Allison of Her Highness | 09.09.21

Allison Krongard runs Her Highness with her friend and business partner Laura Eisman in New York, where they sell a lifestyle collection of ‘THC and CBD products designed to increase joy in women’s lives & remove the stigma of cannabis use’. They sell stylish high end products across three channels, to accommodate different regions with varying degrees of legal weed: hemp-CBD, high design paraphernalia, and THC (to expand as legalisation spreads). Their product range includes accessories like the Thigh High stash jar, pre-rolls, vape pens and highly orgasmic pleasure oils. While their THC products were initially available in California only, they have since expanded this range across several US states. Recently, Her Highness announced plans to begin launching products in the Canadian and Mexican markets.

When did a women-oriented cannabis company come up first, in conversation with Laura? How did she initially pitch the idea to you? Both of us came from businesses – where she created a website, I created products for women. So we both came from the standpoint of creating luxury female products. But she came to me with an idea to do cannabis accessories. As cannabis was becoming more and more popular, she was looking for some beautiful rolling papers and ashtrays and accessories for people who like to smoke; female-oriented, design-oriented. I, being a cannabis user for 30 years, have collected beautiful ashtrays and things from my cannabis use over the years, coming from design and interior design. And I totally agreed, there’s a real gap there. But really, my passion was to make cannabis products and touch them; really get in there, and feminise them. Which she loved too. So when we got together, we both did this really beautiful paraphernalia collection; marble rolling trays and ashtrays, the stash box, our fun lips ashtray… They definitely stand out compared to typical accessories, they’re very unique. Yeah, so for her that was what was driving her and I of course loved that. So I jumped right on board with that.

But then we took it further to design beautiful pre-roll boxes. We really feminised that, like our pre-roll with the extra long crutch, so you don’t melt your eyelashes and ruin your nail polish. Once we got together, we knew we were gonna do something for women. We then developed a bigger idea, with the mission of creating a CBD version of every THC product, as well as the paraphernalia. That really allowed us to enter many markets and talk about THC while we’re talking about CBD. Mainstream media would not profile our THC business, but they would profile our CBD business. And when they’re asking questions, we can always answer with something that includes this concept of normalising something that contains THC. If we can get it on that type of magazine and on that type of media, we can accomplish that. So that’s where we came from and how we started this company.

You’ve said in previous interviews that Her Highness is keen to eradicate stigma associated with cannabis use and sex. Have you noticed a significant cultural shift away from the stigmatisation of both in America? Yes. I would say that, especially during Covid, when things like Only Fans became mainstream, but there’s still a long way to go. But even when things like sex and cannabis become less stigmatised for women, it always takes longer. To accelerate that process, we’re making accessories that you want to display in your home and creating cannabis products that are designed for gifting. For example, a pre-roll and lighter set. On the back it has a ‘to’ and ‘from’, so it’s like a postcard. It’s a very cool feature, actually. Yeah, it’s just fun. It reminds people that this is not only a gift to ourselves, but if you’re meeting a bunch of friends for dinner instead of picking up a little candle for everyone or whatever, this is really a super fun gift, and something to be shared. And that’s sort of a very female characteristic. When we find something really good that we love, we love to share it with our friends.

In terms of destigmatising cannabis through products meant for sharing and gifting, another example of that would be our Get Lit Kit *Richard laughs*. It’s just a lighter, ashtray and grinder, meant for hostess gifting. Instead of bringing wine, to bring cannabis. To bring actual cannabis, we have another gift set (which we also do in CBD), where you get your box of pre-rolls, an ashtray, and a lighter. We’re really trying to encourage people to gift cannabis instead of alcohol, or with alcohol, but instead of it always being the go-to to bring a bottle of wine or something to a party, to make cannabis gift-able. To answer your question about sex as well, there’s not just sex stigmatised, but female pleasure stigmatised.

The idea of prioritising women’s orgasms when sex in popular media is so much about the male orgasm. And by really shining a light on the importance of a female orgasm, and creating a product that we feel really enhances the depth and size of a female orgasm. The Pleasure Oil is a product that is so shared and so gifted because when women discover that, it’s like: ‘Oh I’ve gotta tell my best friend about this, this is major!’ Game changer. Game changer! And then we’ve created this product around it, these packs. They’re called Cum on the Go packs. With the idea that if you’re going to your boyfriend’s overnight, women typically will bring heels and lingerie. But you know, it’s like you’re thinking about planning for them, but you’re not planning for your own orgasm. Right, so you’ve got little handy sachets to bring with. Exactly, right! And it’s subtle, and each one is ‘one orgasm amount’. They’re also gift-able and it’s such a fun thing to share. And in making things that are kind of fun, you know it’s silly but it’s not silly, it’s actually useful. We’re just trying to stimulate conversation and make it something that people want to tell their friends about and share.

For our full bottle of Pleasure Oil, we tried to make it beautiful. And we tried to make the experience of using it beautiful. We don’t want you to hide it. If you leave it out on your bedside, you’re gonna use it. If it’s something that looks weird or ugly, you’re gonna hide it and use it less. So you’ve designed it kind of like a designer perfume box. Exactly, yeah. Your packaging designs are fantastic, I have to say. The Thigh High ashtray, the way it’s got the marble and the legs sticking out, it’s really cool. Thank you. In an interview with the Cannabinoid Connect podcast, you credited weed as being a consistent source of inspiration to you in previous ventures, whenever you were designing products. Why do you think many people continue to perceive cannabis as being detrimental to productivity? I think many people are stuck in that Nancy Reagan Just Say No moment, ‘cannabis is bad’. Rationally, people know that cannabis is ancient medicine. It’s such a clean product. I don’t know any young people who are stuck in that mindset. Yeah.

