Matthew O’Brien of FOUR PM | 23.04.2021

Matthew O’Brien is a young Irishman who moved to Canada in 2017. Having started his career in the cannabis industry as a Budtender, Matthew has since gone on to manage multiple retail locations and processing facilities, overseeing supply chains and developing software & lead marketing for cannabis companies as a Consultant. 

How would you describe FOUR PM?

1Four PM is a weekly newsletter for cannabis professionals, born out of my desire to have access to relevant information that would allow me to make advancements in the cannabis industry. 

When did you launch FOUR PM and what inspired you to start it?

I launched Four PM just shy of six months ago. Four PM is the most selfish, selfless thing I do on a daily basis. By writing a newsletter, I afford myself the opportunity to research subjects that are of interest to me, while at the same time providing just short of 2,000 cannabis professionals with access to what I view as the most relevant information every cannabis professional should be consuming. 

How effective do you think newsletters are in disseminating information about cannabis compared to other methods?

Surprisingly very effective, and extremely under-utilised. As we all know, social media companies have a strong tendency to censor cannabis content, and email is one of the very few channels which is censorship-resistant. With FOUR PM, I can say anything I want without having to alter what I would otherwise like to say, for fear of my content being flagged and a ban issued.

Do you think distributing leaflets about cannabis is too intrusive for getting the message out, or do you feel the information is something people should seek out for themselves?

That’s a good question. I would say it depends on the demographic you are seeking to reach with your message. For older people, I would imagine that this would be an effective content distribution strategy. However, for someone such as myself who is a digital native, I wouldn’t pay much attention to this medium of communication.

What important lessons have you learned by managing cannabis processing facilities and stores?

As a Manager, you work for your staff, not the other way around. A common tendency when people become Managers is that they feel the need to demonstrate their authority over the staff they manage. Personally, I took the opposite approach. Ensuring you are setting your staff up for success each and every day is a necessity for them to succeed, and inadvertently for you to succeed. 

What have been your most rewarding, enjoyable areas of work in cannabis until now? 

If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would once again work as a Budtender. Although it’s a difficult role with shit compensation, there is nothing quite like the relationships you can build with the customers you serve when working as a Budtender.

What for you have been the most exciting developments in the cannabis industry of the past few years?

Mexico legalising cannabis is extremely interesting for a variety of reasons. First of all, Mexico will become the largest cannabis market in the world and it will also create a situation whereby both of the countries that border the United States have legalised cannabis at a federal level, thus increasing the pressure on politicians in the U.S. to make the same amendments to their own legislation, to allow every adult to purchase cannabis. 

Do you plan to develop FOUR PM as a brand outside of the newsletter? Have you got other projects you hope to pursue in the cannabis industry?

As things stand today, I plan on launching a podcast in the coming weeks such that I can provide additional value to those who take the time to consume the content I create. My North Star for FOUR PM is making cannabis professional lives easier, so there’s certainly a number of other low hanging fruits which I will pursue when the time is right. A major issue in the cannabis industry is the lack of transparency surrounding compensation. This is a problem I would like to solve in time. 

Would you mind expanding on why there is a lack of transparency with regards compensation in the cannabis industry?

This is very much a growing pain of this new legal industry which has suddenly come into existence. As a result of building this plane as we fly it, it’s all too easy for us to lose track of what matters, which in my humble opinion is ensuring that the individuals who are contributing to this industry are being treated just as they would in any other industry. 

Without naming any offenders, can you provide a more specific example of how this lack of compensation occurs?

Using myself and my past experiences as an example, while working as a Store Manager in Vancouver – I should have been receiving around double the compensation I was at the time, based upon what Store Managers commonly receive. If not for the fact that I was simply there for the experience and not the compensation, I would have never taken the job in the first place. This happens a lot more than it should, whereby people who are very passionate about working with this plant are willing to compromise on their compensation such that they gain employment in this industry, and I personally don’t see any reason why it has to be one or the other. Why shouldn’t you be able to receive a fair compensation package, while simultaneously getting to work in the cannabis industry?

How big of an aspect is disproving misinformation when increasing awareness for cannabis?

It’s a huge challenge. As an industry, we have effectively been provided with a blank canvas by which to educate consumers. The question is how we choose to use this. Personally, I would love to see a greater emphasis placed on leading with the information that we know to be true, as opposed to leading with assumptions which will likely be disproven in the coming years.

