the Taranaki prison recently, to the disgust of some local citizens who objected to prisoners having it too cushy. One of Coral's old biker mates worked there as the prison cook. She'd briefed him on Danuiel's vegetarian diet and he'd joked that ramps had been installed in the prison in preparation for his arrival.

The talk turned to the diabolical antics of Bill. The latest was that, within the previous week, Danuiel had received a trespass order in the post, forbidding him from going anywhere near the residence of Lisa McNee at 124 Kontiki Road, Whiritoa, for two years. Coral had been sent one as well, much to her indignation. She'd never even met the woman! Pipe in hand, I stared at this legal document, wondering what the fuck? OK, so Danuiel had been over there and there was some dispute as to what had taken place, but a banning order implied some form of physical threat and Danuiel's incapable of posing a threat to anyone. He laughed it off, we all did. Bill and Lisa were off their heads, we decided, passing the pipe. Bill was a heavy amphetamine user (the real, and escalating, drug problem in New Zealand) with all the attendant paranoia that comes with speed, and Lisa was in his thrall and easily led. This was merely the latest episode in a litany of madness. One of Bill's choicest text messages to Coral implored her to call her 'goons' off. Bill suspected Coral of having got her biker mates to steal his motorbike, which had actually been repossessed by a local biker gang in accordance with their own peculiar code of conduct, possibly as collateral for an unpaid drug debt. Who knew? His paranoid delusions would be laughable, but Bill had left a sinister message on Coral's answering machine and she'd been sufficiently freaked out to report it to the police. Despite Danuiel's distrust of the law, Coral couldn't allow her teenage daughters to be menaced by some psycho. The cops had come round and listened to the tape and taken it away with them, but Coral had heard that all the action they'd taken was to phone Bill and tell him not to do it again.

The following morning, we all arrived at the District Court House at 9.30am. Danuiel was nervous, understandably, but groundlessly. I kept telling him that there was no way they were going to lock him up today, but he wouldn't be reassured. We stopped en route to buy tobacco, a valuable commodity in prison. Parking his Chev. in the car park of Till, Henderson, King, whose offices face the court building across Robe Street, Danuiel manoeuvered into his wheelchair and Coral wheeled him in through a side entrance, where there's a ramp. I walked up the front steps and entered the foyer of the building to see Danuiel being approached by a short, dark haired woman, wreathed in smiles. I took her to be a secretary or court functionary of some sort, although she looked more like a hooker, dressed in a tarty red satin top, black skirt and slip-on sandals (red nail polish). But no. She was actually a policewoman and she proceeded to arrest Danuiel Clark for burglary!

Danuiel was wheeled across the road to the Police Station, were he was accused of visiting an address in Whiritoa on 16 March with two accomplices - who had also been arrested at their places of work and dragged down to the station - and stealing various items. I was stunned. We all were. We hung around the court steps in the autumn sunshine, until Grant Vosseler showed up. I told him what had happened. His eyebrows shot up. I asked, didn�t this constitute contempt of court? Danuiel was due to appear to answer cannabis-related charges, but had been arrested on a completely unrelated charge concerning an event that had transpired some six weeks previously. This was clearly calculated to influence the Judge, casting assertions on Danuiel's character by seeking to portray him as a burglar rather than a harmless guy in a wheelchair who smokes pot. Grant winced but declined to comment. He nodded across the road at the Police station, laconically pointing out that it was simply convenient for the cops to arrest Danuiel when they knew where he would be. Because it's such a hassle to disassemble a wheelchair in order to cart an uncooperative cripple across town and then reassemble it at the other end. Grant had other clients to attend to and he disappeared upstairs. The rest of us went for coffee.

New Plymouth is a small town where everyone knows everybody else's business, so it didn't take long for me to get the gossip on this lady cop, Detective Sue Ashton. Pertinently, her teenage son was notorious as one of the biggest stoners in school. Apparently, police woman Sue had tried to arrest (sic) the lad's pot habit by enlisting her colleagues to surprise him by staging a mock bust. Scare him out of it, you see. You don't have to be a trained psychologist to guess how productive that cunning stunt had been.

We waited some more and, while we were waiting, Greg Soar turned up. I didn't expect to see him, but he said he'd woken up at four in the a.m. and the thought had occurred that, if he were in Danuiel's position and facing criminal charges for using the only medication that enables him to enjoy a reasonable quality of life, he'd be grateful for all the support he could get. So Greg had borrowed his daughter's Toyota and driven 360 km to New Plymouth in order to show his solidarity.