It seems like that generation that was raised on ‘cannabis is a drug and it’s bad’ and ‘alcohol is not a drug and it’s okay’.. Rationale is out the window and those are just accepted as facts and it’s really hard to break that. Although, what’s interesting is something I learned with my father, who is certainly a very conservative person. What happened, when he got cancer and he started using cannabis medicinally, it helped him for a long time. Now he’s better, but during that time he realised that it actually was a great healer. So I think there are a lot of older people who are starting to use it for arthritis and sleep and other reasons, and they’re starting to see it. Yeah. Slowly but surely. Right, slowly but surely. It’s just old tech, old thinking. Everyone I know who uses cannabis regularly is athletic, works out regularly. For me, I find it gives me access to my creativity in a way that when I’m not stoned, I still get the ideas, but it’s like I shoot it down before I develop it. But when I’m stoned, it’s like the idea flows and keeps going to fruition, I get to a place where I can use it. It gets you in the zone more. Yeah, yeah.

I saw you mention before that Her Highness tries to avoid cannabis that causes ‘couch lock’, and that you display rankings for the strength of each product’s high and so on, to keep your customers informed. Now, you already gave me the example of the way your pre-rolls are designed to bear nails and lashes in mind. Do you have another example of tailoring your products to your customers’ needs? Yes. Our vape, which you mentioned, sort of looks like a Tiffany pen, looks like a piece of jewellery. It doesn’t look like drugs and there are two formulas inside. Giggle, which is perma-smile energy with extra humulene to kill off ‘the munchies’. Okay. And High Priestess, which is pure euphoria, it’s 93% THC..Oh wow..With extra humulene to kill off ‘the munchies’. And the reason why we developed these two is because we were speaking to the two most prevalent, distinctive, memorable highs that women tend to like. It’s ‘going out with your friends and laughing so hard your face hurts. And then not going home and having twelve bowls of macaroni and cheese.’

And the other one is when you’ve sort of passed from mildly stoned into super stoned and it becomes more about the body high and this introspective feeling.. Mindfulness. Yeah. That is the perfect sex high, it’s the perfect yoga high, I think. For me, it’s also the perfect ‘walking down 5th Avenue and window shopping and looking at people’ high. That’s that other feeling that’s sort of like the high when you want to be by yourself more. Yeah. Taking it all in. Yeah. It’s that other kind of high that’s so great and so useful. A great example would be our High Heels, which are trans-dermal pads that go in your shoes when you’re wearing high heels. Because that’s when women need pain relief. And so many trans-dermals, it’s all about back pain, which is great, and boring. *Richard laughs* But women have foot pain. We all have shoes in our closet, where every woman sort of has a mental checklist of how many hours they can go in that pair before it’s too unbearable. So, judging the evening ahead gives you a selection of what’s possible. So this really extends that time. I must say, I think that’s a particularly clever item to sell. Because that’s a major annoyance for a lot of women out there. It’s a real issue, so I’m sure they’ll be eager to pick that up. Yeah, it is.

That’s sort of the premise of our company: ‘How can we bend cannabis to suit women?’ There’s such a rich, amazing assortment of cannabis products out there. But they’re often either delivered in a way that doesn’t suit women, or dosed, or… A million things that give us the opportunity to tweak them to make them more female-friendly.

In that same interview with Cannabinoid Connect, mentioned earlier, you said that at one time in the past you used cannabis to help you combat depression. And you noticed that many women were self-medicating with pills and alcohol, and you felt that more of them should know about the benefits of weed. Did this take place long before you had that discussion with Laura that led to Her Highness? It did. It happened after my previous venture was acquired, and the deal was I had to work for them for two years. And I went from running my own business and being in a very creative, positive-spirited environment, to a sort of Wall Street, 100-year-old company. A really, really corporate environment where the people.. It was like a job. Before that, we went to work because it was more fun than being home. *Richard laughs* And I moved into a company where it was hard to get out the door, really hard to get out the door. And I think a lot of people suffer with that. Plenty of people hate their job and they really look forward to that after-work drink.

I really felt like there was a better way and I wanted to do something. Initially, I was thinking after I sold my last company that I wanted to do something in cannabis. But it was just too early on the East coast and I was just worried about federal laws. And I’m a single mom, the last thing I need is to get in trouble. But then more time passed and Laura came. This idea of being in the cannabis industry and being part of cannabis has really been a part of my life forever. When I was eighteen years old in New York City, when I could finally register to vote, I picked the Cannabis Party. And I didn’t even smoke cannabis, but I just thought it was so stupid that it wasn’t legal that I wanted to support it. I didn’t even get into cannabis for many years after that. But I guess I was just meant to do this. It seems like it! *Allison laughs* How do you market your brand towards women who don’t know much about weed or its effects, or who only have a vague interest in learning more about cannabis? How do you get them on-side?

Through low-dose products and non-psychoactive products. By making the CBD foot pads, even if you’re not sure about cannabis, that’s a great on-ramp product. We have low-dose mints. Even if you wanna mix it with alcohol, a 2.5g mint just takes the edge off, if your body’s completely clean (for me I could eat the whole bottle). But for an on-ramp or canna-curious person, just one will give you the idea that it’s safe, it’s small, but it’s noticeable. So between low-dose products, non-psychoactive products, the packaging and the accessories (‘cause it’s still a great gift), we’re trying to open up all these doors for women to just come in and take a look without getting stoned. Do you believe Her Highness is getting much closer to that original aim of being able to bring cannabis to women everywhere? Well, yeah! I mean, we started in California. And then we added Nevada, and Massachusetts, and we’re gonna add Ohio and Pennsylvania. Colorado, Canada, working on Mexico, starting to talk to someone in Venezuela. Oh. Yeah!

I think between the CBD that we can ship legally, the smoking accessories that we can ship internationally anywhere, and getting THC licences in any state and country that we can, licensing our brand so that it can be done locally, as laws allow… that’s how we’re gonna do it. We’re about five years ahead of anyone who’s specifically targeting women. It’s like all the other companies split it down the middle and are targeting just everyone, but make some female products.

