Laura & Laura Jayne at Cannabis: A New Green Deal by Uplift.ie | 20.04.2021

Laura Jayne Foley has a Masters in Agricultural Innovation from NUIG (the National University of Ireland, Galway). She is a co-founder of Canabaoil Ltd. and 1Wild Atlantic Hemp. She is also a board member of 2Hemp Co-Operative Ireland. Laura Curry Cloney is the founder of 3The Hemp Higher Project, which was a finalist in 4The Social Entrepreneurs of Ireland.

The following extract has been adapted from the live stream for the purposes of clarity and brevity.

Emily Duffy (of 5Uplift): I’m going to get into some of (the viewers) questions, but the first one that I wanted to put to everybody was, what opportunities do you see for campaigning, specifically out of this 6report? Is there new information that we feel is a good lever of change? I think a lot of the health concerns that have been raised can be addressed through legalisation. If people can access strains that are more beneficial, that are less likely to cause certain things, then people will be healthier. Laura Jayne, would you like to come in? Laura Jayne: Hi! I suppose I just wanted to mention the farming point of view, ‘cause that’s where I come from. So, we grow hemp in West Clare and there’s 200 members of the Hemp Co-Operative growing it. It’s something that I think would benefit rural Ireland, to be able to develop this industry. It had the same kinds of restrictions put on it from a business point of view around the THC element, and I suppose, stigma.

I think this document really gives us an idea of where the prohibition came from. And it really gives us a good understanding about where we’re positioned and why it became illegal. It gives people the opportunity to see it for what it is. It is a plant that is so easy to grow. It has so many benefits and as Shae (Flanagan, of Uplift) mentioned, environmentally it has so many benefits. In an environment where we’re moving away from petroleum products, hemp is a big solution for a lot of those problems. Not only is it a food that’s hugely nutritious, but it’s also a solution to a lot of our environmental problems. It’s something I would very much like to see grow in Ireland in small farms. It has the opportunity to be a revitalisation for rural Ireland. Emily: Yeah, absolutely. And hemp is actually a carbon sink, isn’t it? It stores carbon. Laura Jayne: As Seán (McCabe, of TASC) said, it sequesters a huge amount of carbon, but it’s also phyto-remedial.

So what it does is, it draws glyphosates, heavy metals, chemicals out of the ground, so that it can actually put the soil back in a situation where it’s organic. You know, we’re taking those toxins out of the ground and we’re improving the soil. There really are so many positives for the environment, as well as from a nutritional and medical point of view. Emily: And I think as well, Ireland has one of the highest rates of glyphosate in our surface water in the EU. So, even more of a reason to get those toxins out of the ground. One member, Deborah, has asked a really important question here around community wealth. A lot of you touched on rural Ireland and how this could potentially revitalise it. Rather than talking about tax and economy and all of those kinds of things, how do we see the legalisation of cannabis putting life back into our communities? Creating changed communities that support each other and thrive and grow – pardon the pun! Is there anybody who would like to come in there? Laura Jayne, back to you.

Laura Jayne: When we were doing our Masters, we did a lot of research on farmers and farming in the West. ‘cause we see hemp as having a huge potential as a rotational crop but also as an alternative income. But one of the things we did notice was a lot of the farmers that we interviewed were under 35. Most of them had just inherited the land from their family and they didn’t want to go back to the old way of farming that had been done before. They felt that it wasn’t profitable. What they saw in hemp was that there were so many opportunities from the bio-economy, from CBD oil, from fibre… I would say hemp and cannabis are the same thing, but from the industrial hemp point of view, there’s opportunity there for farmers to increase the income on their land. And that has a knock-on effect in rural Ireland.

A lot of people are part-time farming. They might be working from home. They’d have a plot where they’d spend a few months during the summer, they might grow some hemp. So for me that’s one of the reasons why I think it has that power to revitalise rural Ireland. Also, small processors. We process CBD oil, we have a HSE (Health Service Executive) approval to process cannabinoids from cannabis sativa. And we’re a small operation. But there is an opportunity for processors like us and all around Ireland, developing their own product, developing a local product. And I suppose I think that is where there is some huge opportunity. Emily: Excellent! I just want to check in with Laura Curry Cloney, did you want to come in there?

Laura Curry Cloney: Hi everyone, thanks for having me on. Thanks for the amazing report, it looks really, really good. Just to pick up on something that Shae said, in terms of bogland and growing hemp that may not be of the best of quality.. It can potentially be used for something like hempcrete. It doesn’t necessarily have to be really good quality to do that. It can also be used as biofuel, even on very toxic soil, like for example, landfills. In Ireland alone, there’s over 300 landfills and these sites have been abandoned or are old abandoned mines. If we grew hemp there, you could then create a biofuel from the hemp that’s harvested and also heal the land. So, in those terms you can use it, even if it’s not the highest quality, for other industrial purposes. Emily: That’s great, brilliant.

