Nelson medicinal cannabis campaigner Rose Renton has been discharged without conviction on a charge of cultivating cannabis after a judge found her offending was ‘altruistic’.
Last November, Renton was discharged without conviction on three charges of possession, processing and supplying cannabis. That decision was suppressed until Monday when Renton appeared in the Nelson District Court on the cultivation charge.
She had earlier pleaded guilty to the charges.
Judge David Ruth said Renton’s offending was “altruistic” in nature and was motivated by wanting to help others which brought her into conflict with the Misuse of Drugs Act.
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The charge related to 58 cannabis plants found in Renton’s Nelson home in various stages of growth.
Judge Ruth said he accepted that the vast proportion of the plants cultivated were very low in the active ingredient THC.
Lawyer Sue Grey said a drug conviction would prevent Renton from getting a licence to cultivate or process hemp products, from which medicinal cannabis was manufactured.
It would also cause difficulties for Renton as it would inhibit her ability to travel overseas, particularly to the United States and Canada.
He said the court had no political motive and the discharge without conviction was not an endorsement of anyone breaking the law.
Judge Ruth said charges for cannabis cultivation had historically been subject to serious sentences but that Renton’s offending was at the bottom end of the scale.
“This was effectively an altruistic endeavour on your behalf to help those for whom that help wasn’t otherwise possible.
The public gallery in the courtroom was full of supporters who broke into loud applause when the verdict was announced.
Outside court, Renton was enveloped in hugs and congratulations.
She said it felt quite emotional to be discharged of the conviction and thanked the community for their ongoing support.
“I’ve never felt alone and it’s thanks to you guys.
“Alex would be so proud today … he chose the right person because he knew I would never give up.”
Renton said she felt like she had gained a new community with the loss of her son Alex, who died in January 2015, three months after he began experiencing mysterious seizures.
He was sedated with a range of drugs to stop him having mysterious seizures and his treatment included groundbreaking use of medicinal cannabis oil, Elixinol, after a campaign by his family after conventional treatments did not work.
Since Alex’s passing, Renton has campaigned strongly for the government to make cannabis-based medications available in New Zealand.
She said police visited her home in September 2017 after an incident that involved Renton rubbing rat poison on former Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith.
Her mother had placed one of the cannabis plants outside to get some sun and it was noticed by the prosecuting officer.
“I had them as mother plants so they never got to bud, I was cloning CBD plants for patients.
“When he said 58 plants it sounded like this massive growing operation but literally some of them were seedlings.”
Renton said she took the police officers downstairs to her flat and showed them the what she was doing and why.
She said it had been a “gruelling” 18 months since the charges were first laid and when the verdict was announced she felt a massive relief for every single patient who benefited from medicinal cannabis.
People were desperate to access medicinal cannabis and there was a lack of safety in the black market and Renton said the decision was a step towards better access for those in need.
Her vision was to support a legal medicinal cannabis growing industry in Nelson.
“I can now apply for a legal license and that’s what I will encourage other green fairies to do.
“My biggest focus for this year is to be able to establish an industry in Nelson that I am able to rely on with great growers so I can continue to help those people I support currently, because I know for every one there is another twenty that would so something, but can’t because of the current law.”
Renton said she was currently in the process of looking for an indoor growing location with business partners.
Scarlett Carver was in court to support Renton. The Nelson woman was diagosed with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome at a young age which worsened around 2016. She was bedridden for a number of years and experiencing debilitating pain.
Carver was initially prescribed Tilray by her doctor, a cannabidiol (CBD) product, and she noticed a difference overnight.
The first prescription cost $700 and lasted two weeks, when she went to get a repeat and was told it was going to cost another $700.
“I thought, I can’t walk away without it, it wasn’t an option.”
Unable to afford $700 a week, she contacted Renton. Since using her cannabidiol oil she had been living “a completely different life”.
“The difference has been pretty dramatic, it’s taken me from having absolutely no life whatsoever, not being able to look after my wee boy, shower myself, get out of bed and go to the toilet on my own to living a completely normal life.”
Standing outside court she said she was very proud of Renton and what she had achieved.
Full story is available here.