Remembering Helen Kelly 1964-2016

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What Helen Wanted

About Us

Our organisation is committed to providing the New Zealand public with the latest information based on research and evidence on cannabis: its medicinal qualities, the impacts of prohibition and legalisation, and the emerging international industry. We are an incorporated society of concerned citizens who are free from political interests.

Ambassador Profiles

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Lucy Lawless is one of New Zealand's premier performers. Her works have spanned across television and film in both New Zealand and Hollywood.

Lucy is from a family of political activists, being the daughter of Frank Ryan the 20 year mayor of Mt Albert. She was born and raised in Auckland and has been a passionate voice behind progressive change in New Zealand, including LGBT and environment rights.

At the request of the late Helen Kelly, Lucy has agreed to be one of the voices of change again.

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Professor Max Abbott ONZM ODM has been the Dean of the Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences since 1991 and is a Pro Vice-Chancellor of Auckland University of Technology (AUT). Appointed first national Director of the Mental Health Foundation in 1981 Professor Abbott played a leading role in reforming New Zealand's mental health policies, law and services. He played a key part in opening up AUT to diverse health professions and developing the AUT Millennium sport science academy and AUT South Campus. He has made original contributions to public health and mental health research and is a prolific author and international presenter.

He has chaired numerous national and international conference organising committees. He was appointed President of the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) in 1991, going on to establish and co-chair World Mental Health Day in 1992. This Day, since held annually, plays an important part in raising the profile of mental health issues world-wide. He is currently Senior Consultant to the WFMH Board. He founded in 2003 and has since co-chaired the National Institute for Public Health and Mental Health Research.

Professor Abbott has served on numerous governmental boards and committees. He has shown strong commitment to the development of the voluntary sector, professional and community organisations to pursue health, education and welfare objectives, including varied participation at local, national and international levels.

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Sgt. Angus Fisk ret. has 35 years experience in Law Enforcement.

He spent seven years serving in the New Zealand Police, where he gained the rank of Sergeant. He continued in the criminal justice field with 14 years in the Probation Service, gaining expertise in supervision, counselling and psychotherapy with probationers, parolees and victims. He then spent seven years with Child Youth and Family (CYF), working in both rural and urban care and protection social work settings and in investigating physical and sexual child abuse.

He established the sentence of Community Service throughout Dunedin and South Otago, earning praise from the Judiciary and an award from the Justice Department for his contributions to the Probation Officers Manual. He also conducted group therapy at the Salisbury Street Foundation and established and ran an alcohol and drug treatment programme in Paparoa Prison (ADAPT) for two years on detachment from Probation. ADAPT earned praise from many agencies and the then Minister of Justice, (Sir) Geoffrey Palmer.

He obtained his Diploma in Social Work and Certificate of Qualification in Social Work at the University of Canterbury in the mid 1980s, and served long term placements with both the Mahu Alcohol and Drug Treatment Programme and the Christchurch Public Hospital Crisis Team. These were both invaluable in expanding his knowledge and skills and he went on to develop expertise in addiction, violent offending (with victims and offenders) and the supervision of parolees.

Over the past fifteen years he has engaged in advocacy work primarily with victims of police sexual misconduct. His report to the then Prime Minister, Helen Clark, in support of Louise Nicholas' call for an independent investigation into Police misconduct led directly to the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct, which in turn precipitated major changes in police culture, policy and conduct.

He is also the founding member of New Zealand Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). Through his many roles in Law Enforcement over the years, he has had the ability to effect positive change in many Justice clients. He has also seen the barriers to public trust and respect for the Police created by the prohibition of drugs, especially cannabis.

He believes we as a community need to have a serious conversation about the cannabis issue. We spend millions of dollars every year enforcing cannabis prohibition, with no reduction in cannabis use. From his experience as a law enforcer, many of the harms associated with cannabis appear to be caused by prohibition, just as we saw in the past with alcohol.


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Dr. Huhana Hickey (Ngāti Tahinga, Tainui, Ngai Tai) is a research fellow in Taupua Waiora Centre for Māori Health Research at AUT University. Huhana has a long standing interest in the human rights of people from marginal backgrounds and the consequences of discrimination and social oppression.