Danuiel didn't reappear until 12.30 and his case was duly postponed until after lunch. His caregiver elected to drive Danuiel's Chev. home and I thought it would be a good idea to pop back and tidy up. Greg offered to drive me. The dogs were barking in the back yard as we pulled into Danuiel's driveway and I'd gone to see what the fuss was about when a plain clothes cop with a moustache, attired in a brown ensemble, came round from the front door and introduced himself. He seemed to me a trifle embarrassed as he invited us inside, where loads more cops, in and out of uniform, were milling about. I noted two sitting on the sofa by a coffee table where a tobacco pouch with a prime bud inside it lay beside my laptop. Moustachio asked who I was and noted my details as I surveyed the scene. Reassuringly, he told me that they weren't looking for cannabis.

In fact, they were having another look for a 'silver' pen, a cheap Minolta camera, an archery bow (also sometimes described as a crossbow) and a knife or machete with a foot long blade. Not one of these items would be of any practical use to Danuiel Clark and, besides, they'd already searched his old address and found nothing (except a copy of NORML News, which they took away with them). Now, here they were again. Such dedication to duty.

Detective Ashton, the tackily-dressed woman from that morning, was in charge, backed up by two other women, a youngish one in black and an older and scarier one with red hair, dressed in a white jump suit. Perhaps they thought they were Charlie's Angels. In rubber gloves. Ms Ashton piped up, if you asked her, it would be a disaster if cannabis was legalised. "Disastrous for society," her words were. "Even for seriously ill people like Danuiel?" I asked. The witch in white chipped in, saying that she'd worked on a psychiatric ward where she had to cope with the victims of cannabis. "You don't see the harm that cannabis causes," she said, "but we do. We have to deal with the victims of cannabis abuse." I could have told her that I deal with the victims of an ignorant and vindictive police force, but I must be getting smarter because I held my tongue. I thought, they could still change their minds and bust us for the pot they'd found on the premises (and the sheepish moustachioed man in brown had deliberately overlooked while searching Greg's car).

Greg Soar, however, could not let it go. "I doubt that," I heard him say, resolutely, from somewhere behind me. I was willing the cops to, please, piss off, and wondering if there were any remote possibility that they'd overlook my prize bud leave it undisturbed in its bag. As if. I observed as the chief witch pursed her lips, looking appraisingly at Greg. "We could have a long debate about it," she said, but she didn't stick around for one. She left, her weird sisters scuttling after her, and we slammed the door behind them. I sank down on the sofa next to Greg, who skinned up from the tin that the cops hadn't bothered to open. It could've been worse.

We returned to the Court House, downtown, where Danuiel had been given lunch. He seemed somewhat chastened, perhaps because he'd been parked in a narrow cell where there wasn't room to turn his chair around and he'd been obliged to sit facing a barred window. We trooped into court where the first part of Danuiel's hearing was spent with wrangling over bail regulations. Although the new burglary charge had nothing to do with the ostensible reason why we were there, it certainly confused the issue. Since the alleged burglary took place while Danuiel was on bail for the possession charge, the police prosecutor contended that he should be held in custody pending trial and also, since he was likely to receive a custodial sentence on the cultivation charge, the police said there was a chance that Danuiel may abscond. It was, said the prosecutor, 'inevitable' that Danuiel must go to jail.

Mr Vosseler, defending, contended that a prison sentence for the cannabis cultivation offence was not inevitable. The Judge quipped that there must be a 'high risk' of going to prison for an eighth conviction and remarked that the amount of cannabis in Danuiel's possession was well over the amount for which the police would usually press a charge of intent to supply. Ultimately, however, he wasn't convinced that there were sufficient grounds to refuse bail on the burglary charge and remarked that there remained a wide range of sentencing options in respect of the admitted cannabis offenses. Sentencing was scheduled for the afternoon of May 10, and Mr Vosseler advised the court that sufficient time should be allowed for extensive submissions to be considered by the judge. We trooped back out into the sunlight and returned to Danuiel's house for cups of tea and so on before Greg, having offered me a lift back to Auckland, said it was time to leave.

A few days later, Grant Vosseler received a reply, dated April 27, from the Minister of Health, Annette King, to his inquiry about his client's application for use of cannabis for medical treatment of tetraplegia and associated muscle spasms' She wrote: 'I understand that your client, Mr Clark, has been informed that the provisions of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1973 require a medical practitioner to make the application, in authorising the prescribing of a controlled drug. Mr Clark has only submitted general letters of support from doctors. Therefore, there are no legislative grounds to review that application further.'

