Educated Stoner – Cannabis & Cancer: Take Five Leaves and Pray

A continuation of the Educated Stoner series by freelance journalist, producer and cannabis advocate, Sharon Letts. We encourage our readers to check out more from sharonletts.com as she documents her experience with cannabis from beating cancer to remedy recipes, essays and books to video and podcast interviews, and much more. Twitter: @SharonLetts

The summer of 2012 a mammogram found a spider-web-like mass in my right breast. Research showed it to be “Lobular Carcinoma,” a mass, not a tumor. In the weeks leading up to the first mammogram and subsequent ultra-sound, I began ingesting raw leaves. By the time the first biopsy was done the spider web was gone with just a “target point” remaining. After bartering with my oncologist for another month, he agreed to let me continue my treatment. The strong oil used to treat cancer and other serious ailments was re-invented by Canadian Rick Simpson more than ten years ago. The recipe is specific, using bud, stem and leaf for whole plant theory and the most medicine. A medicine maker who made several batches for her husband’s prostate cancer said she first used just bud and the batch tested high in THC. Simpson encourages upwards of 95 percent THC in the mix; the second batch leaf was added and the test showed CBD; the third batch she added stems and found CBN was added – proving whole plant theory gets you the most medicine.

60 Grams in 90 Days

The treatment for RSO [Rick Simpson Oil] is to ingest 60 grams in 90 days. Suppositories are said to be best, as it gets the medicine right to the blood stream and organs for healing, not digestive processing. At 95% THC, dosing is critical with the patient starting small, initially taking a piece of oil the size of a half grain of rice. After some time a full grain of rice is taken, working up to one full gram a day until the full 60 gram treatment is gone. The most invasive cancers have been found to be gone in less than 90 days if the oil is strong enough. Other oils have come on the market as medicine makers step up. But the rule of thumb is to make sure it’s tested, as the numbers need to test high on THC and the base is made with solvent and it must be cooked down. A common mistake is to soak the plant material for days rather than a quick wash (three minutes, tops), as the medicine is in the fragile terpenes of the plant and soaking only draws in more chlorophyll to the mix and actually retains solvent, while lowering the percentage for medicinal compounds.

I can’t emphasize how strong the oil is, but the THC is necessary. The first tests on destroying tumors came from Israel in 1974, and the THC component of the plant was isolated for this reason. It will knock you down, but that’s a good thing, as the body needs rest to heal. The modern day “take a pill” and continue life as usual just doesn’t work for this treatment – but it is a life saver.

Look at me, I’m Cancer Free!

Happily the second scheduled biopsy found nothing, with the mass completely gone from both the mammogram and ultra-sound. The attending technician called it a “technical error,” stating the initial technician probably got it wrong. But I was there looking over her shoulder and saw the same distinct spider-web mass in both the mammogram and ultra-sound. An oncologist assistant was called in for lack of an attending oncologist to have a chat with me, stating sometimes there is “dense tissue” that can be confused with cancers. But his lecture on the subject was long, convoluted, and did not make sense to me at all. I was polite and reiterated that I treated myself by ingesting Cannabis oil, but he didn’t know anything about the treatment, of course, and refused to engage in a conversation.

The follow-up letter received from the lab stated they felt the “dense tissue” remaining in my breast was “probably left over from a prior surgery.” This gave me a huge laugh, as, of course, I have never had surgery in that breast or the other one, for that matter. I also felt this was an insult to my intelligence and the treatment used, but until the masses are educated on this plant we can’t expect this process to be easy. At the very least everyone involved heard my words. My cancer experience happened in 2012 and to this day I ingest with various deliveries I make myself, as follows:

• Blending raw leaf daily for digestive issues, prevention of illness, and overall well-being

(no psychoactive effects).

• Maintenance dose of RSO at night for sleep and prevention of illness and cancers.

• Cooking meals using infused oils, butter, honey, etc.

• Cocktails with infused alcohol, such as gin or rum – quelling inflammation leading to headaches and

hangovers, prevention of illness.

• Cold and flu prevention: If I feel a cold or flu coming on I up my ingesting and the infection lasts just

a couple of days.

• Use of infused topical salves, lotions, deodorant: Daily skin regiment for cancers, rashes, bug bites,

burns, acne, and numerous disorders of the skin.

• Smoking as needed for depression associated with hormonal disorders (Thyroid Disease, Menopause)

To date, the stigma is still greater than the remedy, but the times they are a-changing. With each new story of healing shared, people learn the truth. And you can’t stop the truth from spreading – thankfully, it’s a cancer in itself.

Adrienne Lynch | 09.01.2021

Richard speaks to Adrienne Lynch. Despite long-term mental health issues and related physical conditions, she was able to come off debilitating prescription medications and go on to live a full, purposeful life, thanks in no small part to cannabis. Twitter: @adriennevlynch

How was your experience of cannabis in Amsterdam when you were in your 20s and had you tried it before that? I went to Amsterdam for the first time by myself when I was 22 and I had experienced cannabis prior to that. I think that was one of my reasons for going to Amsterdam. I just wanted a safe place to go and experience cannabis and Amsterdam seemed like the obvious choice so that’s where I went. I’d only really tried it bits and pieces here as a teenager, y’know.. with your friends or whatever. But (I had) no real understanding of it. And also mixing it with alcohol when you’re a teenager. You just don’t really understand it, you know? So when I went and I sat down and smoked a joint and I ate some space cake and experienced it, I was like: “This might be for me.” I never really felt that with alcohol, but I was like: “This might be for me.” Richard laughs

In your guest piece for The Green Lens, you mentioned how you developed an autoimmune disease and fibromyalgia near the end of your teens. How would you explain those conditions to someone who isn’t informed about them? So, an autoimmune disease is your body attacking yourself. It can’t identify healthy cells and it attacks them. I have rheumatoid arthritis, which is inflammation in your joints. So my joints tend to swell up and things like that and there’s a lot of pain. And then with the fibromyalgia you have muscle spasms and you have a lot of pain. I had extreme chronic fatigue as well, but I couldn’t sleep either because I was in so much pain. Those symptoms were all very much of pain and then when I went to the Doctors, they just started to give me other medication to say: “Well this is the pain and this is what’s causing it.”