This is a great question here from Maria, who is talking about chronic pain in particular. I think the medical conversation is really important, but I think, and some of you might touch on this, the means by which people can access cannabis has been highly regulated and restricted. “How much does the Irish government spend on pain management medications with incredibly serious side effects?” So she said that she’s “seen people in Ireland with Rheumatoid Arthritis, 7Ehlers Danlos, back issues, hip issues” going off very high strength prescribed medications, which have a lot of side effects, and that if people could access the right strain, that people would get much better outcomes and much better medical care. But I think the question there is, what is the form of legislation or how does the law need to be, to make sure that people can access the type of cannabis strains that they need? I’m gonna go to Laura Jayne and then I’m gonna go to Laura.

Laura Jayne: Hi. I suppose it’s not from a medical point of view, but it’s from the hemp side of things. When we started farming in 2018, what we wanted to do was make a full spectrum oil. And from 2018-2021 actually, it’s taken us a good long time to get through all the different loops. But from a Food Safety Authority point of view, they’ve allowed us to bring out a full spectrum oil. So our oil has .3% THC in it. Now we got that through on the basis that it’s food and it’s an acute reference dose for THC in foods that was set by the European Food Safety Authority. So we’ve a full spectrum oil. It’s CBD, but it’s also CBG and THC. So there is a soft spot there in the legislation. We’re coming under food law, it’s not under The Misuse of Drugs Act. So it’s a slight ability to get THC into a product, it’s only taken a few years. The licence to cultivate cannabis sativa, the hemp licence, is achievable for most farmers. The HSE have approved us for the processing of cannabinoids from cannabis sativa. Now it’s hemp, but it is cannabis sativa.

I suppose it’s the angle we’ve come at it from. We saw a legal opportunity to grow it, to see if it would grow in Ireland. It grows well, we grow it outdoors. We’re restricted on the type of seeds we can grow, so obviously we would love to see a better range of hemp seeds available that would have higher THC content. But it’s just a positive that there are products on the market that are full spectrum, that do have THC in them. And I suppose going forward, we want more, but that’s where we are at the moment. Emily: Great, thank you so much. And Laura.. other Laura! Emily Giggles Laura: Thanks. Just in relation to what Laura said there, I actually stock her CBD oil in our Hempire yoga studio. And it’s really, really good. It’s excellent quality and having that certificate from the Food Safety Authority, allowing (me) to sell it, makes it a legal product in Ireland. But unfortunately, where the divide is internationally, you can’t sell that through something like Shopify or Paypal.

Even though we have all of the paperwork and all of the documents that say this is a legal product, we are still in a position where we can’t sell it by those means. So you’re looking for different payment gateways to actually get your product out on the market. And the other side of the wellbeing sector is the spiritual aspects of cannabis and how spiritually healing it is, not only to be outdoors growing it. But also, when you see references that are 4,000 years old in The Vedas, referencing this plant as one of the five most revered herbs in the world. That’s ancient Hindu scriptures, where this plant is revered for its magical properties. So that element needs to be brought in. It’s also described as “a plant with an angel residing in its leaves”. And that’s translated from (the) Sanskrit language. So if these ancient Yogis understood this, us as a species can now catch up with that and reawaken that knowledge in us. And I really feel that that’s what this plant is here to do.

It’s to reawaken that understanding and that compassion and that compassionate heart, for everyone. Emily: Compassion is definitely something that we need more of in the world right now, for sure, Laura. And I think what’s really interesting as well, having watched your presentation Seán, was how this used to be a crop that was just readily grown here. That there was a decision made at some point in the past to demonise something that was before that very natural and was used as a tool to boost our economy and lots of other things as well. And it’s obviously not just about that as well, but people do use it as a spiritual aid and I think that’s a really important point as well. I have one final question. Actually, this is for you again Laura, but anybody can come in here if you wanna put your hand up, which is – what small step can we take as individuals right now to bring us closer to legislation?

Laura: Do your research, look into it. Send this information off, because your report looks amazing. So, well done Uplift, this is incredible. And if this is rolled out, we can contact TDs. There’s no denying what this plant can do. When you put together a report of that nature, there’s no argument against it. And people do need to take action, like Nicole (Lonergan, of Cork Cannabis Activist Network) said. It’s up to us to contact TDs, to contact all of these political parties and make some noise about it. And really start to get that roots kind of approach where we’re all standing together. We all want the same thing, whether it’s medical use, or environmental use, or whatever. We all want this plant legalised and that’s super important. It’s really important for the Earth, it’s really important for our children, for their children. We need somewhere to live. For me, that’s what drives me and that’s what I think is so important about cannabis, is where it can bring our planet. Emily: Great, thank you so much Laura. Now I’m gonna ask Laura Jayne…

Laura Jayne: From our point of view, I think we’re pushing an open door. Roderick (Campbell, of The Irish Medical Cannabis Council) said something earlier. He said how to monetise it is the government’s problem. That may be the issue they’re coming up against now, because it is going to be a massive industry. I know CBD, it has been a massive introduction to a much older population in Ireland. People who would never have thought of using cannabis before. And they’re finding the benefits for arthritis, and for different reasons they’re using it. I think now that that population issue you were discussing earlier isn’t there as much. I find that most people we speak to are hugely proactive about the legalisation of cannabis. And people are pushing an open door.

