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Tetraplegic Jailed For Medicinal Cannabis

The Green Party has taken up the case of a tetraplegic man who was imprisoned for growing six cannabis plants for medicinal purposes.

Danuiel Clark suffered a severe spinal injury in a motor accident in 1991, leaving him confined to a wheelchair with no use of his body from the neck down. He suffers from constant pain, muscle spasms and side effects from highly addictive prescription drugs.

He is currently in Mount Eden prison after being sentenced to three weeks in prison after refusing to pay a fine or some sort of periodic detention following his conviction for cultivation of cannabis.

Danuiel uses cannabis as a pain killer and to combat the negative side effects of his prescription drugs that he must take every day.

The Ministry of Health has limited powers to approve cannabis for medicinal use and for experiments.

In 1994 Danuiel applied to the then Minister of Health Jenny Shipley, requesting permission to grow small amounts of cannabis, under supervision, for medicinal purposes. Alternately he requested that he be prescribed the drug by the state from police seizures. Delegated authority for this area led with Associate Minister, Maurice Williamson.

His application was accompanied by a supporting letter from his spinal specialist Dr O.R. Nicholson who has over 40 years experience in dealing with spinal patients and a letter from a general practitioner Dr John Lusk.

In Dr Lusk’s letter, released under the Official Information Act, he noted that Danuiel’s quality of life had been “severely compromised” by his injury and subsequent complications and that “all efforts to treat [his] condition with conventional medication have not only been unsuccessful, but have also been plagued by totally unacceptable side effects”.

He noted that cannabis use had “a dramatic effect on all of his symptoms. It proved invaluable in relieving his muscle spasms and relieved the pain which is a constant feature of his condition”.

“In Danuiel’s situation I believe that you will see that the benefits [of allowing him to use cannabis] far outweigh any possible disadvantages, both in a medical and a social sense,” he said.

However Ministers delegated the decision to the Manager of Therapeutics at the Ministry of Health who declined the application, saying that more information was needed on the medicinal benefits of cannabis use.

This was despite the Health Ministry advising that Danuiel satisfied all criteria to permit the application.

A number of states around the world permit the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Green Party MP Jeanette Fitzsimons has taken up the case as Danuiel is a constituent and she had been approached by Auckland Green candidate Nandor Tanczos who Danuiel had asked for help.

Fitzsimons said it was an indictment on the justice system that Danuiel was imprisoned for trying to relieve constant and unbearable pain. “Sending this man to jail is totally pointless,” she said. “Mr Clark is no threat to the community and he has been convicted for a totally victimless crime.”

Jeanette Fitzsimons said the situation was urgent as Danuiel had not been getting adequate nursing care in prison. “Danuiel says he was not taken to the toilet for four days and nights and was left in his own excrement,” she said. “When he fell out of bed it was hours before he was picked up.”

This incident allegedly occurred at Waikeria prison. Danuiel is now in Mount Eden and is getting 24 hour nursing care. Waikeria Prison are issuing a statement today.

“Sending this man to prison in a wheelchair for what he has done shows the sheer inhumanity of our justice and prison systems. Instead of the government’s touted harm minimisation approach to cannabis, this is an example of harm maximisation,” she said.

Ms Fitzsimons has offered to meet with Danuiel this week and if asked would take his case to the appropriate Minister. She said his conviction should be quashed.

“This man has suffered through losing the use of his body and now he is imprisoned for trying to make his life a little more bearable.

“It is inhumane, cruel and totally unnecessary,” she said.

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