The front line of cannabis activism is tough and can be a twisted roller coaster of emotions much of the time, especially as a care provider for people with lifelong and/or terminal illnesses.
I myself have personally defied the prognosis of death that was given to me by my NHS gastroenterologist consultant in 2010 thanks to cannabis oil. So when people contact me and tell me that they have been given only a few days, weeks, months or a couple of years to live I find it incredibly hard to ignore that cry for help. As vulnerable as that can leave me feeling at times, I don’t think I could possibly change it for anything in the world. I couldn’t convey to you what it feels like interacting with these people; it’s an insight into the human condition that I wish no one would have to experience. You have to be part of the ‘written off from life club’ to understand not wanting to trade that in, I guess.
But… I can give you some insight into what it’s like having to tread on the coals that prohibition forces cannabis activists to walk on.
There is only so much time…
I can only personally help as many patients as is possible. The majority of the time I reach out through the cannabis network that the UK Cannabis Social Clubs have created across four nations that were, seven years ago, in a very different and much less active state of play. If there is a club in a patient’s area with people that provide a level of care we trust, we will contact that club and let them know the situation and see if they can help. Most of the time they can and that is testimony to the UKCSC community.
In the build up to 4/20 in 2018 a friend of mine, a committed cannabis activist, horticulturist and rebel ganja farmer, contacted to tell me that he’d been given three months to live by doctors. It was a bit of a brutal shock as only in December had he been told that he had COPD, needing some help choosing a vape to stop smoking and quit a life habit of tobacco. We exchanged a couple of texts but missed each others calls.
Dr Simon Jones worked in the Home Office during the New Labour years. His job was to liaise between the Home Office and the Police on Drugs Policy. One of his favourite things was the fact that during the time cannabis was being reclassified from C to B again, ie to a more ‘dangerous’ category, he was growing hundreds of kilos of cannabis in Cardiff to test claims that were being made about “skunk” by the press, politicians and the media, such as it being referred to as “lethal” by Gordon Brown or that is “20 x stronger” than it used to be. In order to prove they were talking absolute rubbish he got cuts of the infamous Exodus Cheese and filled up some warehouses in North Wales.
He then went on to work legally growing in Canada with a licence from the Federal Government where he determined that growing with dripper systems was probably the most efficient way of cultivating cannabis indoors for combined quality and yield – excitedly he told me there were ways you could do it organically! From Canada he went to Colorado and formed an edibles company in the legal industry and then packed his bags after a few years and set sail for Jamaica where he worked with the University of Kingston conducting scientific studies on traditional uses of cannabis to be published in international drug journals. When he returned to the UK last year we met at Breaking Convention and it was honestly like meeting a long lost family member. We hit it off and had a lot of ideas for activsim and writing papers. He encouraged me to take on a pHD myself and we started looking into making that happen. Having the support of someone you respect for all the work they have done for cannabis meant a lot.
I spent the week of 4/20 travelling around the country and had a wonderful time meeting everyone doing so. After I had recovered for a few days I finally managed to locate some oil for my friend Simon. I called, but no answer, so I left a text message. Later that day I got this reply: “Hi Greg, this is Iain, sorry to tell you this, but Simon died this morning. Here’s my number if you would like to get in touch.” In just 15 days, the cancer had taken him and I’m still struggling to get over not being there to have a conversation with him before he left us, or get him royally stoned one last time. I know though, that sadly, he won’t be the last friend I lose to cancer. It was quick.
Jackie, the mother of a childhood friend I went to school with, has been battling esophagus cancer for the past two years. Several rounds of chemo took a serious toll on her body, even causing an anaphylactic reaction on one occasion. At the start of the year we started her on full extract oil and after a month there were some signs that the oil could be working when a small reduction was seen in the next scan. This prompted the oncologists to attempt another round of chemo, and Jackie felt that with the oil it was worth another shot. Unfortunately, there have been some more signs of growth on the tumour despite two months of cannabis and chemo combined and Jackie has decided to move from home to a hospice this week. I really feel for her family, husband and three adult sons that all have their own children now.
