97—What's all the fuss about...


A magical looking flower from the Cannabis plant

Promise me something, will you?

When reading this blog-post series, will you please try to keep an open-mind about what I have to say about Cannabis?

I know it’s really hard to see things from a new or different perspective when you’re so used to seeing things from, well, the way you’ve always been shown them…


The use of cannabis in New Zealand is governed by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, which makes unauthorised possession of any amount of cannabis illegal.

Note: This act was recently amended (2017) to make it legal for New Zealanders who are suffering from ‘terminal illness’ or any debilitating condition to use cannabis or cannabis products with the support of a registered medical practitioner.

There are political efforts to remove penalties on its ‘full’ use for those over 18 years of age. (A referendum which was scheduled for 2020 now seems likely to move to 2019). 1,2,3

It's just always been that way

In New Zealand, smoking Marijuana is a naughty-no-no and being prescribed CBD products for medical conditions is only so-so. (More on these products below.)

During my residence on this planet, I’ve only ever known Cannabis to be illegal.  And, to be honest, until recently, I’d never really questioned it.

This three-part blog-post is primarily going to be looking at Marijuana from a health perspective. (Being that I’m a Naturopath & Medical Herbalist after all.)

I’ll be discussing my personal views on this ‘stuff’ (both past & present), as well as my professional opinion on how I believe we should go forward.

You can read part-two, and part-three of this blog-post series here.

I'll take a hard pass on that, thank you.

I’ve always been a big ‘fraidy’ cat when it comes to drugs. Therefore I’ve never done them. I can honestly say that I’ve not taken one little pill or had one little ‘snort’ of anything during my time on the planet — thus far.

In my defence though, I’d also like to think that this is because I had the good sense not to! Both sides of my family are rife with mental health conditions including alcoholism, addiction, depression, OCD, anxiety, and learning disorders. So, I’ve got enough to contend with, without taking any chances of adding  ‘druggie’ or ‘junkie’ to the family legacy.

When I was a teenager I didn’t much like the idea of Marijuana either. Back then, I believed it was a drug. (More on this later.) I didn’t like the idea of ‘weed’ because:

It was illegal
Again, I’m a big ‘fraidy’ cat.

It was what the cool kids and the naughty people did
I thought it was super daft to have to do something in order to fit in. (Especially because it was illegal!) To me, that didn’t seem very cool at all. So, I rebelled against it.

It seemed POINTLESS & SToopid
Inhaling smoke just seemed like a bad idea to me — and for what purpose? It didn’t look much fun or very smart to sit around in a stupor when you were supposed to be hanging out and socialising with other people.

No! I was a good & sensible girl. So instead, every weekend,  I would just drink myself into a drunken — albeit legal — frenzy. 😇 😉

The highly distinctive leaves of the Cannabis plant

Cannabis A.K.A

Buds, dak, dope, cabbage, chronic, grass, hash, hooch (in the 60s and 70s) mary jane, marijuana, pot, reefer, wacky-tobacky, and weed.


No - it's not how you say Google in Dutch...

Cannabis is not legal in the Netherlands either.

However! The Dutch government took a tolerant stance (Gedoogdbeleid) on Cannabis during the 70s. This gives licensed ‘Coffee Shops’ the right to sell small amounts of Cannabis (5g max.) to people aged over 18 years. (You cannot smoke ‘dak’ on the streets of Amsterdam.) This tolerant stance also enables Dutch residents to cultivate five plants outdoors for personal use.

Note: Police can confiscate these plants if any complaints are made.

It is very interesting to note, that The Netherlands have one of the lowest Cannabis consumption rates in Europe — with only 5% of the population using it regularly.

Note: I got this information from Cannabis College Amsterdam, which I ‘attended’ while I was over there 😉

A line of character homes in Amsterdam where Naturopath Lisa Fitzgibbon visited

It's all fun & games until you get mascara in your eyes... or until the cake digests.

During 2001–2002, DMF (my partner) and I were living in the UK.  And while over there, we went on a bus tour around Western Europe, where we stayed in Amsterdam for around 36 hours (As you do.)

Note: I was around 25 years old at the time.