Emily: I love that metaphor of pushing an open door and understanding that it’s as much about how as when. How we’re going to legalise cannabis and how it should benefit our communities. How we should see the wealth created from it going straight back into rural Ireland, that is especially vulnerable now after Covid. There’s even more of a reason now to push it. As Roderick said, there’s 102 people on this call right now. There’s thousands of people who have donated, thousands of people have signed 8petitions. There is a big and growing community as part of this campaign. It’s one of the biggest engagements that we’ve seen in Uplift campaigns in a really long time, which is always a sign to me that we’re gonna win. 

I might pass over to you now Shae, to talk about next steps and where we go from here. Shae: Cool. Once again, thanks to all of our panelists. Thanks to Seán for a great report, and a great presentation on the report. It is being finalised as we speak. TASC and Uplift are putting together some key messages, some of those ones that might work for politicians. Once it’s published, it’ll be circulated for use as a resource for Uplift members, any activists or groups and organisations that could benefit and want to use it for campaigning work. The report is balanced, it’s evidence-based and clear. And I’m really keen for us to work out our next steps together as activists and farmers and as a community. Uplift is a broad church. We come from a lot of different places and I think our plan is best worked out together. Thank you to Nicole, Laura, Laura Jayne, Roderick, Seán and my beautiful co-host, Emily. And thanks all for coming and giving up a piece of your Tuesday night. Enjoy, go forth and be well!

References

1 Check out Wild Atlantic Hemp here – https://www.wildatlantichemp.com/pages/about-us

2 Find out about Hemp Co-Operative Ireland here – https://hempcooperativeireland.com/about/

3 Hemp Higher Yoga’s site is at this link – https://hemphigheryoga.ie/about-us/

4 For more info about The Social Entrepreneurs of Ireland, click this link –

https://socialentrepreneurs.ie/about/

5 The official Uplift website can be accessed here – https://www.uplift.ie/

6 Seán McCabe’s presentation about the upcoming TASC (Think Tank for Action on Social Change)

report on cannabis can be read here –

https://greenlensblog.com/2021/05/28/seanmccabe-new-green-deal-uplift/

7 For more on Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, check out our recent interview with Evie Nevin

https://greenlensblog.com/2021/05/31/evie-nevin-26-05-21/

8 Uplift petition – https://my.uplift.ie/petitions/legalise-cannabis-in-ireland

* The full recording of this Uplift panel discussion, Cannabis: A New Green Deal,

can be seen here – https://bit.ly/3fMje97

Laura | 15.06.2021

Laura suffers with chronic depression, anxiety, insomnia and back pain, which she was prescribed Valium for ten years ago. She says she hasn’t ‘popped’ a Valium since a few years ago, when she lived in Canada and had access to medical cannabis.

Twitter / Instagram: @ucancallmelola

Can you please outline your relationship with alcohol in the past and why it was that you decided to stop?

I used to think of my relationship with alcohol as pretty typical, but now I can see it was more sinister than that. It started with the ‘normal’ teenage experience of being around fourteen years old and scheming ways to get cans of cider or a naggin of vodka in a park on the weekends, but it grew into something somewhat crippling socially. I felt as though I needed it to be social, genuinely like it was some sort of armour to put on before going out or some magic drink that made me care less about things and pretend to be ‘grand’. Now, with the benefit of age and objectivity, I can see that I was self-medicating my well-established mental health issues in the only way I knew how – the same way generations before us did, which has been culturally normalised for us. I was definitely abusing it. I was regularly drinking alone in the evenings while at home watching TV. A bottle of wine after work at (the age of) nineteen was about standard. Even before then, I used to secretly take a few shots of rum or vodka before going out to my friends as a teen. Not that I told anyone. It was a problem. I stopped drinking at about 26, four years ago.

You once compared the damage alcohol can do to how harmless cannabis is in comparison. You said: “No one smokes themselves into requiring their stomach pumped at Beaumont (hospital) on a Saturday. No one smokes a joint and starts a fight at a party. But “social drinkers” clog up A&E when bars and pubs are open as normal.” Why do you think this cognitive dissonance persists in Ireland about alcohol?

I think that we have been passing down broken ideas and unrealistic rules between our generations. Our cultural and social norms are super influential, of course, but we model ourselves on what has been modelled to us at home first and we internalise our caregivers’ behaviours before we even know we’re doing this. I believe that our previous generations lived in eras of shame and mortification over any (social acknowledgements of) mental health problems, illnesses, addictions and disorders. These generations also lived in times of suppression of information and emotional control under a corrupt church and a conservative government, intent on parroting the 1USA’s War on Drugs propaganda. In short, they lived in the dark and are now terrified of this new information and distrustful of it all. It’s come as a total shock in comparison to the information of the world that they grew up with. All they know is ‘booze is okay and everyone does it’ and no one calls it a drug, so its damaging effects are ignored. 