Which then just led to an onslaught of other issues coming up, you know? Because they didn’t diagnose me until I was 21 with the autoimmune disease and fibromyalgia. So I had about five years of crazy medicine. Prescribed guesswork. Prescribed guesswork basically, yeah. And a lot of them did a lot of damage. I was on steroids for a very long time. They had a slight touch of sleeping tablets at that stage but they didn’t give me sleeping tablets really until I was.. I think I was about 24 or 25. So you went a long time without being able to sleep, really. Yeah, yeah. And at that stage, I didn’t have a clue how to get my hands on cannabis in Ireland. I was living out in Donabate and nobody I knew was selling any or knew anybody to ask. And even asking them would’ve been so taboo and the fear of judgement, you know… So it was just.. You just plod along for so long, you know?

Did you ever find out why you were prescribed twice the recommended dose of sleeping tablets for several years at around that time? No. And I’m still completely fascinated and baffled that Doctors would inform me of this as they’re giving me another prescription for it. Yeah. At this stage, I wasn’t really sleeping because you don’t really sleep with sleeping tablets. So it was years of that. And the Doctor, as he’s writing me my double dosage, he was saying: “This can lead to Parkinson’s and Alzheimers, you know that?” Oh my God. I was like, “Oh, yeah.” And he hands me the prescription and I was like: “That’s it, that’s all you tell me? I’ve been on these for a number of years now. You’re a medical professional.” No matter who you are, you will build a dependency on them, you know? Yeah. So, that was it. It wasn’t even addressed ever again. 

It was just mentioned once, as he prescribed it to you. I actually had to change Doctor. And the next Doctor, she hated prescribing them for me, so she was just always at me. And then I was like, “Why am I taking these and how am I gonna get off them?” Three years back, after a year of gradually weaning yourself off of them, you managed to stop using the prescription medications you’d been prescribed for sleeping, anxiety and depression and replaced them with cannabis. How did cannabis help you to stop using them and how does using it compare to the prescription meds? So, one thing is, prescription meds.. You’re never just on one generally. One leads to another, to another, to another. So when you’re on this mix of things that are supposed to be treating one thing and they’re just stopping your body from doing something that it’s naturally trying to do, that’s what pharma medication generally does.

That leads to other issues, so straight away that’s one thing. Cannabis is one medicine and it treats your body. Now we’ve got all the different cannabinoids within that medicine, which is the part where we’ve got to start educating people, because that’s the medicine part. That’s the part that gives our body that homeostasis. So instead of stopping it from doing something, cannabis enables my body to function to the best of its ability. Yeah. It doesn’t stop it (from) doing any functions. It doesn’t suppress anything. It helps you to do all those functions it needs to do. Now our body should never be stopped from doing anything. It should be assisting it to do things, so that’s for me again a huge change and it really is the best medicine I’ve ever been on.

You said that after years of struggle, cannabis now allows you to eat comfortably, sleep, exercise and leave the house, leading a productive life. Why do you think many people still buy into the lazy stoner stereotype? I mean it’s everywhere, isn’t it? I mean, even down to the stoner movies I love and enjoy. I recently rewatched Pineapple Express. It’s absolutely hilarious. It just perpetuates this idea of an idiot stoner that’s lazy and can’t achieve anything in life. And we all know that’s so far from the truth. I mean, even the guy that wrote that movie is successful and a millionaire and a stoner, you know? So it’s a paradox in itself. But it’s something we do need to challenge. And I think it’s fine having it from a comedic perspective, but when the rest of us are trying to live our lives and we’re fighting against that stigma or that stereotype that’s just so far from the truth. I wake, bake, do thirty minutes of cardio and then thirty minutes of strength training and then thirty minutes of yoga. How is that lazy? It’s the exact opposite of it. And then I go and do a full day’s work. Somebody come at me and tell me smoking makes you lazy, because I’m telling you it just absolutely doesn’t. It gives me the ability to do everything I wanna do and I’m very ambitious and now I’m finally able to fulfil those ambitions and go for what I want. I’m delighted to hear that.

How are you progressing with your course on The Medicinal Uses of THC and CBD, and what have you found most interesting about it? I always knew cannabis is really good for us in the sense of treating pain and treating inflammation. I did not know that our bodies are 100% built to receive this sort of medicine and that it regulates so many other parts of our bodies. The studies and medical research they’re doing at the moment is showing signs for neuropathic protection, so that could be used for protection from Alzheimer’s in times to come. Who knows? If we’re finally allowed to do all the research. Everybody says THC can affect your memory. If it’s used right, if the research is allowed to be done, it can actually be used to protect your neuropathy. And then if you also look at the fact that it can also regulate your pancreas it can possibly also be used in the future to help with diabetes. 

