Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: More medical cannabis misadventure with the Ministry of Health (actually, probably with Crown Law)

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  • Stephen R,

    It seems to me that if you declare what you're importing, you can hardly be a smuggler, neh?

    I once went through Australian customs with a hand-made knife a flat-mate had made for a friend in Australia (damascus steel blade and all) and got dragged to the customs desk where several officers argued about it and decided that since I had declared it, I couldn't have been smuggling it. I would have thought the same policy applied.

    Even if they decided Stein couldn't bring the marajuana into New Zealand, I don't understand why they deported him instead of just confiscating it. He declared it FFS. If you declare fruit or what have you, they confiscate it, bin it, and send you on your way - customs only gets really grumpy if you don't declare things.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 258 posts Report Reply

  • Shane Le Brun,

    Dissapointing from the end of MCANZ that we have been deliberately shut out of affordable products from the USA.
    Even more frustrating is that the DEA could probably be challenged on not issuing export licenses, they have issued import licenses.... https://www.wired.com/2015/07/medical-marijuana-epilepsy/

    Its hard when the "competent Authority" has been defunded to irrelevance and has their lack of competency demonstrated in court several times a year. By enforcing policy that even the US Govt cant/wont enforce, It is deliberately making access harder, as Russell explained, a child 2 brain surgeries down, with another on the cards deserves a shot at this experimental but promising medicine.

    Since Mar 2015 • 43 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Stephen R,

    Even if they decided Stein couldn’t bring the marajuana into New Zealand, I don’t understand why they deported him instead of just confiscating it. He declared it FFS.

    And he said in the Checkpoint interview that he offered (naturally) to surrender the cannabis if he could be allowed entry. The long-term harm the refusal of entry has done to him manifestly unfair and unreasonable. It's bullshit.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22403 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Oh, and you'll be seeing this on TV. From the statement:

    While removing all of our packed items from our suitcases and bags and throwing them in indiscriminate piles on the Customs tables, the Customs agent interrogated me and my wife as if we were common criminals, asking incredibly personal and mostly irrelevant questions about our lives (to make matters worse, we were filmed by a cameraman for the TV show Border Patrol ; not wanting to in any way appear anything but law-abiding and cooperative, I agreed, but I requested that both of our faces be blurred).


    After spending nearly 3 hours in Customs, we were then escorted to Immigration, where we waited for several more hours, at which point the police officer reappeared and expressed surprise that we were still there (the Border Patrol cameraman also showed up and mysteriously knew the access code or had a swipe card for the locked Immigration office door; we also saw the cameraman coach the Customs agent get on how to enter then re-exit the Immigration office for the best dramatic effect).

    We call this kind of coaching "the magic of television".

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22403 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    This comment from Chris Fowlie on Facebook is interesting:

    NORML has been leaked an internal document showing their "legal advice" is an email from the DEA, which recommends not allowing any US botanical cannabis as, in their opinion, not being approved by the FDA is the definition of "lawfully obtained". Never mind every supplement out there that carries the standard statement "not approved or evaluated by the FDA"!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22403 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    There may be a biosecurity issue. We can't have people just bringing in weed, with the concomitant risk of Mexican Marijuana Maggots devastating our local crop.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I find the whole in-your-face televising of people going thru customs for private profit a real breach of privacy.

    It's at a time when people are stressed - and we're all stressed and feeling vulnerable going thru customs, even when we're completely innocent - partly I guess because of those exact same intrusive TV programs.

    I suggest everyone tell them to respect your privacy whenever you see them

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2575 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Well ... I bailed up Peter Dunne about this and he says Customs acted on Crown Law advice.

    I suspect Crown Law is, like Customs, taking advice from the Ministry of Health, but if it's Crown Law who's responsible for Mr Stein's treatment, then questions need to be asked there. Who the hell thought this was a fair approach?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22403 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Get Peter Theil to sort it out ...

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2071 posts Report Reply

  • Shane Le Brun, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    Peter Theil owns a stake in Tilray, gradually sorting it out I guess, they are EU Pharmaceutical grade now for some products.