We decided, along with two other members of our tour group, to visit a ‘Coffee Shop’ so we could experience ‘the cake’ in the safety of numbers. None of us were particularly au-fait with ‘pot’, and unfortunately none of us had done our research on it either — as ‘Googling’ wasn’t commonplace in the early naughties…

Disclaimer: At this stage in my life, I hadn’t really smoked marijuana before… Although, I had pathetically ‘moistened’ the end of a couple of joints that were passed to me. And, I once actively participated in a ‘bong’ which I initially found utterly magical; as it made me laugh hysterically for around five minutes… until I got mascara in my eyes – which stung like all heck. And that, quickly put paid to that.

Now, back to my story — which was anything bar funny…

We all ate ‘the cake’ that was on offer. Unfortunately it had no effect on any of us…
That is, until it (really, really) did!

About an hour later, we were emailing at Easy Everything (a big internet cafe back-in-the-day), when the ‘drugs’ finally decided to kick-in. (We were not expecting that kind of time-delay…)

And my god — was I F*&ked-up!

I thought my mouth was going to unhinge itself from my face, and everything was in extreme ‘slow mo’… Except that is, for my heart, which felt like it was going to beat ferociously out of my chest — as it was racing so hard and fast! I literally thought I was going to die. I kept telling DMF that my parents would be so disappointed in me that this was the way that I was going to ‘go out’.

I was incredibly frightened and I just wanted whatever I was experiencing to stop immediately. I had no clue where our hostel was in Amsterdam — hell, I didn’t even know the name of the hostel! Thank goodness for DMF and his dodgy digestive system — he didn’t feel any effects from the cake. So, he was able to get us all back to safety. (My hero x)

After that little episode…
I didn’t try Marijuana again until my 40s. And even then, I could probably count how many times I’ve had a half-hearted, very cautious, attempt to get ‘high’.

So, when DMF asked where we should go for his 40th birthday extravaganza, I exclaimed, ‘Amsterdam!’ — it was time to settle an old score.

More on this in my next blog-post…

Bottles of medicine in a display stand at the Cannabis Museum Amsterdam
Bottles of medicine in a display stand at the Cannabis Museum Amsterdam
Bottles of medicine in a display stand at a Museum in Amsterdam
Bottles of medicine in a display stand at a Museum in Amsterdam

But why is it illegal in New Zealand? Why? Why? Why?

Try Googling: why is cannabis illegal in nz

I think you’ll feel like a child…
Because you’ll just be told that it just is — alright!

It’s easy to assume that Cannabis was outlawed in New Zealand in the best interest of our health and for the health of society. And that this decision was made (based on a thorough review of the scientific literature) due to Cannabis proving to be far worse for us then other (acceptable) drugs such as alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine.

Mi amigos — we’ve actually been played for tontos (fools) when it comes to Marijuana.

It was all just one big smoke screen — involving politicians, media, and big business

You’d have thought that Cannabis had proven to be some pretty-dangerous-stuff in America — to end up in the category of drugs deemed most dangerous by the federal government.

Note: We’re back in the early 1900s now.

You would assume that it was highly addictive, that you could OD on the stuff, and that it lead to horrific violence — involving chainsaws and/or Ginsu Steak Knives — am I right?!

No. Apparently not.

History would suggest that it had nothing to do with the affect of the drug itself. Rather, the Americans found that by ‘controlling drugs’ you could effectively control immigration into their country. The idea was to have an excuse to search, detain and deport immigrants. Initially, opium was outlawed to control Chinese immigrants. And, decades later they would demonise ‘Marijuana’ to essentially demonise Mexican immigrants. (These Mexican immigrants were fleeing political unrest in their own country.)

Note: The American people were actually using Cannabis in their tinctures & medicines at the time. But they were lead to believe that the recreational use (the smoking) of “Marihuana” (as it was called at the time) was something completely different – something evil. 

Then, in the 1930’s, during hearings on marihuana law, claims were made about how marihuana caused African American men to become violent and solicit sex from white women…

Ultimately racism and fear-mongering lead to the banning of its use and sales — as the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was aggressively ushered in by Harry J. Anslinger.

Note: A propaganda film called Reefer Madness was released the year prior to this. It portrayed teenagers smoking Marihuana for the first time. It involved a ‘hit and run accident’, manslaughter, suicide, attempted rape, hallucinations, and a descent into madness… The general media were no better either, labelling Marihuana as a “Gateway drug” – to the harder drugs heroin and morphine.

In 1929 Anslinger was in charge of the Department of Prohibition in Washington, D.C. At that time he said that the idea that it (Marijuana) made people mad or violent was an “absurd fallacy”.

And then in 1933  alcohol prohibition ceased.