But when you split it down the middle, it’s not 100% for women, it’s like, ‘Oh this is the best thing I could find’, but it’s not 100% there. Yeah, you do strike me as being considerably ahead of the curve there. Having a lifestyle collection, rather than just having a single product, really sets us apart. And our mission, where we raise money for female cannabis prisoners. The idea is to shine a light on female prisoners, because as an industry, we all do a pretty good job of talking about cannabis prisoners and raising money for them. But it mostly goes to men, because they’re the most known and vocal and the largest population. But when a woman goes to prison, a family falls apart, typically. It’s very destructive. We have a mission with The Last Prisoner Project, where we ‘Help our sisters doing time for cannabis crime’. Where we feature an actual former cannabis prisoner, and 50% of our proceeds go to these women and to a fund to help more women. That’s fantastic. Yeah.

Our mission as a company is ‘to reach all women through cannabis’. So, to your point, through our product, which is obviously bent towards women… Through our mission helping the women in the cannabis industry who came before us, pre-legalisation, who are in prison. And also, future women coming into cannabis. I end every presentation with buyers by reminding them that with our lifestyle collection, you can anchor a female section in your store and finally have room for those single-product women-owned companies, ‘cause there are a lot of them. But it’s hard for them to get shelf space, because it’s just one product. If we can make buyers mindful, in every meaning, that ‘I should have a female section’, we hope that we’re helping future female entrepreneurs in this space to find shelf space more easily. Are there any New York-based personalities you and Laura look up to, in terms of people who have had a significantly positive influence on society’s attitude towards cannabis? Hmm. It’s funny, because in terms of consumption, New York is the largest consumption state in the country, and has been.

So, I’m sure there’s tonnes of fabulous celebrity New York stoners, but I can’t really think about a specific New Yorker who’s influenced us. Really, we’re most driven by the love of the plant. Yeah. I believe in its benefits. I can’t even think of a single person. I would say, we both come from design so our inspiration is probably designers. Florence Knoll said: ‘Form follows function and good design is good business’. Those words really are integrated into our products. If the product is beautiful and not comfortable, if it’s beautiful and not perfectly functional, it’s a ‘fail’. It has to be both. According to Filter magazine, New York marijuana possession arrests fell from 3,700 in the first quarter of this year, to just eight in the second quarter, although there were still ‘racial disparities’ in those eight arrests. The legislation in New York for legal weed expunges the criminal records of anyone previously convicted of actions involving cannabis that are no longer considered criminal.What more do you feel can be done in New York to have a more equitable legal cannabis market? That’s a good question.

The regulations haven’t really been rolled out yet, so we don’t really know. But what we are hearing is that they’re very heavily weighted to people that have been heavily impacted by the war on drugs, to women and minorities. I think New York is really making a grand effort to tilt the scales, and we’ll see. A lot of people are trying to get licences. We’re gonna try and get a retail licence in New York, to have our flagship store. So, I would love to answer that question once I get intimately involved in that process of getting a licence and then I’ll really learn. Because it’s still early in the market. To your point about cannabis arrests and racial disparities, that is something that I’ve certainly seen growing up in New York City and smoking pot in New York City my whole life. I’ve seen that so much and I’m so happy to see that arrests are down and that that time is over. It’s just so disgusting and unfair. It must be an amazing feeling to know that your state has changed for the better, at last. At last, I know!

I mean, I cannot believe how long it took. I cannot believe how many conservative states legalised before New York. Right, yeah! *Richard laughs* Ireland is definitely taking its sweet time with legalisation. I know, the slowest, right? It’s painful. Here’s hoping we’ll get somewhere within a year or so, if we’re lucky! Well, I hope so. Speaking of Ireland, if you could present your elevator pitch to the Irish government about the benefits of legalising weed, what would you say to win them over? Certainly, the Irish government is okay with alcohol at high levels. Yeah. I would say, we know that alcohol overdoses happen. Alcohol causes violence, deaths, car accidents. The amount of suffering caused by alcohol compared to cannabis, really makes the argument. And the fact that it has antidepressant, calming, anti-anxiety attributes, as well as natural medicinal attributes, like anti-inflammatory.

People who use cannabis regularly have a lower BMI [Body Mass Index] than the rest of the population. I mean, that is an amazing thing, despite ‘the munchies’. Yeah. I just don’t understand people saying that it should be illegal now, and there’s so much evidence pointing to it (being beneficial). To the Irish government, I would say, when you compare the death and destruction statistics of alcohol to cannabis, to not want your population to have this safer, healing, more human-friendly alternative available is just unconscionable. That’s about as good of an answer as I could’ve wished for! Thank you so much for sparing your time, I wish you and Laura all the best with Your Highness! Take care, Allison! A pleasure, thank you so much.

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

Milly Gilbert | 20.05.2021

Milly Gilbert lives in the UK. She suffers with mental health and physical conditions including depression, generalised anxiety, C-PTSD (complex post traumatic stress disorder), 1dissociative seizures, 2hEDS (Hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome) and 3fibromyalgia. She has a private medical cannabis prescription for thirty grams of indica flower a month and 50mls of oil (CBD 10:THC 5), as she did not qualify for cannabis prescribed through the NHS (National Health Service).

Twitter: @millygilbert17

Can you please give us an outline of your experiences receiving diagnoses of your mental health conditions within the UK health system?

I was diagnosed with depression by my GP back in 2011, after moving back to the UK, having lived in New Zealand for four and a half years prior. I was on and off antidepressants for a while, but I never found they helped. In 2015, I went back onto antidepressants after coming back from a holiday early, which had triggered some bad memories. After this I was unable to work, due to both my mental health and my physical health. I have Hypermobile Ehlers Danlos and fibromyalgia, which cause lots of other medical problems and leave me with lots of daily pain. In 2019, my mental health was at the worst it had ever been. I had started picking at my skin, which has left me with scarring, and I really struggled to cope with all the emotion I was feeling. I started having night terrors, flashbacks and what I didn’t realise at the time were dissociative seizures. At the end of 2019, I spoke to my GP about how bad things had become and I was told to self refer to have therapy. I did this and heard from them a few months later. By this point the pandemic had hit, which meant they were no longer able to take on patients.