When do you see cannabis being fully legalised in Ireland? Do you think the current Irish government will reform their cannabis laws significantly?

I have to believe this will occur within the next four years. The reality is that the prohibition of cannabis was never about protecting public health, rather it was a means to imprison people from minority communities in the United States who in turn used their influence to force other nations to adopt the same policies. Ireland has so much to gain from legalising cannabis. Imagine the amount of employment that would be created, the taxation revenue that would be generated. Are we to believe that it’s within our best interest to allow gangs to continue to profit off this plant by virtue of the sheer ignorance politicians on the island of Ireland have when it comes to this amazing plant?

Would we need to see cannabis reform in the UK before our government considers legislation?

It’s certainly a possibility, however, Ireland should have a willingness to take the lead on this issue. Should the UK legalise cannabis, which is a question of when not if, it would certainly serve as a catalyst for Ireland doing the same. 

Where in the world do you see a lot of potential for the cannabis industry within the next five years?

I foresee both the United States, and a majority of nations in the European Union legalising cannabis for adult use purposes as soon as they accept that the war on drugs was a complete failure, and amend their legislation to reflect this. We will see a wave of nations making moves to legalise cannabis.

Is there a cannabis company who you see as having particularly exciting potential, in Canada or elsewhere?

I’m a really big fan of two. 2Truss Beverages, who are pioneering cannabis beverages as a category. 3GTEC Cannabis Co is another company who I admire – although there’s a huge surplus of cannabis being produced in Canada, they continue to demonstrate that taking the time to understand the needs of consumers and creating the products that will service these needs is a winning strategy. They were the first Canadian producer to list products’ terpene profiles on their packaging which was a huge milestone for the industry, as we slowly moved away from presenting cannabis products to consumers based on an Indica vs Sativa dichotomy.

What’s your own relationship with cannabis like and when did you first become interested in it?

I would consider my usage of cannabis for wellness purposes. Consuming cannabis allows me to become a better version of myself – someone who is more thoughtful, creative and empathetic to others. I didn’t consume cannabis until I was nineteen, when I was working in Ontario. My decision to not consume was simply due to my ignorance up until this point as to the bounty of benefits cannabinoids have to offer. 

What are your preferences with cannabis and how do you normally use it?

As much as I’m aware that smoking dried flowers is probably not the optimal way to consume cannabis, there is something very therapeutic about rolling joints and smoking dried cannabis. I’m also a big fan of cannabis beverages, which I can see being VERY popular in Ireland. The days are numbered until Guinness releases a cannabis beverage. 

You’ve been living in Canada since 2017, what do you miss the most about home?

Ireland is one of the most beautiful nations on earth. I grew up on a very small island called Cruit [translation: ‘Harp’], which is off the coast of Donegal. And although there are many stunning parts of Canada – nothing compares to Cruit. All going according to plan, I will be able to move back to Cruit, pending the legalisation of cannabis in Ireland. 

What do you NOT miss about being back home?

Having tried out the cannabis available in Ireland, I seriously don’t envy my fellow Irishmen & women, who only have access to this cannabis. One of the perks of calling Vancouver home is my ability to walk down the street with a joint in my mouth and walk past a police officer without even thinking twice about it. 

Thanks so much for your time Matthew, all the best!

References:

1 You can find out more about FOUR PM at this URL: https://www.fourpm.co 

2 Here’s a recent FOUR PM interview with Melanie Smith, the Innovation Lead for Truss Beverages:

https://www.fourpm.co/p/leading-innovation-at-the-highly

3For more information about GTEC Cannabis Co, see this link: https://www.gtec.co/company/

Cannabis – For Your Health

Nicholas looks into the various health benefits of cannabis as people begin to be more health conscious in the wake of COVID-19.

In a world that is getting more health-conscious and wary of challenges that can incur stress-related illnesses, more and more people are looking to reduce the possibility of missing out on work or life events due to unforeseen sickness brought about by a multitude of factors. One of which, of course being the effects covid-19 has on the public.  Not just in terms of what the disease can do to you physically but also the mental repercussions brought on by the resulting lockdown.  This change in behaviour coincides with the wealth of knowledge brought about from studies on cannabis in light of the surge in cannabis reform around the world.  As a result, here are some benefits cannabis has for your health.   