Ms King continued: 'Information recently supplied on Mr Clark's behalf to the Ministry of Health concerning recent inquiries by the British House of Lords refers to therapeutic trials of cannabis products proposed or underway in that country. The trial of a sub-lingual cannabinol spray sponsored by GW Pharmaceuticals appears to be the sort of formal trial use of a new medicine on individual subjects which would be relatively easy to adapt to the New Zealand situation. A small-scale trial of this sort would not need prior assessment by the Health Research Council, under section 30 of the Medicines Act, but as it is an innovative treatment, the trial protocol would have to be assessed by the local ethics committee.

'Provided ethics committee approval is obtained,' Ms King concluded, 'the Ministry of Health officials would be available to advise on the procedure and the licenses necessary for obtaining the product. The new medicine under trial would not be subsidised and so the cost of the supply would have to be borne by your client.' So, providing GW were willing to underwrite the cost of duplicating the clinical trials already underway in the UK on just one subject down under, and so long as a doctor worked out a secure system of importation in consultation with Medsafe, Danuiel could conceivably receive cannabinoid medicine. It was as if I�d provided an excuse not to make any compassionate concession that would permit Danuiel to smoke pot. Curses. Still, maybe the tactic of invoking section 25 of the Medicines Act, concerning the prescription of unapproved medicines, was more likely to be successful if applied to a proprietary medicine than to raw cannabis?

I'd read an interview in Cannabis Culture with Lester Grinspoon, which prompted another look at the GW Pharmaceuticals web site. Formerly entitled the 'UK Medicinal Cannabis Project' and hosted at www.medicinal-cannabis.org, this site had offered a comprehensive and well-organised source of information for health professionals and patients. I now found myself re-directed to a bland corporate site, www.gwpharm.com, whose home page announced that the company had raised �25 million from a share issue and launched on the London Stock Market. While the old pages were still there, if one looked, the emphasis was now upon investor information and corporate strategy.

What had alerted me was Grinspoon's reported statement that "(pharmaceuticalisation) is a hot topic in the marijuana science world. I discussed this at a conference with Dr. Geoffrey Guy... (whose company) is researching the effectiveness of delivering cannabis extracts under the tongue or via nebulizers, which are inhaler devices. His nebulizer looks like it will be an expensive, complicated device. It will have some kind of computerised controls that control dosage to prevent patients or unauthorised persons from using it recreationally." Far out! I knew that the Medical Establishment was adamant that patients shouldn't get high and the GWP site contained repeated references to 'unwanted psychoactive side effects', but surely a remote-controlled computerised bong was science fiction?

It's true. The GWPharm site discussed three drug delivery technologies that were being used in the development of its products, including the spray technology utilised for its lead product, which was already approved by the MCA for use with specific medicines, and sub-lingual tablets, intended to dissolve under the tongue rather than be swallowed. So far, so conventional, but then there was also an innovative inhalation device, the development of which was being partly funded by a grant of approximately �150,000 under the UK Government's SMART award scheme. The blurb declared, 'GW expects that this device will enable patients to benefit from the rapid relief associated with inhaled delivery but without exposure to the carcinogens produced when cannabis is smoked'. I suppose that statement may have been the origin of Dr. Guy's misinterpreted remarks about 'whole smoked cannabis' being the future. The truly outrageous part came next: 'GW is also developing specialist security technology, which can be applied to all of its drug delivery systems. The aim of this anti-diversionary technology is to prevent any potential abuse of cannabis-based medicines. In addition, this technology is being designed to enable the recording and remote monitoring of patient usage. The technology should recognise and prevent any abnormal use that differs from expected prescribed usage.'

I had to laugh. In a world in which doctors are free to prescribe potentially harmful, addictive drugs more-or-less as they see fit, British taxpayers are part-funding the development of proprietary Big Brother technology that's intended to prevent sufferers from Multiple Sclerosis, spinal injury, and other disabling medical conditions, from getting high! I took some comfort from Lester Grinspoon, who reportedly said to Doctor Guy, '"You're talking about this expensive aerosol dispenser, but if I can get safe medical relief by smoking marijuana through a vaporiser what is going to compel me to buy your very expensive product?" He didn't know what to say, but somebody interjected that insurance companies will pay for the inhaler.'