They decided I should be seen as an urgent case though, so they referred me to another clinic. A few months later I heard from them and they said that I could start therapy, but there would be a wait. In the meantime, they would get a Psychiatrist to see if they could help. The Psychiatrist spoke to me and we talked about traumatic experiences and how I was struggling. He then diagnosed c-PTSD, dissociative seizures, generalised anxiety and depression. I was already on an antidepressant, but they placed me on a mood suppressant and medication to help me sleep. I didn’t get to start therapy until November, by which time it had been a year since I first self referred myself. 

For those who are not familiar with the term, can you please define dissociative seizures?

Dissociative seizures are also known as non-epileptic seizures. People may have different types of seizures. For me I would become starry or seem spaced out, I would be completely blank. Other times, I would have a conversation with people that I would have no memory of happening. For people who didn’t know I had these seizures, they would often think I was just falling asleep as that’s what it would look like to them. For me, my vision would go weird and my head would just drop. I have spilled many drinks after having these seizures while holding a drink. Other times I would shake, or my joints would jolt uncontrollably. My triggers are stress and anxiety as well as when I struggle with triggering thoughts. I also struggle with this when I overheat.

Why was it that you didn’t qualify for medical cannabis through the NHS? Do you believe the scheme is in need of expansion?

On the NHS, you only qualify for medical cannabis if you are a child with epilepsy, an adult with vomiting or nausea caused by chemotherapy, or if you have MS (Multiple Sclerosis). Even with these conditions, there has only been around three prescriptions of medical cannabis prescribed on the NHS. Currently NICE (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) say there is not enough evidence on cannabis to treat chronic pain.

What’s your relationship with cannabis like and what are your preferences when using it?

I have never had any problems when using cannabis and have found it has helped me in many ways. The oil I have is 0.5mls, three times a day and I can also have up to 1g of cannabis flower to vape daily. I always vape this, and the amount I use a day will change depending on how my pain is. 

When did you first become interested in cannabis?

I became interested in cannabis approximately around 2018. It was something I had been talking about with my dad, and we then went to Green Pride in Brighton. At the time I didn’t know too much about cannabis, but had heard it had helped people so that’s when I started to do more research. A private prescription was too expensive and so I had to wait until 4Project Twenty21 started up. 

How does weed help your conditions and how does using it compare with conventional prescribed medications?

The flower has really helped my pain, and I have been able to come off high doses of opioids. At one point, I was on 7.5mls of Oxycodone liquid, six times a day, and I was on 10mg Oxycodone tablets in the morning and 20mg at night. The oil has also really helped my mental health, due to it being a higher dose of CBD. And when I ran out of the oil at one point, I noticed a dip in my mental health. My health has improved in other ways also. I am able to sleep better and no longer need sleeping tablets. My gut issues improved and it’s also helped my chronic migraines.

Have you tried CBD supplements and what was your opinion of them?

I have tried CBD oil in the past as well as CBD liquid that went in a vape. I never found much improvement with these. I am unsure if these were full spectrum or not.

In Ireland, CBD businesses adhering to the EU law of selling products with less than .2% THC content have been enduring raids from Irish police, who do not yet recognise this law in the Irish legal context.

How has the sale of CBD been treated in the U.K? 

I believe labelling had to change on full spectrum products. There was also a café that sold CBD products, however they were raided and ended up having to close and also lost all their product. I do still notice shops selling CBD products, however I am unsure if these are full or broad spectrum.

Do you know a lot of people who use cannabis?

I know of a few people who use it recreationally, but I know more who take it for medical reasons, due to meeting them online. Some of these people have a prescription, turn to a dealer, or grow it themselves. I also have had friends coming to me asking how they could go about getting a prescription due to problems with medication or doctors wanting them off pain medication, in the hopes that it would also help them.

Do you see the UK government making further reforms on existing cannabis laws in the near future? Do you think that those in power now will make this happen? 

I’m not sure if it will happen in the near future, although i would like to hope it is coming soon. I don’t think it will happen under those currently in power though. I have had contact with my own MP who tells me that it’s already on the NHS and that it’s not an issue for the government to get involved in, it’s down to NICE. She isn’t interested in hearing what we have to say and I feel this is the same with many of those currently in power.

Do you ever feel unsafe getting illegal cannabis in England?

I have only ever had it from a person I knew before I received my prescription. I feel like if I received it illegally, I would need to make sure I trusted that person enough to make sure what I was getting was safe and not something synthetic or laced with something such as rat poison. I would be happy growing it if I knew how to.

Do you think British cannabis culture has changed much over the years?

I think there are more people accepting of cannabis use for medical reasons, especially with everyone sharing their stories of how it’s helped them. However, I still feel like we have a long way to go as there are still some people who are anti-cannabis, as they feel like it has no medical purposes and is dangerous.

Do you think the dissemination of cannabis research is reaching the right people?

I think we still have a way to go to get the research out to the right places. While there is some good research going on, we also know that cannabis has been used for thousands of years, but this doesn’t seem to get counted into the research. Research is also going into oils rather than cannabis flower, as it’s believed it’s easier to manage the prescriptions this way. For a person with chronic pain, something like the cannabis flower would work better as it’s something you can take as and when you need to, like you would with opioids. My fear with only putting us on oil is that we can only have it at set times, leaving us in pain in between doses. I also feel more Doctors need knowledge on cannabis. I had one GP tell me that many people find cannabis helps much better than opioids, but went on to tell me that he wasn’t allowed to tell me that information due to it being illegal. After he left, I spoke to my new GP about it and she always seemed against the idea, due to a lack of proof from NICE showing that it worked. She wanted me off of my opioids, so I told her I would only do so when I have a cannabis prescription. She is now really happy to hear how well I’ve gotten on with cannabis and was able to help me come off my opioids quickly.

Thanks for your time Milly, all the best!