This meant that Anslinger was now effectively in charge  of a redundant department  —  which may have had a little something to do with this dramatic change-of-heart…

Based on a totally bogus newspaper story and the backing of just one scientist (30 scientists were asked their opinion on whether they considered Cannabis to be  dangerous or not — and 29 of these scientists said ‘no’), Anslinger claimed that Marihuana leads to murder and other crimes… But not before you initially fall into “a delirious rage”… you’re gripped by “dreams of an erotic character…” 🤫 and you “lose the power of connected thought.”

Note: Later the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 would be replaced by the Controlled Substances Act in the 1970’s (passed under President Nixon). This placed Cannabis in the most restrictive category (Schedule 1 – highly addictive with no medical value).

New Zealand (bunch of sheep that we are) simply went along with ‘whatever’. Our Narcotics Act was passed in 1965, which banned a number of drugs, including cannabis, which was in accordance with our international ‘obligations’ under the 1961, Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (an international treaty to prohibit production and supply of certain drugs.)

Note: New Zealand is also party to the Convention on Psychotropic Substances and the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

Back to modern times now — in America, nine states and Washington DC have legalised both the medical and recreational usages of Cannabis. And 29 states allow some form of medical marijuana.

Note: Federal Law remains unchanged – it’s illegal.

I’m assuming New Zealand will now just follow suit – again!4,5,6,7,8

Ooh, the plot thickens...

If you were to read-up-on the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, you would discover the following:

It was argued that the aim of the Act was to reduce the size of the hemp industry. Hemp had become a very cheap substitute for paper pulp (used in the newspaper industry), and it also provided unwanted competition for the nylon industry. Hemp was therefore a threat to the wealthy who had extensive holdings in either timber or synthetic fibres (nylon).

Further to this…

The American Medical Association (AMA) believed that the bill had been prepared in secret, giving them only minimal time to prepare their opposition to it.

They doubted the claims made over marijuana addiction, violence, and overdosage.

They also argued that because the name Marihuana was largely unknown at the time, the medical profession did not realize they were losing cannabis.

Cannabis covers the table while a woman rolls it into joints

In part-two I'll address the following...

You can read part-two, and part-three of this blog-post series here.

  1. Did I manage to redeem myself in Amsterdam...?

    I’ll tell you about my recent experience in a ‘Coffee Shop’ in Amsterdam.

    I actually had the good sense to steer-clear of ‘the cake’, and ‘the smoking’ — and opted to use a method of inhalation called ‘vaporization’ instead.

  2. What I believe the legal stance of Cannabis should be in NZ — and why

    I’ll tell you if I think it should be decriminalised, made legal, kept illegal… or if a tolerant stance should be taken.

  3. Is Marijuana really public enemy numero uno?

    Is Cannabis really a scourge on society? Or is it just fear-mongering?

    And, on the flip-side, is Cannabis as safe as its proponents would have us believe?

    We’ll also compare the side effects of taking this ‘drug’ to well — not taking it…

    And, knowing me, I’ll probably include a bunch of other things that I think of between now and then… 😉

Medical Marijuana

Cannabis-based products are Class B1 controlled drugs.

Note: Cannabis is lumped in with certain types of ‘meth’, MDMA, Morphine, and Opium.

Since September 2017, doctors have actually been able to prescribe CBD products without needing approval from the Health Minister.

The two main chemicals Cannabis contains are:
(A.K.A delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol) 
This is the main psychoactive agent in marijuana,
which can change a person’s mental state or produce a high.

This the non-psychoactive chemical that is reported to have potential therapeutic value (pain relief, anti-nausea, antispasmodic)

CBD products may be prescribed by a (willing) doctor for treating such medical conditions as childhood epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), pain, glaucoma, nausea & vomiting in chemotherapy patients, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia.

However, the cost of such products in NZ is currently prohibitive to many, as only registered medicine can get funding from Pharmac 9,10.

Would you like to read more from me about medicinal herbs?

I’ve written about a number of different medicinal herbs that I believe are incredibly beneficial for your health.

To select from these, please click this link.

Make an appointment with Lisa

Lisa Fitzgibbon is a degree qualified (2006), experienced and registered Naturopath & Medical Herbalist. She runs her own private practice – OOMPH in Grey Lynn, Auckland, New Zealand.

Lisa has been involved in the Natural Health industry for 16 years. She draws on her professional training and experience, as well as her own personal experience to bring you realistic, holistic health advice.

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