So there’s just so many benefits to it and it’s like the tip of the iceberg we’re at right now. There is such a level left to go and it’s not even just cannabis, there’s a lot of botanical medicines to be researched. Because there’s a lot of plants that have cannabinoids, not just cannabis. Yeah. And everybody thinks: “Oh, botanical medicine is just hippie dippy stuff. There’s a lot of science to it now, it’s not just about loving plants and things like that. There’s really a lot of science. And I’m not for taking away pharma, but I’m about options for people. People need to be informed and know that they have options. Absolutely. 

There’s no point dismissing an entire area of medicine in favour of another, everyone should have a broad range of options. We must have cannabinoid receptors in our bodies for a reason, you would think! I mean we all come from the Earth, so there might be things in the Earth put there for us, you know? If you don’t mind me asking, where are you studying that and how far along are you with that course? It’s just an online course, but it is recognised by CBD CPD [Continual Professional Development], so it’s 15 points for that. I’m doing it in The Centre of Excellence, which is an English company. And the guy who wrote it, the information he is giving around the laws at the start are from an English perspective. But their laws are very similar to ours. After that, he goes into the whole body and the receptors and he breaks down the different cannabinoids and stuff as well. And then the next part I’ll be going into is how they can be used. Like topical use and tinctures and things like that. But it’s a really interesting course, I’d recommend it.

You have told me that you’re also studying to be a Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach, and that you hope to incorporate your knowledge of CBD into your coaching. How do you plan to do this? CBD could hugely be incorporated into our nutritional daily benefits. If people were even using CBD oils for cooking with. If they were drinking CBD teas, which are wonderful. Really, really good. There’s lots of different ways you can incorporate it into your nutritional daily intake. So I will be up for that, but I also really want to educate people on how they can use it to manage anxiety and stress, while incorporating it with exercise. Because I really look at everything from a holistic perspective. It’s never just one issue, you have to do everything as a whole. Yeah. So, I really think CBD can be brought into everything. Cannabis can be used, and a lot of people are like: “I don’t wanna smoke”. So then you can use oils or.. nowadays, they have the CBD drinks. I love the Parachute drink. ‘Cause I’m not a drinker but if you wanna sit and be social with somebody there having a can, have a can of Parachute instead, you know? That works for me. Things like that, it’s just small changes but they can make a big difference in a person’s life.

How would you advise our government and the Garda Síochána on the national approach to cannabis, moving forward? It’s obviously a complex issue. They need to have compassion, first and foremost. There’s no compassion right now for people that are suffering from illnesses. People don’t choose to be ill. For me, I’m being forced to break the law, all the time at the moment. And I have a child to think of, and that weighs heavily on me. And I studied law as well, you know? I don’t want to be a criminal, but I’m not willing to take pharmaceutical medication that makes my life unmanageable just because of a law that I don’t believe in. They really have to listen to us. They have to start listening to us and they have to have an open conversation. And I think it’s very dangerous, the misuse of information that they spread. Because it’s so scaremongering and it’s really detrimental to the people who could really benefit from cannabis. 

Do you think that we should gradually progress through legalisation, starting with the medicinal and then aiming for recreational (use)? Or do you think we should try to go straight for full legalisation? What kind of views do you have on that? Part of me thinks, “Just ease our way in” and another part of me is like, “I don’t know if Ireland is like that.” When it came to the gay marriage stuff, it was like: “We’re either going full constitutional or we’re just not doing it.” I feel we need a similar approach with this. It needs to be an all-in approach. We need to go: “We want full change and we want it recognised in our Constitution so that we’re protected, that this is a medicine.” Something along those lines I feel is needed on this. Because I think they’re gonna sit on their hands and they’re gonna keep tryna fob us off with little gestures here and there. Like the thing that they did recently with the Gardaí, saying: “They can use their own personal discretion.” But sure they’ve been doing that for years! And all that does is harm people who are from areas that already get discriminated against. 

Do you think our government is working in any meaningful way at the moment in terms of discussing legalisation and making it a reality for people? I don’t think it’s enough in their view frame at the moment. I think there’s so many other things and people pushing for things that it’s not in their view frame. That’s why we need this to be bigger. We need people coming out. And it’s almost like coming out as: “Hey, I am a smoker! I like THC and CBD and it helps my life.” You have to do that. And I’ve only really started doing it myself publicly within the last six months. I’ve been doing it very much in the background for a long time. But publicly, because it’s a difficult thing when it’s illegal to do, but I really believe in it. So I think if more of us can protect each other and work together, that’s one thing I feel is missing. That sense of community and having each others’ backs. Because it’s so underground. So we need to find a way to come together, I think a little bit like what they did in Spain with the smokers’ clubs. 

That could be an approach we could take, because at least it would be a place for people to go to gather information, where we could build a community that will stand up and say: “This is not okay, we need changes.” I couldn’t agree more. Is there anything else you’d like to touch on? Anything you’d like to say to people who are interested in learning more about cannabis? I would say… Go in slowly to your CBD and THC. Because there’s a lot to learn and there’s a lot of growth to be had in it. And if you go in too fast, you might scare yourself away. If you can talk to people or find people online who have experienced it, it’s always a good thing to talk to other people. And just try and find a decent dealer until we get legalisation, because you’ve gotta be safe out there. You never know what they’re doing with that stuff they sell on the street. With the sprays and everything, you’ve just gotta be really careful. Thank you so much for joining me today. Thanks for having me, take care.