References:

1 For more information on dissociative seizures, see this link –

https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/diagnosis/dissociative-seizures-non-epileptic-attack-disorder-nead/

2 For general information about EDS (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome), visit – https://www.ehlers-danlos.org/

3 Interview with fibromyalgia patient and activist, Adrienne Lynch

https://greenlensblog.com/2021/01/15/adrienne-lynch-3pm-09-01-2021/

4 The official Project Twenty21 website can be found here – https://www.drugscience.org.uk/project-twenty21/

Caroline Barry | Nottingham, UK | 13.05.2021

Caroline Barry is an Irish journalist based in Nottingham, England. She writes for 1The Cannavist and 2Vapouround magazines on vaping, CBD and cannabis. With over 13 years of experience as a journalist, she has worked in radio and written for publications across the UK, Ireland and the US. She has written about LGBT+ rights, culture, politics and music. She is currently working on her first non-fiction novel about neurodiversity and relationships. 

Twitter:  @carolinedebarra /

Instagram: @penny_dreadful_x



When did you first become interested in make-up and fashion?

I started in fashion and beauty journalism in 2008 when I created my blog, 3Miss Penny Dreadful. At the time, there weren’t many Irish fashion bloggers out there, so it started to build up a lot of followers and attention from brands. I was also working as a make-up artist at the time in Dublin and Galway too, so I combined my skills as a creative writer and an MUA to make the blog interesting and fresh.

When you began your blog in 2009, did you have a strong sense of wanting to pursue a career in journalism or did it start as more of a hobby?

It started as a hobby! I was a broke art student in Limerick who couldn’t afford to buy all the lovely clothing I saw in shops and on the catwalk. I hadn’t thought about writing as a career but the more I wrote, the more people kept saying they enjoyed what I was writing. My work in art college started to become more text-based too, in the form of poetry and performance art. When I moved to Dublin in 2009, I didn’t know what to do with myself. The blog was getting insane attention from brands and PR companies with the readership figures in the thousands, then millions. I walked into an MA degree open day for journalism one day, on a whim. I realised that it was exactly what I had been looking for. I’ve never had anything career-wise suit me more than journalism. I love it.

What are some of your favourite fashion collections or events that you’ve covered?

Although I was so passionate about fashion and beauty, I actually ended up working in a lot of different types of journalism. I am currently working in vaping, CBD and cannabis journalism in the UK which is totally different. I’ve reported on sports events and general elections too. I think my favourite events that I have covered have been the ones where I’ve had a personal connection to them. I was invited to the Irish embassy in London to cover an Irish fashion event there in 2013/14. It felt so surreal to be there as an Irish person in the UK. I was so proud. I covered London Fashion Week too, which was wild. I’ve also interviewed some of my favourite bands and designers, such as Band of Skulls and Peter Pilotto.

Are there any cannabis-themed fashion collections or brands you’d recommend? (A very niche question, I know!)

Niche, but I can actually recommend one! I am passionate about water wastage and the environment. I started moving to ethical denim about two years ago, because our current denim obsession is out of control and dangerous. I came across 4Canvaloop jeans when researching a piece for The Cannavist magazine on hemp clothing. They are an Indiegogo campaign that actually raised a huge amount of startup funding to make jeans from hemp. They have some gorgeous styles. Also, there is 5DevoHome making faux fur from hemp, which is biodegradable as well. It’s unreal how adaptable hemp actually is. 

What was your favourite aspect of presenting The Indie Show on URN (University Radio Nottingham)?

I moved into presenting after a long period of working behind the scenes on radio stations in Ireland. I had been with Newstalk for a while, working on shows such as The Eamon Dunphy Breakfast Show among a few others. I had also appeared on Newstalk a few times to talk about LGBT+ rights. I loved working on The Indie Show because it gave me the freedom to play my music as I wanted to. Prior to this, I had a breakfast show with another station which I had to play chart music for, which destroyed me a bit! I am one of the chattiest people, so having my own show gave me the freedom to talk about music, play amazing records and chill out for a few hours. I do miss radio terribly. 

When did you first develop an interest in cannabis?

I started smoking cannabis recreationally, as we all do. I wasn’t into drinking as a teenager because I didn’t like how it interacted with me. I have ADHD, which cannabis helped. Although I didn’t realise that as a teen, I just thought I was being a rebel. I smoked on and off for years as an adult too, during my art college years. Although I didn’t start researching or being interested in it until I joined The Cannavist in 2020. I had been taking CBD oil for anxiety, but working on the magazine opened my eyes to how cannabis could potentially be helpful for ADHD and other conditions.

What’s your relationship with cannabis like and what are your preferences with it?

My relationship is fractured. While I recognise that it really does help me, I am less than thrilled about how I have to access it. Prohibition means that I cannot access it easily. I am forever worried about my safety when it comes to finding someone who can supply me. I worry that I’m going to get arrested, attacked or caught with it. I also worry about what I’m being given. I’ve recently moved to a new area, so I’m stressing about finding someone to help me. Which means, I only have CBD at the minute. While I love CBD for anxiety and keeping me calm, it doesn’t do what THC can do for my ADHD. I would love to be able to go to a nice shop, chat to a professional, choose my choice and have a relaxing experience where I know I have enough to last me. So while I love cannabis and CBD, I’m not thrilled that I’m forced into breaking the law to access it.

Do you use weed from a more recreational or therapeutic point of view?

I think we need to look at all cannabis as therapeutic. I use it to calm myself after a day where my ADHD is making it difficult for me to relax or sleep. We all have a certain level of stress either on the body or the mind, especially after the absolute hell that was 2020, so cannabis can help us to relax and heal. I’m working on changing my language around cannabis, in that I try to no longer refer to ‘medical cannabis’ or ‘cannabis’. I see why medical cannabis is trying to distance itself from the recreational side in terms of stigma, but really, we all have the same end goal. We want to see it legal, safe and accessible.

Do you see the current Irish government reforming Ireland’s cannabis laws?

I will say never say never. I once believed, as a gay person who can get pregnant in Ireland that I would never see gay marriage or abortion legal in this country. I campaigned HARD for both and I still occasionally cannot believe we got it. I can’t see Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael getting up to do it without the same level of noise, pressure and campaigning that went into the years leading up to those referendums. They have no interest in it because they don’t understand it, and why change it if they keep getting voted in? I think we have some huge problems in this country that are going to make it hard for FF/FG (and the Greens) come the next election. Cannabis will be one of them and the housing crisis is another. But I will say nothing will get done without people coming forward to say: “I use it and I want safe, legal access.” 

