One man’s weed is another man’s crop By Barbara Gillham _______________________________
An international horticulturist and former Massey University lecturer, Dr Mike Nichols is perhaps best known for his push to have cannabis legalised for medicinal use.
While this is certainly something that he believes in and has gained him considerable media attention over the years, there is a bigger story to tell about this interesting man.
Born in London a few years before the outbreak of WW11, Mike speaks with pride of his father who was a commercial artist. When war broke out his father became a firefighter and was in London during the blitz.
“He was an incredibly good artist and when war broke out he continued to draw and did a lot of pictures of the blitz, showing what was happening there. Later on his pictures along with those of other artists were exhibited in the United States. He did one of the Post Office in London which was bombed and that painting is now on permanent loan to them.”
With the outbreak of war Mike says his mother moved him and his brother and sister to Oxford, where they all lived with his grandfather until it was over.
“It was safer living there and better than being evacuated out to other families like many children were.” It was also while living there that Mike began to develop his interest in horticulture. “The father of one of my friends at school had an allotment, he grew carrots, potatoes and all sorts of things, and I used to go to the allotment a lot. I was only about 7 or 8 years old but that’s when I first got interested in it, all those years ago.”
After finishing school Mike went to Nottingham University to study for a Bachelors Degree.
“One of my professors at Nottingham had worked in New Zealand after the war; he had come out here and worked for three years for the department of agriculture, before returning to teach at the University. I wanted to go overseas and I had considered Canada, South Africa, Australia or New Zealand. Canada I thought a bit too cold, I didn’t agree with apartheid so South Africa was out, Australia maybe, but in the end I decided to apply for a job in New Zealand and eventually came out to work for MAF, or the Ministry of Agriculture as it was called in those days.”
It was during his time in this job that Mike was to meet his wife, and the couple married in 1962 in her home town of Nelson.
Mike says they then went back to England where he returned to
“The father of one of my friends at school had an allotment, he grew carrots, potatoes and all sorts of things, and I used to go to the allotment a lot. I was only about 7 or 8 years old but that's when I first got interested in it, all those years ago.”