Remembering Helen Kelly 1964-2016

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Helen Kelly was born in Wellington to a family with a long and proud history of involvement in New Zealand politics and the struggle to improve the lives of disadvantaged people.

She gained her LLB from Victoria University and also qualified as a teacher. She held senior office with the New Zealand Educational Institute, the Association of University Staff and the Council of Trade Unions. She was President of the Council of Trade Unions from 2007 to 2015.

She was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2015 at the age of 50, even though she had never been a smoker. The Doctors told her the cancer was just down to "bad genes and bad luck".

After numerous other conventional therapies failed, she began taking cannabis oil sourced from the black market. She only used cannabis oil at night to relieve her pain and help her sleep. It was wonderful and it didn't make her sick like morphine did. She had also been trying to get permission from the Ministry of Health to legally access medicinal cannabis for her pain relief, but the hoops she needed to jump through were absurd.

She went public with her cannabis oil use in late 2015 because she believed it is absolutely ludicrous that New Zealand's laws force her and other patients to turn to the black market. The whole process of trying to obtain medicinal cannabis took a huge emotional toll on Helen and her family and continues to take a toll on many patients across the country. Helen fought relentlessly to convince politicians of the urgent need for cannabis law reform in New Zealand, including calling for a binding referendum, until her passing in October 2016. 


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