I’m extremely hopeful that this is a statement on Ireland’s dissolving cognitive dissonance, however. I don’t believe that we face the same set of challenges that they faced. Our access to fast, good information is not something that was available to previous generations. We watched 9/11 on our TV screens as it happened; a different country, a news event in real time. When my father was the age I was in 2001, his house in Castleknock burned down…and that made the newspapers, the next day. Kids can Google for their own information now, but forty years ago, you might need to go to the local library and hope they had an encyclopedia that would answer your kids’ question… either that or guess, and likely pass along faulty advice or answers. We have so much more information that I don’t believe we can continue to hold such contradicting beliefs about a person’s right to drink, smoke, consume substances or the right to alter one’s consciousness.

You said that cannabis was a “huge help with chronic depression & anxiety” and that it has helped your back pain more effectively than your long term Valium prescription. It has also helped you to combat issues with food & insomnia. What beneficial effects do you get from weed?

For me, weed functions as a muscle relaxant for my back pain, an anti-anxiety support and to help with the symptoms of panic attacks if or when they occur, to help me to eat when my nausea is in flare up, to help me sleep when my insomnia is active. All of these effects are instrumental to my being able to cope with and heal my mental health issues and deal with past traumas. It’s such a huge help and it doesn’t have the side effects that I was getting from my antidepressants or Valium prescriptions. 

When you first started using cannabis, did you wean yourself off Valium or stop all together? 

Well, I didn’t use the Valium often enough to require weaning off it. There’s a genetic history of addiction in my family and so I was too scared to take the prescription regularly enough to become in any way reliant on it. Instead, I self medicated by drinking most nights to help me with pain, sleep and to dissociate from it all. Of course, I couldn’t see at the time that instead of avoiding a substance abuse situation like I thought I was doing, I was just doubling up the speed of my alcohol abuse. So when I received my first batch of medical cannabis, it was like opening up the cover of a new book. I don’t feel like I’ve lost or given up anything. I felt like I upgraded the efficiency of my medication. Same with the drink. All of a sudden, I had absolutely no desire for it any more. Now all I miss is the variety of flavours alcohol comes in. I’m pretty sick of Coke or Club Orange as my only beverage options most places, but that is honestly the biggest personal drawback for me in the change over.

Have you experienced any side effects since switching from Diazepam to cannabis?

Other than the above mentioned, before smoking any weed I was suffering in a number of ways. When I began smoking, first it was for my back pain, but soon I noticed a sizeable shift in my mental and emotional strength and ability to look internally at things clearly where I had never been able to before. I was suddenly becoming more aware of myself, my traumas, my triggers and it calmed my chaotic, anxiety-ridden thoughts so that I was finally able to admit to myself that I was unwell, had been unwell for quite a while and desperately needed the help of a mental health practitioner to get back to a healthy place. It sounds hokey and woo woo, but it facilitated the mental and emotional processing I needed to see clearly and care about myself enough to get help. Diazepam made me spaced out, guilty and ashamed, drained and headache-y for two days after use, and unable to drive or operate heavy machinery. I guess the heavy machinery thing is the only unchanged side effect.

Would you recommend those similar to you to make the switch, or do you feel it’s a personal decision to make? 

I think that it’s definitely a personal decision regardless, and that someone should be as informed and comfortable as possible. I do think it should be an option for everyone to try, but that everyone’s reactions are a little different and based solely on the individual. Cannabis won’t work perfectly for everyone, just like every antidepressant won’t work for everyone or why some people can’t drink certain drinks without getting aggressive or blacking out. Our individual body chemistry obviously plays a huge part. I do think that a natural option is a good one to have on the list of options that should be available for adults to explore and for mental health professionals with the correct information and experience to recommend. The best thing anyone can do is be as informed as possible.

How were your experiences with cannabis in Canada and how did they compare with using cannabis in Ireland?

Night and day. There is no comparison. Trying to buy some dried flower buds in a little sandwich bag shouldn’t feel like an arms deal with the ‘Ra, but unfortunately it does. We like to order CBD products from 2Little Collins dispensary instead, and also have some friends who grow their own plants and will send some love our way when they have spare.

When did you first become interested in cannabis?

Just before moving to Canada. They had recently legalised, so I wanted to be informed before arriving there and not be completely ignorant of the situation.

Do you know a lot of people who use cannabis?

More than I could count for you. It’s not uncommon, just semi unspoken.

What are your thoughts on Irish prohibition laws surrounding cannabis and other drugs?

Completely and utterly embarrassing and very transparently put in place to ‘look the part’ and follow suit with other very vocal nations, but comprised of very little fact and backed by zero research. They have created a thriving black market selling dangerous product and profiting criminals. 

When do you see the Irish government reforming our cannabis laws?

Do you see those who are in power at the moment making these reforms?