    Since Mar 2015 • 43 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Who the hell thought this was a fair approach?

    The circular arse covering goes on..... Ass ring? circus? not very spectacular.
    Or is it.. "Hey I've got a very important job and I'll do anything to protect it"

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1698 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    or even the unpalatable possibility of someone deciding they needed to be seen to be "tough on drugs" because TV cameras were rolling.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1790 posts Report Reply

  • Sue Grey,

    The Ombudsman ruled against MinHealth last year for withholding legal advice where it was in the public interest to disclose it (see link below)
    Unfortunately despite this, and the intense public interest in trying to understand the Ministry's unique interpretation of the law, Min Health and its lawyer Phil Knipe wont release the legal advice it is relying on- either in relation to its new policy on the Misuse of Drugs Act exemption (s8(2)(l)((iii)) or on the classification of CBD under the Misuse of Drugs Act .
    Where the content of legal advice has been "waived" the Cabinet Rules (Chapter 4) dont allow the government to continue to claim legal privilege. They must disclose the advice. Unfortunately they seem to operate under an "alternative law" and "alternative rules" to justify their "alternative interpretation"..... and they know the Ombudsman is too under resourced to respond quickly.

    See: http://www.ombudsman.parliament.nz/system/paperclip/document_files/document_files/1405/original/378663_-_request_for_legal_opinions_about_a_key_term_in_human_assisted_reproductive_technology_act_2004.pdf?1457555191

    Nelson • Since Feb 2017 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Sue Grey,

    they seem to operate under an "alternative law" and "alternative rules" to justify their "alternative interpretation"

    Sounds like that Ministry in general. I've witnessed their lawyers claiming that their organisation is not bound by a standard legal duty of care to a patient because their requirement to be efficient with public funds overrides it. Oh how our QC laughed at that one.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19481 posts Report Reply

  • Sue Grey,

    One of the underlying problems is s22 of the State Sector Act, as public servants duties are mainly to uphold the wishes of their Minister rather than uphold the law and act in the public interest.

    There is a serious mis-match between the rule of law (the fundamental principle that everyone is bound by the law) and the duties and lack of accountability of public servants.

    If they were accountable to the public their attitudes and focus would no doubt quickly change....

    22 Principal responsibilities
    (1) The chief executive of a department or departmental agency is responsible to the appropriate Minister for—
    (a)the department’s or departmental agency’s carrying out the purpose of this Act; and
    (b)the department’s or departmental agency’s responsiveness on matters relating to the collective interests of government; and
    (c)the stewardship of the department or departmental agency, including of its medium- and long-term sustainability, organisational health, capability, and capacity to offer free and frank advice to successive governments; and
    (d)the stewardship of—
    (i)assets and liabilities on behalf of the Crown that are used by or relate to (as applicable) the department or departmental agency; and
    (ii)the legislation administered by the department or departmental agency; and
    (e)the performance of the functions and duties and the exercise of the powers of the chief executive or of the department or departmental agency (whether imposed by any enactment or by the policies of the Government); and
    (f)the tendering of free and frank advice to Ministers; and
    (g)the integrity and conduct of the employees for whom the chief executive is responsible; and
    (h)the efficient and economical delivery of the goods or services provided by the department or departmental agency and how effectively those goods or services contribute to the intended outcomes.
    (2)Except as provided in any other enactment,—
    (a)the chief executive of a department is not responsible for the performance of functions or duties or the exercise of powers by that part of the department that comprises any departmental agency hosted by the department; and
    (b)the chief executive of a departmental agency is responsible only for the performance of functions or duties or the exercise of powers by that part of the department that comprises the departmental agency.

    Nelson • Since Feb 2017 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Mitch Stein,

    First, let me say how much I truly appreciate the sympathy I've gotten from many reasonable, rational, compassionate Kiwis horrified by the way my family was treated. That said and while I would urge you to speak out against such injustice perpetrated by your governmental agencies, the worst injustice is to deny the citizens of New Zealand the facts and science necessary to overcome the propaganda involved with cannabis.

