Every morning, Rose Renton asks her son Alex to help her be strong and continue fighting in his name.
Alex was a fit and healthy teenager, but died on July 1 in Wellington Hospital, after spending months in an induced coma in “status epilepticus”, a kind of prolonged seizure, the cause of which remains unknown.
During her son’s illness, Renton made headlines as she and her family pushed for and were successful in getting Alex to be treated with medical cannabis oil.
Renton says the treatment was too little and too late, but regardless, her life has been turned upside down since.
“It helps with healing. Every tear you cry you know you will not have to cry that tear again.”
Somedays, she feels directionless.
“I was so close to him. We all were really, we do have days that are really rough, as a family we miss him.”
It’s two and a half months since Alex died, time Renton has spent dedicated to fighting for a change in cannabis laws, both medical and recreation.
Renton will be speaking at the screening of the Druglawed film this weekend, and has been interviewed for its sequel due out in 2017.
What the film explores is close to Renton’s heart, it looks at cannabis use and statistics through the world and in New Zealand.
“It explains how New Zealand got rolled up in a war on drugs philosophy,” film director Arik Reiss said.
He said the film shows it is an “absolute waste of time” and money to enforce laws against cannabis use and prosecute those who use it.
The film documents prohibition and its effects and also looks at what happened when it was decriminalized, like in Colorado.
Reiss estimated about half a billion dollars was spent each year in cannabis prohibition in New Zealand.
Renton said prohibition was “destroying lives” and families.
“Cannabis should be a freedom of choice like alcohol, that’s what we are advocating for. Those that choose pharmaceuticals have that right to choose, those that choose alcohol have that right, but the cannabis community, we are punished and made into criminals but we are not harming anyone.”
She had been vocal in advocating for medical cannabis to be legalized, and wanted to see the same done for recreational users.
“The whole picture is out of balance and not working for New Zealand, economically or society based.
“I believe everyone needs that equality and freedom to choose, being involved in it in the last five months I really see the injustice in that. It’s glaringly obvious to me that cannabis users should be left alone.”
Renton said her views mirrored her son’s, and both felt there was a lack of education about cannabis.
“We didn’t believe everything we were told, we questioned the laws and the politics and what was going on. I guess that is a driving force, I taught Alex to question things. At least I could honor the life he did have, the short 19 years and follow through on that and see a change with these laws.”