The date of Danuiel's sentencing drew near. He was examined by the spinal injury specialist, but what he reported on the phone about that didn't sound promising. The doctor was of Oriental origin and Danuiel wasn't at all sure that he had communicated effectively with him. "Did you tell him about your use of cannabis and your application to the Ministry of Health?" I asked. Danuiel had told him, but had elicited little reaction beyond a polite smile. Worse, Dr. Hardie Boys had indicated that he was unable to support Danuiel's application. Oh, shit. "Did he give a reason?" He had said he couldn't take on the additional workload that the application would involve. He'd seen the letter from the Minister of Health and had baulked at its discussion of study protocols and ethics committees.

I wondered if I might have put him off further by sending him a copy of the NORML News article, in which I expressed scorn for 'the medical establishment and its ugly big brother, the pharmaceutical industry' and their 'obdurate refusal to recognise that cannabis can be an effective medicine'. In the accompanying letter, I had described the possibility of Danuiel becoming New Zealand's first licensed medicinal cannabis user as 'an historic development', but perhaps, I speculated, Dr. Hardie Boys didn't want to associate the family name with such a boat-rocking exercise. Curses. Still, Danuiel would just have to find himself another doctor. The good news was that Danuiel had enjoyed a productive meeting with the probation officer who was preparing his pre-sentencing report and who was apparently sympathetic.

I set the alarm for very early in order to make it over to Chris Fowlie's, where Greg Soar, who drove, picked us up. We stopped en route to eat whitebait fritters and still arrived in good time. As 2pm approached, a small crowd assembled outside the District Court House, eventually numbering around a dozen or fifteen, bearing 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.' Protesters lined the pavement, facing the police station, and waved their placards at passing cars, some of which honked in response. TV3 news had sent a news team, as had the local Daily News, so quite quite a crowd greeted Danuiel when he finally arrived, with Coral, in his baby blue Chevrolet.

Coming out of the offices of Till, Henderson, King, across Robe Street, Grant Vosseler dodged the media scrum and I cut across a lawn to intercept him. Joshing, he asked if I'd need his services, following my encounter with the New Plymouth cops, the last time I was in town. Ha, ha. Grant told me that the pre-sentencing report was one of the most exhaustive he'd ever read. The local probation officer, Peter Scott, had gone out of his way to emphasise that the Prison Service was not adequately equipped to cope with Danuiel Clark 's level of disability, as had been demonstrated in 1999. Danuiel currently received 135 hours a week ACC-funded care, including sleep-overs, and he required special equipment including a toilet/shower commode and a bed with a proper pressure mattress. If he were to be imprisoned, Danuiel would most likely be sent to serve out his sentence in the hospital wing of Mount Eden prison, where he had ended up the last time. The shortcomings of the care he had received had been well publicised at the time and the situation had not materially improved in the interim, as the Prison Service had received no additional funding. Mr Clark would receive nowhere near the hours of one to one care currently provided by ACC and he would probably have to provide his own bed and commode. The reality was that there was no guarantee that Mr Clark would receive the 'humane containment' required from the prison system with the current levels of funding and staffing. To imprison him would be inappropriate at best and possibly inhumane. Other forms of punishment had their various limitations. Consequently, it was Mr Scott's recommendation that Danuiel receive a sentence of Community Service.

Grant Vosseler was anxious about the judge. There were two sitting that day and one was up from Invercargill. As a rule of thumb, the further South you go in Godzone, the stricter the judges are. And you can't go further south than Invergargill. Luckily, though, the local man, Christopher Harding, was scheduled to pass sentence on Danuiel Clark. Judge Harding was reputed to be firm but fair and he swiftly moved to demonstrate this by telling me off for taking notes. "It's not usually permitted on the public benches", he told me. The reporter from TV3 had to pipe up and ask if it was OK for her to take notes, as an accredited journalist. Whereupon the judge directed her to the press box and told her, pompously, that is was more than OK and in fact it's the required function of a journalist to take notes.

Mr Vosseler drew the judge's attention to the content of the pre-sentencing report, which he said had been assembled by an experienced and reputed probation officer, who recommended that Mr Clark be sentenced to Community Service. Extensive submissions had been made to the court at the time of Mr Clark's conviction and Mr Vosseler asked Judge Harding if he was prepared to accept the recommendation of the pre-sentencing report without further submissions being made. And the Judge said, finally, "Yes".

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