    It seems to me that as long as your government allows citizens aged 18 and over to legally consume LETHAL POISONS (and allows for the widespread advertising, celebration and promotion of said LETHAL POISONS), it should refrain from demonizing a naturally occurring NONLETHAL plant with myriad medicinal, agricultural, industrial, economic, health and other benefits (at all, let alone to the extent that paved the way for my wholly avoidable and wholly inexcusable experience at the hands of your Customs and Immigration representatives).

    Big Pharm (i.e. the companies responsible for your ludicrous, ineffective and prohibitively expensive "pot pills") are laughing at your mandated ignorance and hypocrisy all the way to the bank. Cannabis (actual cannabis, not the poor synthetic substitutes being passed off to you as cannabis) is proven effective for pain management for patients such as me, appetite increase in cancer patients, relief for glaucoma patients, as a natural and effective sleep aid, and a host of other benefits...all from a non-addictive, naturally occurring, NONLETHAL plant that has never killed a single human being in all of recorded history. My recent plight is meaningless as long as society continues to groundlessly demonize health and nature while keeping legal, celebrating and promoting that which KILLS HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE EACH AND EVERY YEAR.

    I only hope that the good people of New Zealand take it upon themselves to demand that their government treat its citizens with the same level of science-and-facts-based conversation, legislation and promotion of health (and eradication of criminal elements as a direct result) that we enjoy here in California and elsewhere in the U.S. (but to be clear, much of the U.S. is operating under the same decades-old propaganda as you are; this is indeed a worldwide issue, and one which Big Pharm has a vested interest in manipulating to its economic benefit regardless facts or science).

    I am embarrassed by this whole situation, but see an unexpected opportunity to use my plight as a starting point for logical, reasonable, facts-and-science-based conversation about the ways in which your country can be raised up and improved rather than remain mired in propaganda to the direct detriment of its citizens.

    I hope that you take advantage of the opportunity.

    U.S.A. • Since Jan 2017 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Okay … I’ll write this up in more detail soon, but it appears that a view on the status of US medical cannabis imports came in the first instance from Crown Law (in response to the DEA email noted above by Chris Fowlie). I’m not clear whether Customs was advised directly by Crown Law, but that seems to be the vibe. On the other hand (see the comment below), Customs' cited authority on what is permitted is the Ministry of Health.

    There are actually three US “medical cannabis” products with FDA approval, which can still be imported under the revised New Zealand policy – Marinol, Syndrol and Cesamet – which are all synthetically produced, i.e. not derived from cannabis plant.

    This does create a significant problem for Minister Dunne, who wants people to use the the existing approval process, because that that process is now quite broken.

    I think domestic production, initially for product development and trialling, looks pretty attractive now. But that’s not a quick or cheap process.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22403 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Here’s the updated Customs advice. It basically says two different things: that the product must have been “lawfully supplied” – and then the update, noting that nearly all US cannabis products can’t be carried. It also says such products will be “seized”, but nothing about detention or expulsion.

    Interestingly, the cited authority on this part of the Prohibited Goods regulations is .... The Ministry of Health.

    Private persons

    The Misuse of Drugs Act (MODA) has an exemption for people entering or leaving the country, with up to one month’s supply of a controlled drug. The drug must have been lawfully supplied to the person overseas for the purpose of treating a medical condition. Customs officers seize cannabis and other controlled drugs at the border when they are not satisfied that the controlled drug has been lawfully supplied for the purpose of treating a medical condition: http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1975/0116/latest/DLM436242.html

    If you are arriving into New Zealand carrying a controlled drug either on your person or in your luggage you must ensure:

    you are carrying the controlled drug for yourself, or on behalf of someone travelling with you in your care or control (eg, parent/child or nurse/patient)
    you declare the possession of the controlled drug on your incoming passenger arrival card which is lawfully required, and inspected, by the New Zealand Customs Service
    you have a copy of the prescription from your doctor or a letter from your doctor stating that you are being treated with the controlled drug(s), the name of the drug and the applicable dosage
    supply of the controlled drug specified in the prescription or letter is lawful in the country that the controlled drug was dispensed
    you carry the controlled drug(s) in their original containers
    you have a quantity not exceeding one month’s supply of the controlled drug.