Pain Relief

Cannabis is home to hundreds of chemical compounds called cannabinoids which are associated with providing chronic pain relief.  Cannabinoids have been the main driving force in the medical community studying the plant for the healthcare industry.

Regulate and Prevent Diabetes

As cannabis is linked to aiding the regulation of insulin in the body, it only makes sense that cannabis can help regulate and prevent diabetes.  THCV and CBD have been proven to improve metabolism and blood glucose for those with disabilities.  The American Alliance for Medical Cannabis (AAMC) has conducted a study showing that cannabis is linked to lowering blood pressure which can reduce the risk of heart disease, stabilised blood sugars, and improved blood circulation by keeping blood vessels open.  Cannabis compounds have also been linked to reducing intraocular pressure (fluid pressure in the eye) for people with glaucoma.[1]

Fight cancer

One of the most commonly known benefits of medicinal cannabis is its link to fighting cancer. With every year comes new research demonstrating how cannabinoids help combat cancer or at the very least, certain forms of it.

Treating Depression

As seen with the covid lockdown, depression has become fairly widespread with many not even realising that they are depressed.  The compound endocannabinoid can help stabilise a person’s moods which in part, can alleviate depression.  Endocannabinoids are naturally produced chemical compounds in the brain that affect motor control, cognition, emotions, and behaviour.

“In the animal models we studied, we saw that chronic stress reduced the production of endocannabinoids, leading to depression-like behavior,” – Senior Research Scientist Samir Haj-Dahmane, PhD. Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions.[2]

Regulate Seizures

The limited studies carried out on CBD in recent years has proven that it can help control seizures.  In the wake of such studies, more research is needed to determine the effect cannabis has on those suffering from epilepsy.  Evidence produced from anecdotal reports and laboratory studies indicates that cannabidiol (CBD) could help regulate seizures. However, due to federal regulations and limited access to cannabidiol, research on CBD has been hard to undertake.  In recent years, several studies have shown the benefit of specific plant-based CBD products in treating specific groups of people with epilepsy who have not responded to traditional therapies.[3]

Healing Bones

Studies have shown cannabidiol serves as a great treatment linked to mending broken bones, quicker than other remedies.  According to a study published by the Bone Research Laboratory in Tel Aviv, cannabidiol also helps strengthen the bone while healing, preventing a similar break from occurring in the future. Yankel Gabet of Tel Aviv’s Bone Research Laboratory, who led the study, said it “makes bones stronger during healing”, which could prevent future fractures. This process occurs as cannabidiol, or CBD, enhances the maturation of collagen, the protein in connective tissue that “holds the body together.”[4]

Helps with ADHD

Since the lockdown, people have had trouble focusing on any particular task while working remotely from home or studying through online classes.  This was nothing new to individuals with ADHD, as they tend to have challenges with cognitive performance and concentration.  Cannabis has been revealed to help promote focus and assist individuals with ADHD.  Compared to Adderall and Ritalin, cannabis is considered a safer alternative by many professionals.

“Cannabis appears to treat ADD and ADHD by increasing the availability of dopamine…. This then has the same effect but is a different mechanism of action than stimulants like Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Dexedrine amphetamine, which act by binding to the dopamine and interfering with the metabolic breakdown of dopamine.” – Dr David Bearman [5]

Helps with Alcoholism

More and more studies show that cannabis is the lesser of two evils when compared to alcohol consumption.  As seen with the many benefits of cannabis, there is little argument to be made that cannabis is far safer than alcohol. While still a drug itself that isn’t entirely risk-free, a smarter way to curtail alcoholism or limit alcohol intake is by substituting it with cannabis. This was proven in a published account of cannabis substitution in a case study of a 49-year-old female alcoholic who by smoking cannabis, was successful in quitting drinking.  Within 5 months of the trial, the woman’s physical and mental health improved remarkably and within 2 years, her liver and general health returned to normal.  Her physician, Dr Tod H. Mikuriya, noted that although alcohol and cannabis differ greatly, they can both instill euphoria and detachment. But while alcohol seriously affected his patient physically and emotionally, cannabis did not produce the same negative consequences.[6]

While this isn’t an all-inclusive list, it is more of a brief assessment of the types of ailments cannabis has been proven to combat, or at the very least provide relief from.  We can only hope that these aspects of the drug are acknowledged in the coming years as we step towards a more fruitful discussion about legalising the plant. 


