NZ order denies its founder went to pot

There is no evidence that Mother Suzanne Aubert ever used or grew cannabis, her order says, despite claims made in a new film about the drug in New Zealand.
According to a press release from the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party, a new film called Druglawed mentions Mother Aubert. Druglawed had an “Underworld Premiere”
in Auckland in January.
The film, which is a documentary about the cannabis issue in New Zealand, is scheduled for a “World Premiere” in Dunedin in “the coming months”, and will be shown on the film
festival circuit.
According to the party’s press release, “the film also documents New Zealand’s first cultivator of medical cannabis, Mother Mary Aubert”.
Another media report stated that Mother Aubert “concocted medicinal brews of cannabis hemp to ease menstrual pains as well as to help asthmatics and recovering alcoholics”.
The order founded by Mother Aubert, the Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion, sent a statement on the issue to NZ Catholic. The statement was based on information from scientist
Max Kennedy.
It said that stories about Mother Aubert experimenting with or being the first person in New Zealand to cultivate cannabis (marijuana or hemp), are based on anecdotal accounts “many
times removed from a direct source”.
Such accounts stem from the 1960s, the statement continued.
It also quoted a DSIR toxicologist’s paper from 1971 which stated that, before 1965, the drug (marijuana) was virtually unknown in New Zealand.
“No cultivation of the plant was known and few of the general public knew anything at all about it,” the paper stated.
The sisters’ statement added that, “at the Home of Compassion, with its considerable archive of material available, no physical or documentary evidence is known that Suzanne Aubert
ever used or grew marijuana”.
The statement concluded that, given the paucity of evidence, it is unlikely that stories about Suzanne Aubert and marijuana have merit.
The Roman postulator for Mother Aubert’s cause for sainthood, Fr Maurice Carmody, said it is a pity she is being used for “party political purposes”.
Fr Carmody said he had seen no clear evidence that Mother Aubert (1835–1926) used “hemp”, but even if that was the case, it would not have been for “recreational purposes” and
was “within the accepted medical parameters of her time”.
“As such, no moral blame can attach to her and her reputation for holiness is unaffected.”
Fr Carmody said Mother Aubert’s cause is being examined by an international committee of theologians in Rome.
“We have been told by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints that they will hand down their vote after the European summer break this year,” he said.
The alleged connection between Mother Aubert’s medicinal remedies and cannabis is mentioned in an entry in the official Te Ara: Encyclopaedia of New Zealand.
The encyclopaedia entry, title “Drugs — Colonial drug-taking”, was written by the encyclopaedia’s general editor, historian Jock Phillips.
In The Story of Suzanne Aubert, Jessie Munro wrote that “exactly what plants went into Suzanne’s medicines, and in what proportions, is no longer known”.
“She tended to guard the recipes zealously, with a certain dramatic secrecy.
“Ultimately, the recipes disappeared — lost, or more likely, as in the traditional stories, destroyed by Suzanne.”

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Michael Otto

Reader Interactions


  1. Arik Reiss says

    The opening chapter of renowned NZ historian and journalist Redmer Yska describes Mother Mary’s cultivation, processing and distribution of cannabis medications in detail, please read the brilliant book NEW ZEALAND GREEN for yourselves.

  2. Karen Arnoldson says

    The medicinal cannabis exhibits of Sister Aubert can be found at the Museum of City and Sea in Wellington. There is nothing to be ashamed of about this and everything to be proud of. Cannabis is a medicine and THC and CBD (the main cannabinoids in cannabis) are still listed as pharmaceutical medicines in NZ legislation.

  3. Blair Anderson says

    What ever the truth of the matter as to the exact formulary, Aubert’s ‘rongo’ in all likelihood contained cannabis, and likely worked because it did. (see USA patents that validate efficacy). While any assay of remaining vessels/containers may indeed validate that there was or was not cannabis matter present, cannabis was used in the KP formulary. I would dispute that the first use of cannabis in NZ was strictly that of Aubert’s. It’s properties were well known to educated colonists prior to her Jerusalem experience. What is of significance is why New Zealand was important to colonise in the first place. A reading of “Joseph Banks: A question of hemp” gives lie to the notion that cannabis was something new and unimportant to who we are as a nation state. Without question, hemp was an enabler for all the missionary endeavours who arrived here to settle this far flung land. The sails, the tow and ropes that powered the christian message around the world were all sourced from cannabis. Indeed the first map drawn by the first captain of the first ship to built of NZ timber detailed ‘abundant hemp’ surrounding Port McQuarrie (Bluff Harbour) as informative to all those who would follow. Notably drawn at the time Napoleon was marching on Moscow ostensibly to stop the Russian’s shipping Ukranian hemp to the UK via the Baltic backdoor (it was a naval strategic munition) albeit at the request of the American’s who couldn’t grow it at near the quality required and thus disenfranchised from the race to occupy and trade with other ‘states’ – primarily it competed with the dominance of the East India Co.’s lucrative profits from Opium. The US’s first naval vessel , the US Constitution still moored on the Charles River adjacent to the ‘rope walks and tow pots’ in Boston, was built to protect America’s interest in both the drug and hemp trade. Are we getting the religious dichotomy? The first traded ‘goods’ from the new world to the old was the drug tobacco from Jonestown to London and Amsterdam.

    Cannabis, particularly recreational and medicinal use, was the least of anyones worries….

    The country founded by quasi religious nutters that later became a bastion of religious freedom has done so much harm in its wholesale commitment to the global war on drugs and the vile hurt and disfunction it has caused…. and all we see is the RC community rise to defend a long dead ‘Sister’ on the premise she might not have used a proven medicinal herb – in case it disturbs her chances of sainthood.

    The RC fraternity needs to get its priorities right….

    There is NOTHING Christian about ‘prohibition’.

    To ignore this is to dishonour Suzanne Aubert’s memory, work and accomplishments.

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