Do you know a lot of people who use cannabis?

I do. As part of my role as a journalist on The Cannavist, I interview a lot of people in the UK, Ireland and the US who use cannabis. This could be legally, illegally, THC or CBD for a lot of different conditions. The stories are heartbreaking each time and the pain is very real. I’ve spoken to people with 6endometriosis or 7fibromyalgia who cannot get out of bed, but cannabis has given them their lives back. The government needs to hear the same things we do and realise there are a lot of people in serious pain. I defy them to hear it and not realise we need to have a serious talk about legalisation.

Do you ever feel unsafe getting cannabis, due to its illegality?

Yes. Constantly. As a genderfluid LGBT+ person, I feel very worried about the places I may have to go to get access to it. I constantly worry if I’m approached about what I’m getting, or who is approaching me. I’ve had negative experiences in the past with accessing it. I live in a slightly rough area, so there are a lot of dealers locally, but I worry about accessing it in my area because it’s on my doorstep. 

What do you miss the most about home?

My family. I miss them so much. While technology is great now and I’ve got more access than I ever did, it doesn’t replace actually being there. On a more random level, I really miss home in terms of language and culture. I can get so tired explaining what ‘the press’ or ‘craic’ or ‘arrah go on away like’ means to English people. I’m very lucky in that both of my editors at The Cannavist and Vapouround are Irish, so that helps with the homesickness!

What do you NOT miss about being back home?

The housing crisis. I emigrated in 2012, when I realised that there was no future for me in Ireland because of the recession. It was the highest year for emigration that year. I really want to return in the future, but I can’t see myself being able to do it. I bought a house in the UK and have a career in journalism here. I could never do that back home. I would need to be near a city to do my job, which means renting, because I could never afford to buy. Irish media is impossible to get into full time, which is part of the reason I left. I hate that I have a house here instead of back home, where I could be near my family. Especially this past year, where it’s impossible to travel.

How do you see UK-based cannabis activism faring in the near future?

I would like to see campaigning for easier access here. I think we know it has to happen but so far, it’s slow. I would love to see the UK relax and embrace cannabis the same way that the US has done. I don’t think that it is going to be easy, but I think the UK is ahead of Ireland in some respects. I think it’s going to take grass roots activism here too, to get the dispensaries and safe access we want. I think with recession, recovery and post-lockdown funds needing to be generated, we could be close to it. If the UK looks to the US in terms of tax generated and an entire industry created, then we could be close. I’d love to see the UK get organised to draw attention to it.

Thanks so much for your time, Caroline!

References:

1 The Cannavist magazine – https://www.cannavistmag.com/

2 Vapouround magazine https://www.vapouround.co.uk/

3 Caroline’s old blog, Miss Penny Dreadfulhttps://misspennydreadful.blogspot.com/ 

4 Canvaloophttps://www.canvaloop.com/ 

5 DevoHome – https://www.devohome.com/en/store/

6 Interview with endometriosis patient and activist, Aimee Brown

https://greenlensblog.com/2020/12/30/aimee-brown-20-12-2020/

7 Interview with fibromyalgia patient and activist, Adrienne Lynch

https://greenlensblog.com/2021/01/15/adrienne-lynch-3pm-09-01-2021/

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!

Emily | 23.03.21

Emily describes herself as a 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 of how she has tackled these conditions and how the Irish system has failed her on many occasions by not providing her with adequate care. She also describes how cannabis has significantly changed her life, by doing what conventional medicines couldn’t. Twitter: @lilithlunalou

Hi Emily, firstly thanks so much for devoting some time to speak to us.

Can you tell us a little bit about who you are?

I’m 24, I live in County Cork.

When did you first find out you had a Desmoid tumour?

After my last surgery, my abdomen became unbearably itchy and it wouldn’t go away. Then lumps started to form. I kept going to my Doctor, [redacted], to seek further help. He told me it was just the stitching that needed to dissolve. He had previously told me it would only take a couple months for the stitches to dissolve. Four years later, after many hospital admissions, being in constant extreme levels of pain and lumps getting bigger, I finally got them to take a scan and biopsy. I was 21 or 22 when I found out I had two Desmoids. I possibly have a third one as I’ve a third lump, but they are refusing to look into it. 

Why won’t they look into the possibility of a third Desmoid tumour?

My case always gets overlooked. My partner wants to go to the newspaper or radio station with how I’ve been treated over the years. They just don’t seem to care. I keep asking my GP to ring them or email them and she keeps saying: “They haven’t gotten back to me. That probably means they didn’t find anything sinister”. Yet when I question the multiple Oncologists, I see they always act puzzled and ignore my question about the third lump. I never seem to see the Oncologist that was assigned to me, Doctor [redacted]. Women don’t get taken seriously by Doctors, especially if they are autistic. Whenever my partner comes in with me, I get treated with respect. If I go to appointments with another female, or by myself, I get ignored and rushed out the door. They give little information and little to no help with issues.

I’m very sorry to hear that. It’s disgraceful to be treated that way by anyone, but especially by medical professionals who have a significant influence on your health. When did you discover that you had Familial Adenomatous Polyposis?

I discovered I had FAP at age eighteen. It’s hereditary. We knew at a certain age that we would need a scope to see if we inherited the same condition as my dad. 

When were you diagnosed with Asperger’s, and anxiety, respectively?

I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at age eleven or twelve. I suffer with anxiety through trauma that I’ve experienced and have not been diagnosed with anxiety disorder. 

Have you attempted getting a diagnosis for your anxiety disorder before?

(If so, why do you feel that they were mistaken by not diagnosing you with one?)