References:

[1] https://www.diabetes.co.uk/recreational-drugs/cannabis.html

[2] https://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2015/02/004.html

[3] https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/treating-seizures-and-epilepsy/other-treatment-approaches/medical-marijuana-and-epilepsy

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/07/20/can-pot-heal-broken-bones-the-answer-is-yes-study-finds/?noredirect=on

[5]

https://www.leafly.com/news/health/cannabis-and-addadhd

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3992908/

Pierce Richmond | 31.03.2021

Pierce Richmond is a 38 year old father of four from Dublin, now living in the North East. His father has late stage throat and oral cancer and they are currently reviewing options for palliative care. Here, Pierce chats about the use of cannabis for his father’s illness. Twitter: @egg__fried_reus

When did you first become interested in cannabis? Cannabis has always been around me in various forms. Friends, family etc. I was very anti-drugs for most of my life. I took an interest in cannabis about sixteen to eighteen months ago.

What’s your relationship with cannabis like and what are your preferences with it? Personally, I have been using cannabis for around two months now. I like to vape CBD flowers. I use it mostly in the evenings to relax and get a good night’s sleep. I have a very deep respect for the plant now and the benefits it can have for people.

Do you prefer weed from a more recreational or therapeutic point of view? What started out as sourcing weed for medicinal purposes led to me learning a lot and having my mind and eyes opened up to the positives of cannabis. I have no issue with anyone using it for therapeutic or recreational purposes  

When did you decide to begin sourcing cannabis for your father, and why? Sometime in the past fifteen to sixteen months. My dad has spent most of his life in rural Australia, where they have a totally different view of cannabis. So he was aware of the benefits and how it could help.

How does cannabis benefit your father? Improved mood, sleep and appetite. And often as a painkiller. 

How did your father initially feel about trying cannabis, and did he know much about it? He knew a fair bit as mentioned above, and has also smoked recreationally from time to time.

Does your father speak much with others about the benefits of cannabis? Where possible. Most of his extended circle of friends and family are back in Oz, so his social circle isn’t huge here.  

When do you see the Irish government reforming our current cannabis laws? Do you see those who are in power at the moment making these reforms? Ten to twenty years for any meaningful change, maybe small increases to the likes of the MCAP (Medical Cannabis Access Programme) list in the meantime. 

Do you know a lot of Irish people who use cannabis recreationally or medicinally? I’ve a few mates who have used it forever. And since publicising my dad’s issue online, I’ve become familiar with a lot of the Irish cannabis community via social media.

Do you ever feel unsafe getting cannabis in Ireland, due to its general illegality? Yes. I’ve been robbed twice and ripped off more times than I care to remember, which led to purchasing online, which has its own risks. Transporting it from the source to dad’s is quite stressful. As you can imagine, the car smells like weed with a bulk order. And with increased police presence on the roads due to Covid, it can be nerve racking. For myself, I have found a CBD supplier that offers home delivery. Still fear a knock on the door from AGS (An Garda Síochána) every day, due to the aroma of my new pastime! 

Thank you for your time, Pierce! All the best.

Emily – Part II | 26.03.21

Emily describes herself as an Irish goth who loves makeup. She has Asperger’s Syndrome and suffers from other physical and mental health conditions which greatly affect her quality of life. Here, she speaks in more depth about the kinds of medications she has been prescribed and how she takes them, while also looking at their side effects and faults and how they compare with cannabis. Twitter: @lilithlunalou

Hi again! How many prescribed medications do you take on a typical day?

I’ve been on numerous medications throughout the years. Mostly opiate-based medication, like Tylex, OxyNorm and antibiotics. I was prescribed things like Olanzapine, Seroquel, Risperidone. I can’t remember the rest, unfortunately. 

Do you believe the medications improve your quality of life overall?

Most of them made me worse or didn’t do anything at all.

Do you believe your medications have been prescribed carefully (i.e. not over-prescribed)?

I was over-prescribed many times, especially when I was in hospital. No-one was on half the medication I was on. I couldn’t wake up and function. I could only sleep and drool, that’s all I was fit to do. The nurses would try to get me out of bed. I would try and I’d walk through the hallway, leaning against the walls for support as I walked

Does purchasing those prescribed meds cost you a lot?

It used to, till I got my medical card. 

How do your medications affect you? Are there any in particular which stand out in terms of side effects, or a lack of efficacy?