* Adrienne’s autobiographical guest piece, Cannabis Saved My Life, can be read here:

https://www.greenlensblog.com/2020/11/22/cannabis-saved-my-life-adrienne-lynch/

Are We There Yet? – Ireland’s Adult Cautioning Scheme

Nicholas investigates the newly amended laws regarding the possession of small amounts of cannabis.  Individuals caught with cannabis for personal use are now processed through the adult caution system where they will be referred to healthcare services, avoiding prosecution and a criminal record.

The common perception of cannabis consumption is that it is nothing short of criminal behaviour and those who partake are simply engaging in a life of crime.  This has facilitated the belief that those who consume cannabis, only do so because they are criminals.  The illegality of cannabis has cultivated the stigma that those who are arrested for possession are no different than violent thieves and should incur the full wrath of the justice system.  This belief is easy to maintain as those arrested are nameless faces to the public eye, left for the mind to profile as villainousness thugs, hellbent on enabling others to participate in what the uninformed consider to be not only an addictive substance but also a drug that prompts its users to engage in violent activity. 

This stigma is nothing new nor exclusive to Ireland.  The history of controlling cannabis narratives has dated centuries, as a means of controlling the population and to keep order intact.  However, in recent times, many are waking up to the realisation that cannabis consumption is becoming more and more common among different backgrounds and age groups.  Whatever fear cannabis may have had attributed to it has fallen to the wayside as more and more people engage in recreational usage and experimentation.  Most people, at the very least, know of someone that has experimented with cannabis, the anonymous boogieman of weed culture has died along with the hivemind complex that ensured cannabis usage remained a criminal activity in the eyes of the public.  As these barriers fall with each year, public perception changed along with it.  And while we have a long road ahead of us in terms of cannabis reform, we can be pleased that certain aspects of the law are diminished to reflect what we now know of the drug. 

On the 2nd of August 2019, it was announced following the government’s new National Drugs Strategy, that first- and second-time drug offenders will avoid a criminal conviction for possession in a policy that looks to focus on the health of the individual rather than criminality of drug use.  The policy came into operation in 2020 after being announced by the Minister for Health Simon Harris, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, and the Minister of State for the National Drugs Strategy Catherine Byrne.  This initiative now allows those caught with possession to be referred to the HSE for a health screening for their first offence.  Upon a second offence, the Gardai will have the discretion to give an adult caution.  Upon a third offence, Gardai will treat it within the criminal justice system as it was, before the initiative.  This will dramatically cut down on the 12,000+ incidents of drug possession for personal use, as recorded in 2017. 

At the launch, Simon Harris stated: “This approach will not decriminalise drug use; it is a mechanism to defer people to health and social services for help and support. Ministers Flanagan, Byrne and I are very clear that there are no plans to legalise any type of drugs, including cannabis.”

Nevertheless, this is a step forward in the treatment of those who recreationally or medically use cannabis, as this new health-led approach to tackling illegal drug use will aid the user in getting treatment rather than slapping a drug conviction to their name, essentially destroying their opportunities later in life.  The new measures will incur €750,000 a year in staff costs to facilitate the 10,000 additional health screenings needed to implement the new measures.   In the end, people caught with cannabis will be connected to those in the health services as a means to support the individual in their road to recovery. 

While campaigners for cannabis reform sought to bring about the decriminalisation of smaller amounts of drugs, this was described as a “significant day” for Irish society by Harris.   Despite the lack of compassion Harris has demonstrated in the roll-out of the Medical Cannabis Access Programme, this initiative at least recognises drug users as human beings instead of hardened criminals.

The process of being deferred to the HSE begins upon the Gardai finding that the individual is in possession of an illegal drug.  They will refer them to a screening service provided by the HSE where they will have an intervention with a Healthcare Worker.  Should the Healthcare Worker identify that the individual has a drug problem, they will be offered treatment.  Depending on the circumstances, the person may also be referred to social services or harm reduction to aid in their recovery.  Attendance of this process is then confirmed to the Gardai. 

This initiative came about after a public consultation into the matter.  From a questionnaire launched in 2016 [1], nearly 90% of the respondents supported the removal of criminal penalties for drug possession of small amounts.  From the data, the majority agreed the elimination of these penalties would encourage people to seek treatment for their drug use.  

This is a far cry from Portugal’s model.  In 2001, the Portuguese government decriminalised illegal drug use, a move that led to a dramatic reduction in drug-related crimes.  Instead of being brought before the criminal courts, Portuguese users will be forced to appear in front of a special addiction panel.  While this results in additional costs for the healthcare sector, it greatly reduces the costs to the state to imprison the individual. 

Possession for personal use should never be indictable.  With a system that offers multiple adult cautions and diversions to treatment as alternatives, the individual can seek for resolve in their addiction or dependence.  This behaviour can stem from personal factors such as the environments we are raised in, to the hereditary nature of drug use.  We are making the necessary steps forward as a country in acknowledging that people caught in possession of small amounts of cannabis are not the criminals the public psyche may consider them to be.  We are a long way from decriminalisation, but the introduction of this scheme demonstrates we are breaking the shackles of ignorance and control, as we move towards open channels of communication on drug use and how the government appropriately manages the rise of recreational cannabis use in Ireland.


[1] https://www.gov.ie/en/consultations/?term=&organisation=department-of-health&referrer=http://www.health.gov.ie/consultations/

Kenny Tynan | 07.01.2021

Richard speaks to Kenny Tynan – a radio host, DJ, producer, and the host of 1The Cannabis Patient Podcast. Kenny was diagnosed with a grade 2 glioma brain tumour in 2015, resulting in extensive surgeries which meant that he had to re-learn how to use the right side of his body. Kenny sought out cannabis as an alternative means of treating his tumour and its effects. He is keen to continue learning about it as a student while informing people of its many benefits and advocating for its legalisation in Ireland.