Today a patient that I have been thinking about recently called me so I picked up. Jack is 21 and in January suddenly noticed a spot smaller than a pinhead pop up on his tear duct. His girlfriend, bless her soul, told him to go and get it checked out. To his surprise and shock he was diagnosed with an unknown cancer that, within three weeks of his first appointment had very quickly spread to his lymph glands. He was diagnosed with advanced stage three cancer.
Jack had to undergo combined radio and chemotherapy for three months, nearly killing him in the process. Jack also has Ulcerative Colitis and this was a major concern for him, his family and his doctors when going in for his treatments. Before he started all the chemo and radio we had an hour or so chat on the phone. We had never met but Jack clearly needed some help and being at the same age I was when I was told I was probably going to die I could relate to his sense of uncertainty about everything. All power to Jack though, he battled through six days of 24 hour IV chemo for several weeks in a row and then straight on to radio for a further month. With the help of cannabis and the information leaflets from Medican Campus that we produce, he understood what he needed to look out for along with his parents and health care professionals, who became completely happy with him using cannabis as a treatment option. Thankfully, he managed to survive a gruelling experience. He refused morphine options other than a bit of co-codamol a few times and both he and his nurses (who were surprised) attributed his low nausea to his medical cannabis use.
Anyway, today he called me up to tell me that he has been given the all clear. Even though I only gave him his first set of cannacaps he found the education I gave him invaluable. Amazingly, the near deadly amounts of chemo and radio that he received have actually put his Ulcerative Colitis in remission by reducing the activity of his overactive immune system, which attacks his digestive tract. Silver lining? The sad part of the story is that the people in London selling him the cannabis he is vaping medically are vending “Cali” weed in pop tops with RX labels on them, charging this young cancer survivor £60 for 3.5g. Just when you think your work is done… But this is why we set up a Tagged Plant Collective Model. (if you want to follow Jacks next chapter @getcnected)
Going with it
If you take on this role as a cannabis activist in life, you really must let yourself know it’s not for the weak-hearted because it will definitely test you and really reveal to you who you are.
On the flip side of potential tragedy comes new life. A fellow survivor is expecting his first baby and has decided he needs to become self sufficient as relying on irregular black market sources is not going to be sustainable with another mouth to feed. So we have been discussing growing options and I’m proud to say he’s very nearly on the way. For obvious reasons I can’t name him but I really look forward to working with him on the campaign and wish him all the best starting his family, he fought hard for it. He has the passion required in all direction that life is calling him.
Other interactions I’ve had the joy of being part of in the past few months are with clubs that have taken the model and run with it and then reached out and told us what they are doing and can they be involved with the UKCSC. It’s awesome – no other way to put it. It gives me a surge to get in touch with the UKCSC board members and update them on the progress of our work and influence. Michael Fisher, our Vice Chairman up at Teesside Cannabis Club, who has suffered another flare up and hospitalisation due to undiagnosed Crohn’s-like symptoms, and pioneer of the practical club model in the UK, has said: “I’m looking forward to visiting some more of these clubs after I’ve recovered and love knowing that more people are making change a reality for their local community, because it’s all about community.”
I’ll be on the road soon myself tho, visiting some clubs, meeting Police Crime Commissioners and speaking at open days for some clubs’ first public info days, such as Milton Keynes Cannabis Social Club on June 7th recently and Swansea Cannabis Social Club on July 1st. Another BBC program has been in touch and Patients At Parliament 3, Borofest, Green Pride, UKCSC at Teesside and Product Earth are just around the corner.
It’s non stop… but are you ready for another cannabis awareness filled summer in the UK? I am.
Greg de Hoedt, UK Cannabis Social Club Chairman
Between the time of writing this and publishing, Jackie sadly lost her two year battle to cancer on the very day that cannabis prescriptions were announced.
Want to be involved with the UK legalisation story? You can find your nearest club here, or join the UKCSC as a Supporter Member below to help us continue bringing safer access to cannabis for adults and patients and securing the right to grow at home for personal and medical use.