I’m torn. My hopeful, optimistic side sees legalisation and regulation of weed in the next three to seven years, if our leaders are smart enough to look to the 3Canadian model and the amount of revenue that was created there from nothing. It would also make some farmers unions happy as they have been lobbying for similar rights to grow hemp and related products and it would create a brand new industry full of jobs and additional international trade. My more cynical and pessimistic side agrees with the hot take from 4Blindboy, where he says that the Irish government will likely wait and wait until the USA legalises on a federal level, starts looking internationally and comes sniffing around our tax-light shores for a place to set up shop. Either way, it will be the money that sways them. That’s the only language they speak.

If you had an audience with Frank Feighan, Stephen Donnelly and co, what would be your message to them?

Catch up or move aside. We’re done with leaders who lead us nowhere. Be part of the solution to the problem or be left behind, but you won’t be able to hold up progress forever.

References

1 We highly recommend that you read Doctor Carl Hart’s book on this topic, reviewed here –

https://greenlensblog.com/2021/05/13/drug-use-for-grown-ups-review/

2 Check out the Little Collins CBD site at this link – https://littlecollinscbd.com/

3 To learn more about cannabis in Canada, check out my interview with Farrell Miller of

 NORML Canada here – https://greenlensblog.com/2020/12/09/farrell-miller-toronto-canada-21-11-2020/

4 Watch this recent Newstalk interview with Blindboy about cannabis in Ireland –

https://youtu.be/gXtJqwSLkiQ

Nicole & Roderick at Cannabis: A New Green Deal by Uplift.ie | 20.04.2021

Nicole Lonergan first became involved in speaking out about cannabis circa 2014. Through 1Cork Cannabis Activist Network, she raises awareness about the benefits of cannabis and the extensive harms of prohibition. Roderick Campbell is a member of Uplift, as well as 2The Irish Medical Cannabis Council. He is currently setting up The Irish Cannabis Co-Op. The following extract has been adapted from the live stream for the purposes of clarity and brevity.

Emily Duffy (of 3Uplift): I’m going to get into some of (the viewers) questions, but the first one that I wanted to put to everybody was, what opportunities do you see for campaigning, specifically out of this 4report? Is there new information that we feel is a good lever of change? I’d like to throw that out to you first. Nicole, you’re laughing, so I’m gonna hand over to you to start. Nicole: I knew I was setting myself up for something there. Emily Laughs Yeah, no problem! I think we need to be very clear first of all whether the report is actually asking for decriminalisation or legalisation, because those are two completely separate things. Legalisation is what will give us a legal industry, whereby people can legally buy cannabis that’s been tested from licenced vendors. I think the most important thing to push for going forward is public participation. I mean, in all the TDs that I’ve engaged with, the main issue they say to me is that enough people aren’t speaking up about this.

Many of them aren’t even aware that this is an issue that really needs to be addressed. I know it can be quite daunting to people to approach a TD or to put their name out there. But I can assure you, it will be treated confidentially. And it’s really important to speak up and to be an active part of your community and to let your TDs know what issues are really, really important and what needs to be addressed. So this is one of them and I encourage anyone listening to be brave and speak up and be vocal about your cannabis use. Because if it benefits you, I feel that other people should know. Emily: Absolutely, I couldn’t agree more. Uplift is a community of over 360,000 people across Ireland. There’s people in every constituency in Ireland and we can provide the tools to start those conversations with politicians and to demystify and de-stigmatise something that is helping so many people stay well.

Would anyone else from the panel like to come in there? Laura Jayne Foley (of Wild Atlantic Hemp): I think Roderick put his hand up. Emily: I can’t see Roderick for some reason.. Roderick: I was hiding. Laughter Emily: “Where are you?” Roderick laughs Please come in, Roderick, thank you. Roderick: I think one of the things that stands out to me in terms of the narrative of the story that we’ve been telling is up until recently as cannabis campaigners, we’ve been telling the story that we think that cannabis is not necessarily bad for our communities. That it has either a positive effect or a neutral effect. And I think one of the stories that doesn’t get enough focus is that prohibition is really bad for our communities. It’s very unhealthy. It is killing people. Because we see that opiate use and opiate deaths particularly, drastically increase, when there’s prohibition. So we’ve got children’s use. Also, underage use increases during prohibition.

Criminality in the amount of money going to violent criminal organisations and cartels increases. So, what we see right now is thorough inaction. And I think this is a really critical, from my perspective, change in the story. It is the inaction and the cowardice and the pearl clutching and this “waiting for the brown paper envelopes” of our TDs. It is actively harming our communities, harming our children and killing people. And that switch of the narrative, I think, it changes the momentum of the campaign. Emily: Absolutely, I couldn’t agree more. And I think a lot of the health concerns that have been raised.. I think that actually a lot of it can be addressed through legalisation. If people can access strains that are more beneficial, that are less likely to cause certain things, then people will be healthier. And I think, also, that idea of bronchitis.. We know in California a lot of people don’t smoke it at all. It’s edible and things like that, so I think that’s an argument there as well that’s very strong.