    Cannabis-based products for medical use supplied in the United States

    Most cannabis-based products supplied in the United States of America cannot be carried with you when entering or leaving New Zealand.

    Federal law in the United States prohibits the supply of most cannabis-based products. This means that under New Zealand law, cannabis-based products for medical use from the United States cannot be considered lawfully supplied, even with a doctor’s authorisation for the product.

    Three cannabis-based pharmaceuticals (Marinol, Syndros and Cesamet) are federally approved and can be imported provided you meet the terms of the exemption.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22403 posts Report Reply

  • Mitch Stein,

    Russell, I regrettably failed to previously and personally thank you for bringing this situation to light; please allow me to do so now. I'm not some media whore trying to get famous at the cost of my dignity and the emotional upset of my family; I'm honestly trying to turn a poison into a medicine (an unfortunate turn of a phrase), and use my situation to help illuminate a path by which all citizens of New Zealand can improve their lives.

    You mention that domestic production of cannabis for trial purposes is "not a quick or cheap process," and this underscores the point I'm trying to make. When more people on the planet die each year from aspirin or ant bites than they do from cannabis, there is no trace of logic or reason or defense in making the empirical exploration of such proven beneficial and NONLETHAL, naturally occurring plant anything BUT quick and cheap. I grew three plants in my backyard, and have thereby grown my own medicine for the cost of the planting vessel, the soil, and the water and minimal organic nutrients used to help it grow. After my cannabis was confiscated, the Customs agents commented on how potent it smelled (likely due to his never having been in the presence of actual cannabis), to which I replied that it's medicine, and SHOULD be potent (unlike your wholly impotent, synthetic "pot pills").

    Big Pharm is understandably terrified of having its LETHAL POISONS eschewed in favor of their current customers NOT becoming addicted to -- nor paying thousands of dollars per year for -- the very highly addictive, LETHAL POISONS upon the sale of which (and to the very real damage done to their captive customers' bodies and lives) they enjoy their staggering profits.

    U.S.A. • Since Jan 2017 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    The Drugs (testing gear) don’t work!

    Riki told police it was the sports supplement Creatine, but police tested it on their equipment and charged him with possession of amphetamine.

    Nineteen-year-old Tonihi James Riki walked free from the Christchurch District Court on Tuesday after scientific testing of the powder showed he was right.


    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7630 posts Report Reply

  • Mitch Stein,

    In the spirit of accuracy and as indicated in my initial letter, I am a film producer, not director. Let's not give directors a bad name. ;)

    U.S.A. • Since Jan 2017 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Mitch Stein, in reply to Shane Le Brun,

    Shane, cannabis has been proven to drastically minimize and even completely eliminate seizures in epilepsy patients.

    Here's just one of many stories:


    U.S.A. • Since Jan 2017 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Mitch Stein,

    In the spirit of accuracy and as indicated in my initial letter, I am a film producer, not director. Let’s not give directors a bad name. ;)

    Oops, let me fix that :-)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22403 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    The Drugs (testing gear) don’t work!

    That'll be the police using "wet chemistry" reagent testing,, which is notoriously subjective (police don't have the fancy new mobile spectroscopy gear that Customs does).

    I can almost forgive them, given that he had the creatine in his pockets in point bags.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22403 posts Report Reply

  • Sue Grey, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I've got an OIA response from Peter Dunne which admits that the harmful effects of synthetic cannabis products are far more serious than the effects from natural cannabis. ... which makes it even more incomprehensible why he promotes synthetic products over natural products or why he is apparently so fixated with the pharmaceutic route ......

    Nelson • Since Feb 2017 • 4 posts Report Reply

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