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Cannabis campaigner Rebecca Reider is nervously awaiting the outcome of the cannabis referendum on Saturday.
It’s a nail-biting time for Rebecca Reider.
The Golden Bay-based cannabis campaigner has been working towards this moment for years.
With election day fast approaching, and Kiwis voting on the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill, Reider has hopes pinned on a majority ‘Yes’ vote.
Recent polls have been sitting on a knife’s edge; with one showing 46 percent in favour of legalising recreational cannabis and 40 per cent against.
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Reider, who uses the pronoun they, has been fighting for medicinal cannabis laws and legalisation ever since securing a legal victory in 2016 for charges relating to importing medicinal cannabis products and possession.
Reider later became the first person to ever legally bring cannabis over the border, and was appointed the consumer representative on the Ministry of Health’s Medicinal Cannabis Advisory Group to develop regulations for the medicinal cannabis scheme.
A cannabis user who suffers from a complex pain condition, Reider said the only health dangers they experienced from cannabis had been caused by its illegal status.
At Harvard University at 19-years-old, Reider smoked cannabis with some friends as they sometimes did, but this time it was different.
“I started having really frightening emotions and thought patterns. I remember standing in the bathroom, looking in the mirror, and hallucinating. I remember watching my face shape shift in the mirror, growing older and older, thinking I was looking at an image of myself dying.”
In October, New Zealanders will vote in the cannabis legalisation and control referendum.
Reider started projectile vomiting and called for emergency help, but ended up sleeping it off.
It was the next day they realised they had been “poisoned” by cannabis that was laced with another drug.
“That’s what drives me nuts about hearing people fear-mongering about legalising cannabis, saying it’s dangerous. The biggest dangers associated with cannabis are associated with it being illegal.”
Sometimes people tell Reider they’ve had a bad experience with cannabis, such as it causing anxiety.
“I say ‘what strain of cannabis were you using?’ and they have no idea – because most drug dealers in New Zealand don’t even know what strain they’re selling.”
Rebecca Reider made history bringing the first legal raw cannabis flower into New Zealand since medicinal cannabis was outlawed in the 1960s.
Reider said a study released in February by Statistics Canada reveals that after one year of an adult-use market crafted around protecting minors, youth use almost halved from 19.8 per cent pre legalisation, to 10.4 per cent a year later.
Another study from 2019 concluded that cannabis use by over 1.4 million US high school students had also markedly reduced since legalisation with researchers noting a decrease of 8 per cent. .Reider still can’t afford legal cannabis due to the high regulations and cost. Like thousands of other paitents, they were forced to use it illegally.
“I’m so tired of living in fear, wondering if the cops will ever come back to my house.”
Another long-time Golden Bay cannabis advocate, Victoria Davis, said she was tired of the outdated beliefs around cannabis and the misinformation circulating around legalisation.
Victoria Davis is a Golden Bay cannabis advocate who had her charges for possession thrown out in 2012 after police busted her for growing 62 plants to help her now deceased husband relieve the phantom pain he suffered.
In 2012, Davis had her charges for posession thrown out in court after police busted her for growing 62 plants to help her now deceased husband relieve the phantom pain he suffered, following a double amputation of his legs.
Davis, a retired radiographer, said the war on drugs used “staggeringly heavy propaganda” to demonize a drug that never caused a single death by overdose, and is very low on the harm spectrum, she said.
Cannabis was “not a cure-all”, but it helped many people cope with a wide variety of ailments, with side effects generally more agreeable than many pharmaceutical drugs that could kill, she said.
“Prohibition causes more harm than it prevents.”