Twitter: @KennyTynan

What first got you into music production and DJing? Well, I think it was when I was about ten years of age, I heard me first rave tape that the cousin had in England, y’know? It was of The Utah Saints and I really got into them from that stage onwards. And then around when I was sixteen or so, I got introduced to programmes like eJay and Reason and I’ve been at it ever since then. Would you say that making music has served as a therapy of sorts, in itself? It would indeed, yeah. Because when you’re writing music a lot of the time it’s experimental, until you find that right groove. And then once you find that right groove and (the) right elements, you get into a kind of flow state. And it’s a good way to release ideas and release things out of your head. It can be very refreshing to actually complete a task as well. When you’ve finished a song and you’re proud of how it went and proud of how it came out.

And when did you become interested in cannabis? I was always, since I was a teenager. I used it recreationally, on and off. But it wasn’t until the 2Rick Simpson video came out that… I always thought it was just a drug, until I seen that and it opened me eyes completely to show me that it was a medicine. You stated in episode one of your podcast that cannabis oils “gave you your life back” and that at the time of recording, you’d been a year without seizures. What inspired you to seek out those oils and how was your experience sourcing them? Well, it was a positive side-effect from the oils that I was taking, for treating the tumour. What inspired me to seek it out was the fact that I had the tumour and I didn’t want to take chemotherapy or radiotherapy at the time, so I wanted to try this first, you know? I got them fairly handy in Ireland at first, but they were black market oils. 

I took maybe 24 hours to source them initially in Ireland. But I wasted shitloads of money on subpar medicine. Stuff that still had alcohol in it, you know what I mean? And stuff that hasn’t been made right at all, that hasn’t been extracted right at all like. At one stage there was stuff I got that was like… The only way you could explain it was nearly like putty, you know? Like an ointment? Exactly, and it stank of alcohol, it tasted of alcohol as well. I couldn’t take that at all and that cost me 400 quid, so that was 400 quid down the drain. So, we do need regulation because patients are being ripped off left, right and centre. It’s very hard to find a decent quality medicine, even though there is multiple sources of black market stuff. But it’s very hard to find the right guys.

For those who might not know, how would you describe a glioma brain tumour?   I was first diagnosed with a grade 2. And what it can do is, it can affect your memory, mood, sometimes your balance. Seizures are part and parcel of it, you know? Anxiety as well. You’re not given a very long life expectancy when you’re first diagnosed with a glioma, because at any stage it could turn into a GBM, which is a glioblastoma multiforme. And from that point on, you could have three months to live. At the minute, I’m living three months to three months. My last two scans have shown that it has been reducing, but my next one could say: “It’s gone GBM and you’ve got a couple months left to live”. Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen.

In 2017, you moved to Spain and you received specialist cannabis treatment for your tumour through the Kalapa clinic in Barcelona. Can you tell us more about that experience? Yeah. I heard Vera Twomey, she got in contact with the Kalapa clinic. And I got the details off her. And I had a session over Skype. And I sent them on me medical files, I got me medical files from Beaumont. And they said “Yeah”, that I’d qualify for it. And they gave me a prescription. It wasn’t an official prescription, because of the legalities of it over there in Spain. But they hooked me up with a cannabis club that was for patients and they had their own laboratory. And they were making the medicine in the laboratory as well.

Could you see the approach of Spanish cannabis clubs working in Ireland? Do you think that system would work well here? Yeah. One of the clubs was patient-led, the other was a kind of a recreational club. But what used to happen in the patient ones was you got your own number and you told them what your medicine was and they grew that amount of plants specifically for that medicine that you need. So, each plant that they had grown for you, they would have a tag on it with your particular number. So if the cops did come and raid them, they would be able to say: “Look, these are all our members here, they’re our patients. These are not my plants, this plant belongs to..” (Let’s say, myself). “Kenny Tynan. And another person.” So, they wouldn’t really be done as such and they couldn’t be prosecuted, you know? 

Yeah, that makes sense because the shares are split up among the community. So there’s a lot of sense in that. What are your feelings on the Medical Cannabis Access Programme? I haven’t seen anything about it. Nothing has happened with it, it’s just been put on pause. I don’t think there’s been one person granted an application under it, as far as I know. The only way that people can get it is through a licence. And that is extremely at fault. I think only about a quarter of the people that have a licence are actually getting reimbursed, so it’s not a great system. I’m one of those people that aren’t getting reimbursed, so I have to make my own medicine now. Were you able to get your costs covered before? Okay. First, I applied to the Primary Care Reimbursement Scheme. And they turned me down after about three months of going forward and back. They turned me down because they says that my epilepsy is treatable. And that my primary condition is a brain tumour and not epilepsy. So that’s why they turned me down for the reimbursement, but I did find another way of getting reimbursed for a while from the Treatment Abroad Scheme. But back in February of last year, they stopped that altogether for medicinal cannabis. And after that then, I applied for the Hardship Scheme. Yeah, the Hardship Scheme. And they says that they wouldn’t cover medical cannabis on that either.