Roderick: We’re launching the cannabis co-operative, which is starting in Kinsale. It’s about thirty people launching the thing, and (it’s) focused on the consumer development side of things, instead of growing. Dispensaries, e-commerce and delivery, that sort of thing. I’m actually in Washington right now where it’s legal, completely. So I’ve got legal cannabis in front of me. And I’m doing a little bit of research around products and particularly ethical businesses around it. I live in Kinsale, and there’s an island here in Washington that’s very similar in almost every way. A similar flow of traffic, people coming through tourism, a similar population. And there’s two shops on the island. And both of those shops, the dispensaries on the island, they’re paying a $20 minimum wage, before there was any increase in the minimum wage.

That’s more than double the normal minimum wage in Washington State. And in addition to that, full benefits. And in addition to all of that, the businesses that own these two shops are still pulling in between $50,000 and $100,000 per month in revenue, for the community. So, the revenue is just off the charts. And I think that the big race now that we’re going to see, and the reason they haven’t moved on legalisation, is because they don’t know how to monetise it and monopolise it yet. And the big battle here I think, is for us to get the legalisation over that line as soon as possible. And also to make sure that we can bolster co-operative, community-owned businesses and enterprises to dominate this thing. If we don’t, you know we’re gonna lose a lot of money out of our communities. Emily: Absolutely. And I think there’s a real opportunity for forming a new type of economy here, for doing things quite a bit differently and better.

I think that some of those models in the US are fascinating. And the thing as well is that politics in Ireland are quite local and people are very interested in revitalising their communities. There’s often even more of a chance of convincing politicians of that, so that’s an opportunity to get a little strategic campaign in there. I’m gonna go hand over to Nicole! Nicole: Yeah, just to expand on what Roderick said, because all his points are completely valid, it is a massive industry. It’s a multi-million dollar industry. I’m pretty sure the cannabis industry has created about 321,000 jobs in the States and there’s now more cannabis-employed people than dentists. So that’s insanely significant and that needs to be looked at here. I don’t think we can afford to turn our noses up at the revenue that can be generated from this industry.

It just makes sense. Apply this to alcohol – would people rather drink alcohol out of a shoe that was made in someone’s shed, or would they rather buy it from a legal premises where it was tested? I mean that’s a no-brainer, and the same applies to cannabis. While we’re relying on the illegal market, we don’t know what we’re getting. So, I personally would much rather go to a store and choose from a wide range of products. And that is just gonna create a massive amount of revenue, which in turn can be used to fund addiction services, or just generally we could put (it) back into our communities, and to fund our education. It’s so important and my mind is boggled as to why this hasn’t been implemented in Ireland yet. I’m just hoping it will be soon. 

Emily: Great. You touched a little bit there on another great question that came in from a member called Eno, which is, given Irish history and habits, wouldn’t it be effective to produce a proper academic comparative study? He doesn’t know of any studies that are out there, but basically, should we talk about the health and societal implications of alcohol and compare them to cannabis? Is there anybody that would like to answer that one? Yeah, Nicole, keep going! Nicole: I’ll keep going while I’m on a roll! Laughter It’s important to do that, but at the same time you have to acknowledge that cannabis is very different from alcohol. There are always conversations around cannabis, “recreational” versus medicinal, but cannabis itself is inherently medicinal. There’s no budging from that, it’s on the use of the person. Responsible use and personal responsibility are massive when it comes to this.

But yeah, absolutely, it would be worthwhile comparing hospital admissions, for example, between alcohol and cannabis. And the amount of money that’s actually spent on treating both. Because as we know, most people who go to hospital for cannabis… all of those symptoms will resolve themselves at home, with time and re-assurance and rest. There is usually no need for them to actually be in hospital in the first place. It is an important comparative point to make, but at the same time we have to recognise that these are two completely different substances. Emily: Perfect, yeah. I think that’s a great answer. This is a great question here from Maria, who is talking about chronic pain in particular. I think the medical conversation is really important, but I think, and some of you might touch on this, the means by which people can access cannabis has been highly regulated and restricted.

“How much does the Irish government spend on pain management medications with incredibly serious side effects?” She said that she’s “seen people in Ireland with Rheumatoid Arthritis, 5Ehlers Danlos, back issues, hip issues”, going off very high strength prescribed medications, which have a lot of side effects. And that if people could access the right strain, that people would get much better outcomes and much better medical care. But I think the question there is, how does the law need to be, to make sure that people can access the types of cannabis strains that they need? Nicole, you’re coming in there straight away! Nicole: Thanks. Yeah, I think it’s really important for people to recognise that what’s in place doesn’t work. There’s currently two systems in place, whereby people maybe can access medical cannabis products.

So, the first is the licensing system. That’s not fit for purpose as far as I’m concerned, because basically you have to apply via a Consultant. They will then be issued a licence to prescribe products containing THC. You have to choose from the products that you get from the Dutch pharmacy, and most patients are actually paying anywhere from €600 to €9,500 every three months for a prescription. That’s ludicrous, nobody should be paying that money for any type of healthcare. The Medical Cannabis Access Programme, that’s not even been active yet. Legislation that was signed in 2019, it’s still not active. It’s not due to be active until June 2021 and it’s only for three specific conditions and four cannabis-based medicines. And the part that’s actually quite upsetting and very wrong I think, for something that claims to be a compassionate access programme, is the fact that the conditions which it allows access for can only access these products as a last resort.