I’ve tried to get properly screened for diagnoses and every Psychologist keeps telling me they are not quick to diagnose any more. It’s been over ten years I think, I’m overdue a screening for diagnosis. Emily laughs They keep telling me you may have (specific condition). Then I get told I don’t have it. And then I get told I may have (specific condition) again. I got treated very badly in [redacted] in Dublin, while under the Consultant, [redacted]. They wouldn’t allow me pain medication for my tumours.

I had my GP send a prescription letter and all my medical history to them before I even went up for admission. I was there four months and three out of those four months, I had no pain relief. That is only the tip of the iceberg of how I got treated there. As a result of how I got treated, I have no desire to seek help from Psychiatrists and Psychologists any more. 

That’s terrible, I’m so sorry to hear that your trust has been broken like that by psychological professionals. I hope others will handle your needs better and treat you with the respect you deserve, by listening to your feedback. Do your conditions affect you significantly on a day-to-day basis? Can it vary?

Yes, I’ve other conditions such as Schizophrenia and BPD (Bipolar Disorder) which interfere with my social life greatly. Before Covid, I spent most of my time in my room. I didn’t function, I didn’t shower, eat or sleep. I merely existed. 

What’s your view on the existing resources available in Ireland for Asperger’s Syndrome?

Are there enough help and resources out there for people with Asperger’s in 2021?

¹Aspect is a very good government-funded organisation. They have key workers that get assigned and best suited to us. They help with whatever you struggle with, or they can simply just listen if you need to vent. Aspect is amazing and has been the only constant support.

What kinds of treatment have you been prescribed for your conditions, and how successfully have they worked for you?

I’ve been prescribed various different antipsychotic medications and antidepressants. All they did was make me gain weight and sleep all day. I’ve an eating disorder as well, which made the gaining weight part very traumatic for me. As well as it has made my legs swell up and walking now feels like walking on glass or pebbles.

When did you first become interested in cannabis?

My partner smokes it for his pain. He’d be on the couch not able to function properly if it wasn’t for cannabis. He kept trying to convince me that it would help me. I kept trying and nothing worked. The odd time we’d get something that suited me. We discovered I have extremely low tolerance for THC. So now I only use CBD products with low THC.

When did you start to consider using cannabis therapeutically/medicinally, and how has using it in this way helped you?

I’ve tried it on and off for various different reasons. Summertime last year, my partner got ²Orange Bud. But it was very low in THC, so I tried some and to my amazement I felt normal. My mind wasn’t racing, I wasn’t constantly panicking. I was able to eat without getting sick. I could walk without feeling like I was walking on glass. Any pain I had, physically or mentally, it either went away completely or it was at a very manageable state. I got quality of life back, which is amazing.

That’s incredible, I’m very pleased to hear that. How have conventional medications helped with your conditions, compared with cannabis?

Other medications either made me worse or didn’t do anything at all. Cannabis has vastly improved my life. My own family has said there’s a huge difference since using it.

What’s your viewpoint on the Medical Cannabis Access Programme?

I think it’s great. They need to add all health conditions to the waiting list. I think it should be legal and regulated now, so our sick, including myself, can have safe access. I think we should do it the way Holland has done it. Legalise it, regulate it. Let people grow three, four plants at home. They should keep it illegal for dealers to sell it; only legal businesses can sell it. That way there’s no sprayed or chemically-grown cannabis being sold. Only the natural plant being sold. 

How important is the full legalisation of cannabis in Ireland for you?

Very important! (Without it) I wouldn’t be able to walk into town. I wouldn’t be able to leave my house to do simple things like shopping. I wouldn’t be able to do basic house work. 

Do you believe it can happen organically in Ireland, or will we need to see cannabis reform in the UK before it’s taken seriously here?

Not 100% sure. I think our government will probably wait till England follows suit with the States and Amsterdam, before they’ll take it seriously. I personally think Ireland should take note from Amsterdam. Also, I’m sure the EU has already acknowledged cannabis as a medicine, so Ireland can only refuse for so long. 

Emily, thanks for chatting with me. I’m glad to hear that cannabis has benefited your life and I wish you all the best moving forward.

References:

¹ For more information about Aspect, check out this recent Evening Echo article:

https://www.echolive.ie/corkviews/arid-40236755.html 

² To learn more about the Orange Bud strain, see the following page on Leafly:

https://www.leafly.com/strains/orange-bud 

Mark Jenkins of Releaf Cafés | 23.02.2021

Mark opened the first ¹Releaf artisan café in Clonmel, County Tipperary in 2018 and later opened a second premises in Dungarvan, County Waterford. They offer regular barista style coffees and also sell ²GreenWay CBD-infused coffees and Calm drinks, alongside a range of CBD and hemp products, including edibles. Here Mark speaks with Richard about recent raids at his cafés, as well as ongoing efforts to raise more awareness within the Irish justice system about current EU law surrounding the sale of CBD products.

Twitter: @releaf19 / Facebook: @releafire

When did you first become aware of the health properties of CBD? I’d been interested in it a long time. More cannabis as a whole, rather than just CBD. I went more into the business side in 2014. I started researching and looking at it as a business. I started a Business Management course in WIT (Waterford Institute of Technology). We were given an assignment to research a business and they told us to go outside the box. So I started looking at the different things that are coming on the market; CBD, the cannabis industry. That’s how I got into it. That’s what pushed me into this industry more than anything else. 

When did you first think of opening Releaf café? From being in college, as I am also a Development Chef, so this industry was what I knew. 2018 was the year when I first opened in Clonmel, on January the seventh. The same day I opened the restaurant at the Department of Health HQ, where we also served hemp on a weekly basis, which got some very good conversations going with the staff of DOH.

How many times have your cafés been raided by the Gardaí? I’ve been raided five times in the shops; four times in the Clonmel store and once in Dungarvan. Now, I’m only open four months in Dungarvan, not even. And last week was their first time there. Like that, they’re in and out quick, they don’t really know what they’re looking for. They took hemp capsules and hemp oil on me the last time. The EHO (Environmental Health Officer) even wrote the labels with us. I asked why the Garda was taking them and she said: “Because it’s made of cannabis.” Are you not gonna take the bags? You know, a bit of raw cannabis?