How do you feel about the theory that cannabis serves as a gateway to more illicit substances? I think that’s a very propaganda statement. I think that prohibition is the main gateway to more illicit drugs. People use cannabis to relax, to unwind. The same way that people use wine in the evening, you know? Or a drink, or even cigarettes. At the moment, prohibition means we have to deal with criminal gangs, sometimes. And those people only have profit on their minds. Because of that, not only do they carry cannabis, but sometimes they might have cocaine, or even heroin. At the very least, they will have some sort of benzodiazepines, just to complement their sales. Whereas an Irish grower will charge you cheaper than what you’re getting on the street and you know what is in it. Because any Irish grower I’ve met so far takes great pride in ensuring that their cannabis is organic and pesticide-free. And they only distribute cannabis.

Do you think the Irish government will watch how the British reform their cannabis laws in the short-term, before taking action on ours? Yeah, I think they’re keeping a close eye on it, yeah. I think, regarding our own laws, all that’s standing in our way is a citizens’ assembly. Because the hard evidence is there at the moment to support legislation and regulation. A few of us are involved at the moment in setting up Patients for Safe Access, which will be a platform for advocacy, where patients can join up and put their voice forward. And we’ll be looking at doing events, educational events, training events. Letting people know what medicinal cannabis is. At the minute, we are working with one of the Directors from Patients for Safe Access in America. And we’re working with Martin O’Brien from Foxworthy Farms. He’s the owner of the oldest dispensary in the world. So we have him on board. We’re gonna be launching the website over the next couple of weeks and hopefully it’ll give people so much information. Excellent, sounds great.

Do you think corporate interests will be a driving force behind legislation in Ireland? I think they will try to. Yes, of course there’ll be a certain amount of that. But I think we have the resources here already. With Martin O’Brien, he has (I think) a forty acre farm over in California and he has the know-how for how to grow it over here. There’s so many other people that could get involved in a co-op that could reduce the cost of medicine for all patients, you know? I think we have enough people here that are educated in medicinal cannabis and people that are doing courses in medicinal cannabis like meself that could advise people on cannabis as opposed to blocking up the GPs. We could do one-to-one consultations. Once it’s all streamlined. In my opinion we have to follow the American model of dispensaries and maybe for recreational purposes as well, that we could have certain smoking clubs or social clubs, as such. 

That’s the one thing that’s missing over here, is social clubs. You’d have the image (in your head) that you’d go into the social club in Spain and that it would be everybody just sitting smoking and saying nothing to anybody. But it is quite the opposite. I’ve heard people playing classical music on the piano. And everybody was playing chess one evening and then there was a gaming night the next night. They were teaching English because I was the only English-speaker in the club. Kenny laughs So they kind of took all that on board as well. It’s a great place for learning and chatting as well. Yeah, it’s not all about the weed. It is a community centre of sorts as well. People forget that with some strains, you can be perfectly productive and get things done and that it’s not all just lazy couch potato stuff when people use cannabis. Yeah.

How would you feel about cannabis regulation receiving similar laws to the sale and consumption of alcohol? We need to take it out of the hands of criminal gangs. In my research, I’ve come across a study where it’s shown that teenage use of cannabis can increase the likelihood of depression later on in life by one and a half times. I think that the human brain is still developing till around the age of twenty-one. So, if we can regulate dispensaries and social clubs for over 21s… Dealers don’t ask for ID, they’re only interested in money. If we can put it into the hands of an organisation and take it away from the teenage use, that can only lead to harm reduction. And in time as well, it’ll be looked upon as a kind of a hippie thing to do. Over in Amsterdam, they’re legal maybe thirty or forty years. But the teenagers over there don’t pay any heed on it at all, it’s a hippie thing. That’s stuff for aul fellas, you know? Laughter Yeah, it’s amazing how the perception changes when something is legal.

You recently studied Medicinal Cannabis and the Control of Pain at the Israel Institute of Technology, with hopes of becoming a cannabis consultant. Can you tell us more about the course and how you found it? Well, I completed it and I got 99% in it. Excellent, well done. And I’m now doing a diploma course for medicinal cannabis, which will cover it in a lot more depth. The endocannabinoid system and how oils are made, the chemical makeup, et cetera. And how to prescribe it properly. 

They’re discovering new terpenes the whole time. There’s a lot left to be discovered in the cannabis plant. Yeah. Since I came out (in) public, I have been having people contact me about medicinal cannabis. Almost every day, sometimes several a day. Back a couple of years ago it was several people a day, so it was. And I think that I owe it to them to know what I’m talking about. And not just going on my own experience, but going on scientific facts as well. I think that’s important for the legalisation movement as a whole. That we don’t just present any old thing and that we do have some data and science to back it up.

Have your studies with the Institute changed your own approach to medical cannabis?  Yeah. I learned an awful lot about the dangers, actually. People presume it’s a safe drug, but nothing is ever safe. For example, withdrawals. If a person is being treated for PTSD and stops taking it, he might… His symptoms of PTSD might actually increase during the withdrawal period. It’s not suitable for breastfeeding mothers, or for pregnant women. I’ve learned an awful lot about its affect on your driving as well. So it’s not all positives, you know? Is there anything you found especially interesting about how it affects your driving? Yeah. What I found interesting was that they no longer have to prove that you are in any way inebriated. Once you test positive for cannabis, that’s it, you’re charged. Once you’re over.. I think it’s one ug per mill (microgram per millilitre) of blood.