So that means for patients with MS, they are forced to endure high doses of botox, I think it’s a medication called Tizanidine, apologies if I’m butchering the pronunciation, before low-dose cannabis-based medicines will even be considered. That’s not compassionate, it’s not accessible, so it doesn’t work. I really feel that if we’re gonna be relying on headlines and just accepting what crumbs are thrown our way, we’ll never get what we need. And what we need is actual compassionate access for people who do need these products. People shouldn’t have to jump through hoops. I think it’s very wrong for people who are ill and who are already suffering to put them through so much financial stress to try and get access to a natural product.

So again, I just hope that people will actually push for this and not settle. Because we deserve so much better. Emily: Great answer and I couldn’t agree more. Roderick, would you like to come in? Roderick: Sure. A few small things. I’m biased, because I’m trying to push that 6petition. Laughter So the Uplift petition, there’s some really small things. There’s 102 people here. And there’s one thing that if you did this once a day, or once a week, or with any regularity, that petition would begin to explode. Go on Facebook and join some related Facebook groups, like permaculture, cannabis or drug-related groups, community groups, it doesn’t matter. And if you don’t want all your friends to see it all the time, that’s fine, go to a private one. And then consistently, every day ideally, or every week if you’re willing to, go in and share the petition and say something about cannabis.

A fact about legalisation, and share it and ask people to sign it. And if we can get that fucker to explode, I think that that will give us the organising ability that we need to add a bit of pressure on TDs. That and then one other thing. I think the other big thing is culture-making. Ireland is still in sort of a time capsule, in terms of the culture around cannabis and the expectations, even though fucking everybody smokes, or has at some point. Emily laughs So, that’s the sort of paradox. I think particularly, we’re running into this cultural phenomenon where older people don’t wanna encourage younger people to smoke, even though they smoked. So they want to pretend like they never smoked and it’s bad. Fuck that! The way that we overcome that is by forcing people into a corner, especially our family members, and forcing the conversation.. in a really friendly way.

Emily laughs And if we can do that en masse, we will change the culture. Just like what happened with marriage equality, just like it did with abortion. So, culture-making, and push the fuckin’ petition please! Emily: Absolutely, brilliant Roderick! I love that answer. Nicole, I’m gonna come to you. Nicole: No bother. Excellent points Roderick, love it. Just to expand on that again, just talk! Never shut up! I mean, I talk to the Tesco delivery man about cannabis. He knows what’s coming every week. When you bring the issue of cannabis to anyone in government, they’ll go: “Oh the harms, we have to protect people!” Let’s compare it with Penicillin. How many people are allergic to Penicillin? How many people will have a really, really severe reaction to Penicillin that might put them in hospital, might even kill them?

We factor that in, but we don’t overlook the overwhelming benefits that come with Penicillin. And this should be applied to cannabis, cannabis is no different. We cannot afford to overlook the benefits that cannabis can bring to so many sectors in our society. So again, talk, talk, talk. Share as much as you can. Don’t be afraid to speak up, because once you do you kind of… you never can shut up then really, you’re kind of (saying): “I want to share this information with people!” If your family and your friends are your support network, they will understand and they will listen to what you have to say about cannabis. So yeah, it’s just really important. Please talk, please speak up, don’t be afraid!

References

1 Cork Cannabis Activist Network’s central hub can be accessed here –

https://www.linktr.ee/CorkCAN/

2 For official updates from the Irish Medical Cannabis Council, see

https://www.medcan.ie/

3 The Uplift website can be found here – https://www.uplift.ie/

4 Seán McCabe’s presentation about an upcoming TASC (Think Tank for Action on Social Change)

report on cannabis can be read here –

https://greenlensblog.com/2021/05/28/seanmccabe-new-green-deal-uplift/

5 For more on Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, check out our recent interview with Evie Nevin

https://greenlensblog.com/2021/05/31/evie-nevin-26-05-21/

6 Uplift petition – https://my.uplift.ie/petitions/legalise-cannabis-in-ireland

* The full recording of this Uplift panel discussion, Cannabis: A New Green Deal, can be seen here –

https://bit.ly/3fMje97

You Get What You Pay For

Nicholas looks into the issues that occur in the regulated market which will serve as a blueprint for what we need to avoid down the road when Ireland joins the discussion of cannabis reform.

As we gradually move towards the legalisation of cannabis, we must acknowledge such regulation would incur several differences not normally experienced in the black market.  While the obvious will be the restriction of sale to anyone under the state-appointed age, patrons will also have the ability to choose the strain and strength of the weed they’re purchasing from a safe and reliable source.  The reality is the cost that many smokers in this country currently have to pay will change drastically, which many fear will be for the worst.