So they’re not consistent in what products they’re raiding, they’re just taking different things. No, very random. They can’t even test the oil at this stage. They’re only testing the flower. If you send it up to the Phoenix Park forensics labs, they won’t test oil. One of the Guards told us it’ll ruin the machines. Were the four raids at the Clonmel premises spread out over much time? You might not see them for about four or five months. Then they’ll come in again. They’ll say they came in and caught someone with some ‘other stuff’ and that they got it from us. They’re kind of stuck themselves, it looks the same. I think they need clarification as much as we do. I can’t blame them, they’re doing their job. If the man at the top is telling them they have to do it, that’s why they’re doing it.

Would you say that most of the raids happened more recently, or were they always happening? The Guards don’t know about the newer EU law. At the last raid, we asked a Garda if he knew about the new ³EU law and he said: “What are ya on about?” And we handed it to him and he read it and said: “Oh, that’s an interesting one now. I must read up on that.” And that was it! But then the Guards in Clonmel were more (like): “It’s Irish law. We’re not dictated to by the EU, it’s Irish.” And they don’t really know either.

We kind of are though, the EU law supersedes Irish law. Yes, but it has to be implemented into Irish law. So unless they interpret it, Irish law says this. It’s just the Irish way, it’s written in the book. That’s the way it is.

Has your home also been raided? Yeah. We were at the cash-and-carry one day and our neighbour rang us: “The Guards are after ramming in your front door.” So we got my mother-in-law to come up (to the house) and just wait while we came back. And they were inside the house, raiding. Were they there for long, did it disturb much of your day? We were in Waterford city. And we live in Lismore. So it’s about 45, 50 minutes away. And they were still in there searching the house when we came back. So they were in there a good hour and a half, before we got the call.

Are you aware of many other small CBD businesses suffering from raids? Yeah, I’d be well aware of a few others. There’s a guy who got handed five Section 5s and five Section 15s (charges relating to offences listed under Sections 5 and 15 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977) last week. Another (owner of a) store got collared with flower, coming back from his store. But they’re tryna make a big thing out of it. They sent Guards out to him from the city centre, and this is a country place. It was kind of like: “Ye’re big criminals, ye’re drug dealers.” We’re not! They had armed response brought to his house as well, to do a search. They’re going a bit too far now.

It seems like a concentrated campaign at the moment, with all the small businesses. Like that, none of us have been brought to court for a while. And now it’s like every one of us is going into court. We’re all getting these warrants or charges put in front of us. (Mark has since confirmed having received another two charges, on the fourth of March). Within the next four months, I’m up on each different raid. So each case is starting every month.

It must be affecting you quite a bit financially if they’re raiding a lot of stock. The way I see it, you didn’t go into this business not knowing this was going to happen. We all knew that it’s a grey area. It’s a tough one to take, but I classify it as a saving account. I have no plan on losing in court. Legal bills, they’re mounting up. But at the end of it all, will it be worth it? That’s the end game. Get it through. Get it in writing from the court. I’m going for it. My next day in court is the 23rd of March in Clonmel court. I should have forensics back. Then it’s up to the Irish courts to say: “Right, are we accepting that your forensics are true?” What way is the State going to respond to this? If they say no, I’m guilty, then it’s Europe (the Court of Justice of the European Union). 

Have you been in contact with Little Collins or other businesses about the situation? I’ve been talking to Chris Allen (of the HFI) about it a few times, when I first got raided. She’d be very, very knowledgeable about the Irish hemp industry. And I was talking to her again lately. I’ve been talking with two shops up the country about the raids. Little Collins I’ve chatted to on social media, but that’s it. 

The HFI (Hemp Federation of Ireland) recently released a statement addressing the State’s failure to amend Irish drug law to reflect EU law, which allows the sale of CBD products containing .2% THC or less. Have you heard anything about CBD businesses banding together to take action on this situation? To be honest, I find this industry very dependent on who you are. When I first started in this industry, it was very hard for me to get anything. I had more people sussing me out to see what I was doing than anybody wanting to sell me products. It was very hard to get products at the start. Everyone’s fighting their own battle. I think everyone should come together and fight it and then it’s game on. But until they do that, it’s like: “Lads, we’re all fighting the same battle. We all have the same goal.” We need to go that way.

Arguably, it could get more attention from the national media if a few of you were grouped together. But I understand that’s not a simple overnight thing, people keep to themselves. It’s their business. They don’t want other businesses knowing what their business is. Everyone is getting (stock) from a different supplier, dealing with different people. They don’t want people knowing. Do you see the Irish government taking any meaningful measures to legalise cannabis in the next few years? I would hope so. There is a lot of movement going on in the cannabis industry that people aren’t even aware of. In 2016, Ireland had a cannabis summit and they said we were the best cannabis country in Europe. That was over five years ago. Things must’ve been rolled (along) since then, there is stuff going on. See what way it goes after this whole lockdown of the economy… If they need money, they can tax the people. They need to bring in revenue, but it seems they have to see other countries doing it before they say: “Right, it is a good idea.” You know? Paddyland! Mark laughs

Thanks a million Mark. I appreciate you taking time out to chat with me. No worries. All the best with the upcoming cases! Thanking you. See you again, good luck.

References

¹ The official Releaf website can be accessed here: https://cbdreleaf.ie/ 

² More info on GreenWay CBD (a Waterford company) can be found here: http://www.greenwaycbd.ie/about/ 

³ EU CBD law is conveniently mapped and summarised here, by Visual Capitalist: https://www.visualcapitalist.com/european-cbd-landscape-in-2020/ 

This particular phrase refers to this old D’Unbelievables “Crimebusters” skit: https://youtu.be/Hw3P4SPEfGU?t=112 

More on Sections 5 and 15 can be found on this information page for the

Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977: http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/1977/act/12/enacted/en/print 

Here’s Cannabis News Network’s report video on the Global Medical Cannabis Summit,held at Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin: https://www.cannabisnewsnetwork.com/global-medical-cannabis-summit-dublin-2016-report-interviews/