From my studies, I’ve learned that you’ll feel the effects of smoked cannabis for an hour and twenty minutes to two hours before it starts wearing off, and then it rapidly declines. Whereas ingested cannabis, it takes longer to feel the effects, but it doesn’t wear off as quickly. It wears off over about eight hours. What I’ve learned is that the roadside tests do not prove an inability to drive. As it happens, Nicholas put up an 3article recently on that very subject. And he had come to the same conclusion as yourself, that they don’t have a system of measuring cannabis in your body properly. And because it’s illegal and from the black market, they don’t know anything about its purity or what it’s mixed with. So I think that’s the reason why if it’s even a tiny amount, they fine you and may imprison you for a while for it. 

Yeah. Exactly, yeah. And you could’ve smoked a joint the previous evening and it will stay in your system. It’s just that you won’t have the effects of it. So you could’ve smoked a joint the previous day and get swabbed the following day and you’re not in any way inebriated. Yet you’ll get charged because you weren’t given a roadside test. I think that needs to come into it. Driving on cannabis is dangerous, let’s face it. But we cannot have a system that’s broken like that. I think it’s ridiculous, to be honest. You could’ve had some drinks and been ‘properly’ drunk the night before. Then you could sober up a bit, go out driving the next morning and you’d be okay to drive, according to their test. But if it’s even a miniscule amount of cannabis, that’s it. Yeah.

How has progress been with the booklet you were hoping to publish to help educate Ireland about cannabis? That all ties back in again with the Patients for Safe Access thing. That’s the group that’s actually launching it. So yes, we have got plenty of stories so far from all walks of life. We have such a diverse age group and people from all different types of backgrounds. So we hope to get that published in a couple of months. And in the meantime, we’ll be using them as content for the website and maybe for the social media as well. Excellent. Do you have social media at the moment that you’d like people to look out for, or is that all on the way? It’s on the way.

Is there anything else you’d like to touch on, personally? Will you plug me single? I’ve a new single coming out tomorrow, it’s called Rebel Yell. So, download it on iTunes and listen on Spotify or whatever! Is it by yourself, or someone on your label? Yeah, it’s 4Kenny Tynan – Rebel Yell. Perfect, I’ll plug that for sure! Deadly, thanks a million! Kenny laughs Not a bother, lovely talking to you. Pleasure to meet you. All the best with the patient-led cannabis group, the podcast and all the rest! Thanks Richard, bye.

References:

1 The Cannabis Patient Podcast can be found at this link: https://anchor.fm/thecannabispatient 

2 For more information on Rick Simpson and RCO (Rick Simpson Oil), see this article on Wikileaf:

https://www.wikileaf.com/thestash/rick-simpson-oil/ 

3 Nicholas’ recent Green Lens post on roadside drug testing can be read here:

https://greenlensblog.com/2021/01/07/drug-driving-testing-will-the-ends-justify-the-means/  

4 Kenny’s new single Rebel Yell is out now on all good music streaming sites:

https://www.lnkfi.re/RebelYell/

Drug Driving Testing – Will the Ends Justify the Means

Nicholas looks into the Drug Driving Testing protocol rolled out in 2017 by the Road Safety Authority and the powers given to An Garda Síochána to implement these procedures.  What are the repercussions for cannabis users in Ireland who know to drive responsibly but still have THC in their system?

Since 2017, An Garda Síochána have carried out Roadside Preliminary Drug Testing to combat the dangers of driving under the influence.  The initiative, set up by the Road Safety Authority, ensures the welfare of drivers in Ireland and seeks to identify and penalise those impaired.  On the 13th of April 2017, An Garda Síochána were given the power to test drivers orally for Cannabis, Opiates, Benzodiazepines and Cocaine either at the roadside or in a Garda station.  The process is facilitated by Dräger saliva drug testing kits which provide a quick and non-invasive diagnostic system that can be used for either mobile or stationary applications.  

While there is a law against driving under the influence of drugs wherein the driver’s ability is compromised to the extent where they do not have proper control of the vehicle, there is also a secondary law that prohibits driving under the influence of certain drugs even if they do not impair the driver.  These drugs are cannabis, heroin, and cocaine and if drivers are found with any of these substances in their system are above a specified limit, drivers can be prosecuted for drug driving despite having the wherewithal to manage the vehicle.  When rolling out the program, the RSA ran a thorough online media campaign in raising awareness of the new drug testing powers entrusted to the Gardaí.  The campaign featured short videos outlining how the tests were to be administered and the consequences should a test provide a positive result.

You will find very little pushback to the implementation of such a program as driving under the influence is a major problem in Ireland with 118 roadside deaths accounted for in 2020 alone.[1]  However, testing procedures and analysis for cannabis has created a few issues in the integrity of the drug-testing program.  Should an individual smoke cannabis on a Friday, despite being sober the following morning, a roadside test could incur a positive result as that individual still had cannabis residue in their saliva.  This results in a penalty for drug driving but not for driving under the influence.  While the driver was in full control of their vehicle and had the ability to make split decisions if need be, the driver is at fault for consuming an illegal substance rather than having said substance affect their ability to drive. 

This is quite disconcerting not just for recreational users but also those that briefly experiment with cannabis as resin can still be detected in the bloodstream up to 30 days after consumption or months depending on how frequent you smoke.[2]  Those in receipt of a medical exemption certificate and avail of medicinal marijuana must always carry it when driving.  Though as seen with the recent rollout of the Medical Cannabis Access Programme, only a miniscule number of drivers will be able to avail of the medical exemption.

Over the counter, medicines are not detected by the test though products such as Neurofen and Solpadine contain opiates which can be detected in the driver’s oral fluid.  As long as the Gardaí conclude that the driver is not impaired, they can drive off. 