In the series of interviews Richard has carried out since the inception of this blog, the primary response from interviewees regarding the safety of purchasing from the black market is universally negative.  The worst experiences coming from women who fear for their welfare whenever purchasing cannabis on the streets.  Currently, smokers have to do business with drug dealers who package cannabis in Ziplock bags, storing them under kitchen counters or garden sheds for the sale to anyone of any age.  In most cases, the marijuana isn’t even cured before it’s put on the market, making for a weak and less cost-effective purchase.   

It’s time to take cannabis out of the hands of the black market and put it in the safe, accessible, and reliable hands of specialists who can aid the customer in the type of strain and strength of the cannabis they’re buying.  The questions we must ask ourselves are, are we willing to spend more for the safety that comes with a regulated market?  Will we continue to feed the black market for our individual benefit in the wake of a legalised environment?  I fear this will be the case, as seen since the pandemic, people are prone to selfish acts in a very Irish cultural mentality of “but what do I get out of it?”.

This has become a topic of discussion going forward since Canada legalised cannabis in October 2018.  An area of concern has occurred, where the black market, which hasn’t suffered in sales since dispensaries opened, has left many to question what has brought this on.  The closing of legal cultivation greenhouses by Canopy Growth, the biggest firm in the cannabis sector, has come about due to the loss of revenue to the black market as the recreational market has “developed slower than anticipated”.  The consensus on this issue is the fact that the legal market is struggling to draw people to their products due to the higher cost and lower strength the market has on offer. 

This issue is a result of the Canadian government fumbling the landscape of selling cannabis as the government doesn’t advertise the type of cannabis you’re buying, leaving the customer more uninformed than those buying in the black market.  The quality and timeframe in accessing the drug has also left a lot to be desired.  The legal price of cannabis is driven up by taxes and those in power of regulating it have also aided in the problem by restricting suppliers from developing brands.  The strict rules around advertising cannabis have left the legal market with very little brand identity leading to little confidence in a purchase for the customer.  This is compounded by companies that struggle to open stores due to the protests of local authorities that don’t want cannabis sold in their communities. 

The issues seen in Canada are a result of a market that got ahead of itself and created a bubble by “drinking their own Kool-Aid” as said by Anthony Dutton, a co-founder and former Chief Executive of Cannex – a US-focused marijuana firm that is listed in Canada. 

“So, what we’re seeing now, thankfully, is a lot of the companies that probably should never have been financed – and probably should never have gone public in the first place – are slowly withering on the vine and they’ll just disappear.  Now there will be a consolidation around half a dozen strong operating companies, including 4Front, and those will be the companies that will take it into the next cycle. It’s just like in the dotcom boom. Oracle, Microsoft, and other big companies were all around then, and they were profitable. And when the little companies began to fail, Microsoft and Oracle and the others picked up the ones they wanted, and the others they just let die.” – Anthony Dutton [1]

Then there is of course the grey market which can be seen in California, as the red tape of acquiring a licence to sell has put off companies from following the stringent rules the regulated market enforces.  This has resulted in another competitor for the legal market due to companies refusing to abide by the intricate regulations that encompass everything about the procurement and selling of cannabis. From security to product testing, the grey market can undersell their law-abiding competitors by up to 50% as noted by Bryce Berryessa, the president of the licensed California cannabis company La Vida Verde.[2] 

Unlike the black market, the grey market operates in plain sight and doesn’t advertise to customers whether the store is legal or not.  However, like the black market, the grey market stocks counterfeit products that imitate known legal brands.  There have been measures to combat unlicensed dispensaries in the form of guard troops deployed into northern California’s cannabis cultivation regions to crack down on the grey market but still, it isn’t enough. [3]

As cannabis legislation is in its infant stages, it will be some time before legalisation becomes more widespread and corporatised, eventually causing the black and grey markets to wane, though many legal businesses won’t last before this happens.  Weed shortages are a big proprietor to the black market flourishing, as the lack of availability forces people to find different sources.  The shortages also cause the legal market to increase prices further, leading to cynicism about purchasing legally.  This is also seen in Illinois, where illegal sales of marijuana are expected to outpace legal sales at least through 2024, according to data from cannabis industry research firm BDS Analytics.[4]

These problems and the solutions we will come to see in future years should be the blueprint for how we approach cannabis legislation in this country.  The strength and availability of cannabis should be considered as to not make the same mistakes seen in Canada.  Limiting smokers to specific strains, while charging twice what is standard in the black market is a pothole that can be easily avoided by acknowledging what is happening now, so it doesn’t have to occur here in the future.  Obviously, this is easier said than done. We can only assume how the government will take on such an ambitious venture – whether Ireland will grow its own supply, or similar to our fishing industries, will we sell our new-found potential to a neighbouring country, allowing them to profit from an industry we can seize for ourselves?  Only time will tell.


References:

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/mar/18/cannabis-canada-legal-recreational-business

[2] https://www.record-bee.com/2018/12/01/legalizing-marijuana-was-supposed-to-slow-illegal-activity-in-california-it-hasnt/

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/mar/17/legal-weed-black-market-california-gavin-newsom

[4] https://wgme.com/news/marijuana-in-maine/it-may-be-legal-but-high-prices-inconvenience-may-drive-black-market-marijuana-for-years