She is a scholar of disabilities research and legal theory and is noted for the breadth of her published cross-disciplinary research. Her work with the United Nations Adhoc group prior to the signing of the UNCRPD has led to indigenous people with disabilities being included within the preamble of the convention in that one of Huhana goal’s is to increase the knowledge of indigenous peoples with disabilities along with increasing their profile and inclusion in all levels of society.

Huhana currently sits on the NZ human rights review tribunal as well as the UNITEC ethics committee, she is the Chair of the Auckland Council Disability Strategic Advisory Panel and is a member of the Board of Housing New Zealand.

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Roger Brooking points out that Portugal decriminalised all drugs in 2001. Since then drug related deaths declined and now Portugal has one of the lowest rates of drug use in Europe.

In contrast he feels that New Zealand's approach to drug policy is pre-historic - we still seem to be engaged in the so-called war on drugs - a war he would argue the world lost 30 years ago.

A favoured quote of his  about New Zealand's justice policy comes  from Sir Peter Gluckman - "We need to make decisions based on data, not dogma".

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Millie Elder Holmes is a wellness and lifestyle blogger, social media influencer, and the daughter of the late broadcaster Sir Paul Holmes.

She initially started blogging as a way to track her meals on her path to a healthier lifestyle. She is now a lover of all things that nourish the mind body and soul and she believes strongly in self-love and living consciously. 

Like everyone she had struggles in her life and has found that taking care of herself first and foremost best equipped her to deal with those struggles. She used cannabis medicinally for depression, anxiety and sleep when dealing with the loss of her dad and partner as an alternative to pharmaceuticals.

She feels we should stop locking people away and tabooing such a medicinal plant.


Paul Manning is a New Zealand Young Entrepreneur of the Year and one of the country’s foremost leaders in the advertising and marketing sector.   He left his career running a major communications agency to co-found the New Zealand-based medicinal cannabis cultivation, research and manufacturing start-up, Helius Therapeutics. 

Passionate about reform in New Zealand, Paul is working to help address stigma and reframe how the government, healthcare and business sectors see cannabis-based therapeutics. Having been personally affected by the harsh, long-term side-effects of opioid pain medications, Paul’s mission is to improve quality of life for New Zealanders through locally-produced medicinal cannabis products. 

Starting out as an entrepreneur at 22, Paul went on to build New Zealand’s largest independent communications agency. He has spent 15 years consulting to local and central government and advising major brands across every sector, including healthcare, pharmacy and agriculture.

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Dr. Julian Buchanan is a recently retired professor from the Institute of Criminology, Victoria University of Wellington. His early career began as a probation officer working with addiction in the UK, before taking up academic positions to research drug law and policy.

His expertise in drug policy that spans four decades, is internationally recognised and has led to invitations to speak in Europe, Australia, Asia & Africa. In 2011 the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) appointed him as an independent expert advisor and consultant editor.

He has published over fifty journal articles, books and chapters on the drug law, policy and practice and has delivered over sixty conference papers. He is an active contributor to social media.

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Mrs. Victoria Davis is an environmentalist, cycling advocate and former professional radiologist.  After growing up in the 1960’s she had used cannabis recreationally on occasions and to relieve menstural discomfort. However later in life her husband had his legs amputated after a horrific hospital accident, and after trying many different prescription pharmaceuticals her husband discovered that cannabis was the only effective medicine for treating his phantom limb pain. Once her husband began using it daily to relieve his phantom pains she decided to grow some to save money.

Unlucky with her first growing experience, the plants were spotted from an aircraft and she was arrested. The process of going through the courts and being called a “serious criminal offender" was extremely stressful for her husband and herself. She presented the case for her husband's medical cannabis to the court and the Judge agreed that the consequences of the law were out of all proportion to her offence, so she was discharged without conviction.

Due to the coverage of her story in the press, she was subsequently approached by many sympathizers with their own medicinal cannabis stories. She wants to see what for her family was a useful drug openly discussed in our communities leading up to this important referendum.

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Marc Willers spent 10 years as a professional BMX Racer competing for New Zealand at both the 2008 & 2012 Olympic Games. 

Now based in America he became the 2011 ABA National Champion. 
Retiring from BMX in 2015, he shifted focus to California and Canada's Cannabis industries.

He now looks to help current and future athletes understand the benefits of cannabis and how the rules created by regulation create opportunities.