There is no argument that the work Gardaí carries out in drug testing at roadside is needed as drink driving is a serious issue with driving under the influence of drugs labelled an offence since 1961.  Since 1999, An Garda Síochána has had the assistance of The Medical Bureau of Road Safety in testing drivers.  The issue falls into the latest power given to the Gardaí in preliminary drug tests at the roadside or a station.  This new policy was underpinned in the Road Traffic Act 2016 and allows the Gardaí to carry out these tests.  Before, a garda needed to have a specific reason to stop a driver under suspicion of driving under the influence of an illicit drug before they could take any action.  The scheme is not exclusive to Ireland as the Drager Drug Test 5000 is used internationally to enforce road traffic laws in countries such as Germany, Spain, Australia, and Britain. 

The test itself takes 1 minute to collect the oral sample and 8 minutes to process.  It is conducted at roadside, where the driver’s oral fluid is taken and processed with the Drager testing kit.  Should the test result in a positive, it is up to the Gardaí to determine whether the driver is impaired enough to drive carefully.  If they are of the opinion that the driver is impaired, an arrest can be made, and a further urine or blood specimen will be requested which will be tested by The Medical Bureau of Road Safety at a later date. 

A spokesperson from An Garda Síochána said that “the oral fluid test is not used for evidential purposes but as an indicator of the presence of drugs. Prosecutions will be taken on the basis of the blood test conducted following arrest.”

The kit utilises a technique called lateral flow immunoassay to detect whether any drugs are in the driver’s system and refusal to take part is an offence which can lead to a €5,000 fine or imprisonment up to 6 months or possibly both.  The repercussions positive drivers face is no different from the penalties currently in place for drink driving.  There are thresholds put in place for cannabis and should the driver’s result go above the limit of 10ng/ml, it will be considered an offence and the Gardaí will not need to prove impairment for arrest.  A disqualification period as decided by a judge will result from a conviction of drug driving. 

When asked whether it would be safe to drive after a single cannabis joint, Professor Denis Cusack of the Medical Bureau stated:

“This is the problem with cannabis. When you are drinking alcohol, the measures are regulated.  The trouble with cannabis is it is not regulated. And we know – compared to say 20 or 30 years ago – what is in joints now, what people put in, they do not know the concentration or the strength or effect.  That is the problem when you say, ‘am I safe with one joint?’ … I would have to go back and say it is the same as alcohol. Don’t drink and drive, don’t take drugs and drive.”[3]

It has been recommended by the Gardaí that if you are a recreational smoker, you should wait 24 hours before driving after consuming cannabis.  If you are certain you are no longer impaired and more than 6 hours have elapsed since last using it, it should not be possible for the test to discover 9 – Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels higher than the detection limit. 

Due to the unregulated nature of marijuana consumption, how long THC stays in the driver’s system is not as straightforward as it seems.  A spokesperson for the Department of Transport said:

“The oral fluid test has a THC cut-off of 10ng/ml. Generally, THC levels in oral fluid are typically less than 10ng/ml 6 hours after last use, but this depends on many factors such as tolerance, dose, potency etc.”[4]

Nevertheless, a study in The Clinical Chemistry Journal in 2012 produced results that THC was still detectable in a person’s saliva for periods for 2 to 22 hours among a group of people who smoked one joint with a 6.8% concentration level.  Therefore, for chronic users of cannabis, THC elimination rates are slower, and THC remains detectable in the body for longer periods compared to users who consume cannabis infrequently.  It is still problematic to accurately identify how long the body dispels THC to not be detected after use. 

Many have lost loved ones to improper road safety, so it is imperative that road safety measures are put in place to tackle impaired driving but in doing so comes the infringement of certain liberties.  The regulation of cannabis would solve this issue as consumers would have access to a range of potencies and strains of cannabis, making it easier to understand whether you are over or under the limit, no different than alcohol.   The Road Safety Authority stated from April 2017 to July 2019, 68% of drivers with drugs in their system tested positive for cannabis.[5]  With 2 out of every 3 drug tested drivers resulting positive for cannabis, it demonstrates just how normalised cannabis consumption has become in Ireland.

It would be hard to convict anyone with cannabis in their system as it can stay in the bloodstream for up to 7 days and hair follicles for up to 3 months.  There are very little means to determine at what point did the driver ingest the drug.  As it is an oral test, THC can only be detected for up to 12 to 24 hours, however, if it is the metabolites of THC that are sought after then it can be detected up to several months depending on the usage.  The problem found here is the government does not have an answer as to what they are specifically looking for.  It looks like this law unfairly targets cannabis users as just trace amounts of THC can result in a fine even if the Gardaí cannot accurately prove if the driver has impaired or not. 

There are hundreds of thousands of cannabis users in Ireland and are otherwise law-abiding citizens who do not deserve to have their lives affected by such intrusive procedures.  It remains to be seen whether the Drager Drug Test can confidently convict drivers of cannabis use.


[1] https://www.irishpost.com/news/number-of-deaths-on-irish-roads-in-2020-higher-than-last-year-despite-lockdown-reducing-traffic-196313

[2] https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-does-weed-stay-in-your-system

[3] https://www.thejournal.ie/drug-testing-gardai-rsa-3336503-Apr2017/

[4] http://www.drugs.ie/features/feature/the_facts_garda_roadside_preliminary_drug_testing

[5] https://www.rsa.ie/en/Utility/News/2019/Drug-driving-a-major-problem-on-Irelands-roads/