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.
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.
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:
3 Nicholas’ recent Green Lens post on roadside drug testing can be read here:
4 Kenny’s new single Rebel Yell is out now on all good music streaming sites: