OPINION: I was lucky enough to spend a few days in the South Island last week, translating an old car from Timaru to Wellington.

Not only did I get to enjoy some of the South Island’s god-given macadams in a 40-year-old GT car, but I also gave myself the chance to stop by some old friends. One of them was Dion, an old family friend who lives in a senior village outside Christchurch.

Dion led an active life and spent 50 years farming in Canterbury and the highlands. He’s a good rider and an even better fisherman, which he did for the next 20 years.

From the rakaia salmon to the monster trout at Benmore and Whitebait Runs in Haast, he survived two wives and had to move to a senior citizen village a few years ago at the age of 88 and suffered from back pain and arthritis physical life as a result of his life.

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But what was really difficult for him was the loss of his independence. He made a poor invalid. This resulted in him suffering from panic attacks and high blood pressure. With the help of a few professionals, he tried a variety of antipsychotics to catch up with him. But the side effects were harsh and they didn’t seem to work.

He suffered a panic attack earlier this year when a couple of younger friends visited him. One of them took cannabidoil (CBD) to help her sleep and offered Dion a dropper of the olive oil-like compound.

Doctors are still very careful about prescribing CBD oil.

Unsplash

Doctors are still very careful about prescribing CBD oil.

Although Dion had always enjoyed Speights and a bottle or two of Highland Park, he had never tried cannabis (in any form) in his life. But he thought “what the hell” and stuck the pipette full under his tongue.

Within minutes he began to calm down and control his breathing. He guesses that it was like the scary fog cleared and the sunlight came through.

Dion then went to get some CBD oil. The nursing home was prudent and uniformed. So he went to his doctor. She was also careful as she had never prescribed anything before.

She was in good company. According to the New Zealand Medical Journal, 79 percent of New Zealand family doctors have concerns about prescribing medical cannabis. And it’s not surprising.

Medicinal cannabis plants grown in a high security facility.

DOMINICO ZAPATA / STUFF / Waikato Times

Medicinal cannabis plants grown in a high security facility.

Doctors have little solid research on the benefits of CBD oil (or tinctures or creams) and have a legal and ethical obligation not to cause harm.

Dion then spoke to the local chemist. He was surprised to find the chemist was happy to supply it after finding an approved supplier shortly after the medical cannabis program went into effect last April.

An old hippie neighbor at the nursing home told Dion she could pair him up with the local “green fairy”, but that sounded questionable. And Dion is not a seedy man.

In the end, he found a doctor in Wellington who was among the 21 percent of doctors who were happy to provide medicinal cannabis to patients, and he specifically thought that CBD oil might help Dion and not negatively affect the other drugs that he took, would react.

Mike O'Donnell:

Kevin stent / stuff

Mike O’Donnell: “According to the New Zealand Medical Journal, 79 percent of New Zealand general practitioners have concerns about prescribing medical cannabis.”

A Zoom consultation then resulted in the CBD doctor writing to Dion’s doctor and the nursing home endorsing an initial 25 milliliter bottle. And finally Dion got his dope bottle.

The good news is that it assumes it will work and with no side effects. The bad news is that this process took most of three months to complete.

This is bad for the patients and bad for a young local industry in which around 40 companies are trying to gain a foothold.

If you or someone you know thinks that CBD oil could help with pain management, mental health, or insomnia, what’s the best approach? From what I’ve been able to find out, there are four basic steps.

Do your research first. Find solid evidence that CBD (in a specific format) combats the symptoms or the cause of the disease. Also speak to local pharmacies to confirm they have access to the products.

Local medical cannabis company Ora Pharm offers an online portal that is helpful for making evidence-based decisions about the use of medical cannabis. There’s also a pretty handy app out there for incorporating CBD oil into your overall health care routine.

Second, email your GP with the results of your research and your desire to test the drug. Note that for a year now, medical cannabis in the form of CBD has been able to be prescribed for medical conditions. Make it clear that you are not looking for products that contain THC.

PRIME

The cultivation of dope follows New Zealand-based medical cannabis company Rua Bioscience.

Third, make an appointment with this family doctor to clarify your case. Probably a double appointment so that the discussion is not rushed. Everything is going well, they will agree to a little test so see how it goes.

If your general practitioner is not convinced that it is in your best interests, find another general practitioner. Right now I can’t find a website that will do this for you. So you have to do a little research online or chat with the Medical Cannabis Council.

He’s no fool, but dear old Dion thinks this stuff works. And he’s not the only one.

Now the only thing left is for the system to normalize to ensure that patients receive the benefits and that the young local industry can go on and thrive.

– Mike “MOD” O’Donnell is a professional director, writer, and host. His twitter handle is @modsta and he prefers Highland Park Hooter.