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Rose Renton was born in 1973 in Singapore to New Zealand parents and was raised from age 2 on farms in rural Canterbury. Educated at Villa Maria College for Girls until age 18 her first employment was for Barclay Architects in Christchurch. Real estate followed and study overseas with a Chinese Master of Feng Shui. She began her Senior Practitioner Consultancy in Feng Shui in 1997. 

Alex and Jessie Renton are her eldest two children from her first marriage. The addition of 5 younger siblings for Jess and Alex ensured a busy life with passions including a natural diet, homeopathics, yoga, gardening and creativity.

In 2015 Alex experienced a week of flu type symptoms and saw a GP for a rare visit who put it down to something viral - within 48 hours Alex had a seizure that went undiagnosed and ended up in Wellington Hospital ICU. After weeks and weeks of doctors unsuccessfully trying different medicines to treat his Status Epilepticus, Alex was given the first ever Ministerial approval to import and use an unapproved cannabis medicine.

Alex was a fit Rep Rugby player from age 14 in Nelson and lead a healthy lifestyle still living at home prior to his illness. He was training as a Chef at NMIT in Nelson and was a self taught guitar player and gentle, wise person who made a mark on everyone he met. Sadly, after 88 days in Wellington ICU, Alex died aged 19 being the first in NZ to legally receive a cannabis medicine in a hospital environment, but it was unfortunately too little, too late.

Alex's journey inspired his mother to continue to advocate for cannabis reform for thousands of New Zealanders who would choose cannabis as their medicine of choice.

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Dr. Geoff Noller has a background in social science and qualitative research. He is currently an independent consultant specializing in substance use research, contracting to universities, government and the private sector. He has undertaken ethnographic fieldwork in New Zealand, Australia and the Caribbean and presented at international conferences (Australia, Europe and the Caribbean) and national fora, and is currently involved in a number of research projects in New Zealand.

He completed his PhD at the Otago University Medical School’s Department of Psychological Medicine in 2007, studying New Zealand cannabis users. His thesis examined the use of cannabis as a cultural practice and critically assessed New Zealand Drug Policy. He conducted in depth interviews with over 90 individuals, including 80 cannabis users and 11 government officials. He found that the often repeated stereotypes about cannabis are not accurate, and that many people from all walks of life use cannabis, including professionals, tradespeople, and many others ranging in age from youth to the elderly. He found that cannabis to be sure caused harm for some people, but for others it appeared that the benefits they received from their cannabis use outweighed any harms they experienced. Some participants felt strongly that cannabis enriched their lives and that their use of it represented a rational alternative choice to alcohol.

Due to his academic background he periodically comments officially on court cases, and he has seen the effects of prohibition on average New Zealanders. So often, people with drug problems do not receive the help they need when dealt with by our justice system. In some cases it appears that the most harm caused to the user is actually a result of the illegality of the drug.

Ever since he completed his PhD research, it has been clear that an open and honest national conversation about cannabis is sorely needed. In the years that have passed since, this conversation has started very earnestly overseas, but it has not yet happened in New Zealand. It is more important now than ever, with a national referendum looming, that we have this conversation so we can move forward as a community on this complex national issue.

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Nathan Parker has worked as an educator for 30 years. As a school principal for several decades he has seen the effects of drugs and drug policy on the communities he has worked in.

His career has taken him to mainly small schools throughout Northland and Otago. His interest in teaching has lead him to be an 'open education' practitioner, sharing knowledge freely through online education communities.

Presently he is an environmental entrepreneur, a teacher, a husband, a father and a grandfather. He is also vegan, a non-drinker and a volunteer for a charitable trust that assists with drug addiction.

He has known many cannabis users over the course of his years. Many of them feel cannabis has enhanced their lives and they have suffered no harm from it, and after travel to Europe and North America he was inspired to become an advocate for drug law reform in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

He feels it is important for New Zealanders to discuss cannabis use openly and honestly, reflecting our changing times and current research.

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Jin An Hirst Jin's passion for drug reform started with her career working in the criminal courts and undertaking a Masters Degree in Laws on Criminal Justice Policy and Therapeutic Jurisprudence. During her time spent working in New Zealand’s Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Courts, she saw the destruction of lives through the burden of a criminal justice system on what should be a health issue. 

She also witnessed how the prohibition of cannabis makes people turn to harder substances like alcohol or meth, or continue to seek cannabis despite of criminality, violence or gangs. 

The the current laws are not working, and it is time to re-examine the point of criminal law and our society’s approach to drug use and addiction.