I’m only on one prescription at the moment and that’s my depot of Paliperidone. I’m lucky that this one doesn’t make you drowsy, however it does cause weight gain. As a result, my ankles and legs are swollen with water retention and so is most of my body. Walking can feel like walking on glass or pebbles. 

Which of your prescribed medications work best?

None have worked for me. They’ve caused more problems than help. Cannabis is the only thing that’s worked for me. 

How would you compare the effects of the antipsychotics with the antidepressants? Do they work well together?

No, as you end up getting triple the amount of side effects. 

Are there any Irish CBD products you’ve tried and particularly liked?

I haven’t tried any Irish brands. I have tried American and English brands, such as 2400mg of CBD Leaf oil, as well as 1500mg of CBD leaf vape juice. I’ve tried CBD flowers, such as Diesel and Great White Shark. Both were good. I’ve tried roll-on oil for back pain, which is good. The only problem is, it’s a small bottle. And you’ve to buy three or four, so you’re not panicking in a short period of time about when you can get the next bottle. Also, I must note, CBD does wonders for my sleep. I normally only get an hour’s sleep, if lucky, without cannabis. I sleep every night, at least for seven or eight hours, when I use cannabis.

Do you believe cannabis has any benefits in particular for someone with Asperger’s Syndrome?

My partner and grandad noticed I socialise better. I’m able to hold a conversation without going into too much detail and going into overload. I don’t panic or stress as much as I used to over basic tasks. This does depend on the CBD product and what strain I’m using. 

When did your partner start using cannabis for pain relief? Late twenties.

What sort of pain does cannabis help your partner with?

All strains do wonders for my partner. I’ve seen him without it for a couple of weeks. He was coming home from work, barely able to walk. All he was able for was lying in bed or sitting on the couch. He had to take time off of work. seeing him like that broke my heart. 

Do you and your partner ever feel unsafe getting cannabis in Ireland, due to its general illegality? Yes.

And why do you feel unsafe?

Having to source it by a drug dealer, instead of buying it from a legal and regulated source. The fact that it’s criminalised is a huge factor as to why it’s unsafe. When you’re getting it from a dealer you don’t know what strain it is, what THC or CBD levels are in it. You don’t know if it’s been chemically grown or sprayed. 

How does using cannabis help with your eating disorder?

Increases appetite, reduces nausea and vomiting. It also relaxes me to the point where now, I can actually do more research into finding out more about it. It also gets rid of my body dysmorphia. I don’t see myself as obese, the way I do when I’ve no CBD in my system. 

How would you describe Schizophrenia to other people?

It’s seeing/hearing/smelling/feeling things that aren’t there. 

Do you experience the symptoms of it often?

Every day I experience symptoms. The intensity of it varies from day to day. When I’m relaxed or feeling normal, it’s not as bad. It only got worse when I was on prescribed medication. On the box of some of these meds, in small print, it said: “May cause anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts”. We weren’t told this, so it was until it was too late and my partner read the box that we realised why I got so bad. Since being off those kinds of medications, I’m stabilising. The symptoms usually ease as you get older. When I was in my late teens to early twenties, it was really bad. As I’m getting older and doing a lot of mental work on myself with the help of cannabis, my symptoms aren’t all day every day, like before. Now that my body isn’t constantly fighting physical pain, I can tackle my mental pain head on! I get symptoms every day, but it’s not as scary as people think. What I experience is spiritual, not in a religious way. 

Can you elaborate on why the experience feels spiritual for you? I would rather not answer. 

Do you feel, personally, that cannabis affects your Schizophrenia?

No. The only time it affected me badly was when I was scared to use it. Once I let go of my fear, it really started to help. Also, it’s like any medication. There are many strains. It will take time to find one that suits everything. However, even the cannabis that didn’t suit me 100% was better than any prescribed medication I’ve been on. 

Do you believe cannabis helps with Bipolar Disorder?

Cannabis has multiple benefits for multiple ailments. I think it can help with all mental illnesses, including helping with physical ailments. Cannabis has helped me with all my ailments, from my head to toes. We all have the receptors in our bodies for this plant. Bipolar is an imbalanced level of emotions. Cannabis relaxes patients with mental health issues; it quietens the mind. If the mind is quietened and it’s relaxed, emotions will level out also, as a result. 

Thanks again for chatting with me Emily, all the best!