#cannabisaficionado

Culture

Carly Barton: Pushing Boundaries as the UK’s First Medical Cannabis Patient

Published

on

Carly Barton
Photo | Carly Barton

Carly Barton was 23 years old when she suffered a stroke. Anatomically, a stroke is caused by a temporary loss of blood flow to the brain. A simple explanation for an event that can alter the course of thinking, sensation, and perception for the duration of a patient’s life. For some, the aftermath of a stroke can lead to visual hallucinations, the loss of speech, or paralysis. Barton’s stroke, however, left its mark in the form of near continuous pain.

Several years later, it was this pain that landed Barton in a peculiar predicament — what does it take to get the National Health Service (NHS) to cover medical cannabis? Medical cannabis was legalized in the United Kingdom in November of 2018. Although a bit behind the times by North American standards, Home Secretary Sajid Javid called for “swift action” after hearing testimonies from patients and caregivers of those with debilitating and life-threatening illnesses.

True to his word, senior doctor’s were able to write prescriptions for cannabis as of November 01, 2018. And yet, only a few dozen patients have received official prescriptions for the herb. One of these patients is Barton, who has been forking over nearly 400 quid ($527 USD) per month. While politicians were moved to action by stories of epileptic children, it was Barton who received the first medical cannabis prescription in the UK.

And getting one was no easy task.

Gone to the Weeds

Pain is not uncommon after a stroke. While the body itself may not have experienced substantial harm, the brain can continue to send pain messages over and over again, like a noxious memory of an assault that cannot be erased. In Barton’s case, nerve damage garnered her the diagnoses of fibromyalgia and post-stroke neuropathy, which are most commonly treated with opiate pain killers.

“I was prescribed opiates in increasing doses for many years,” Barton explains, “and that leads to quite high doses of fentanyl and morphine.” A doped-induced delirium that lasted for six long years — housebound, imprisoned by one loud and omnipresent sensation, pain.

“Despite the fact that I was on opiates I was still experiencing a huge amount of pain, to the point where I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep,” says Barton. “I was in my twenties and I needed help to dress and to cut my dinner up and just do really basic life stuff, and that was pretty horrible.”

Before her stroke, Barton was happily entangled in the spring of her life. A twenty-something art lecturer, she spent most of her time buzzing from welding projects to social affairs, a regular “pocket rocket” by her own terms. Still, even given the longstanding stereotypes about artists and cannabis, Barton was far from a stoner-girl hoping that the plant would unlock some hidden creative talent. “I didn’t think it was really me,” she says.

After the stroke, however, life came to a stand-still. In the years after the incident, Barton found herself stuck in a loop. “I was willing to literally try anything to get out of the cycle of just drinking excessive amounts of oral morphine and being on fentanyl all the time,” she says. It was at this point that a friend suggested that Barton try cannabis, a little homegrown which is illegal to cultivate in the UK.

“I had a lot of ideas, those notions, those preconceived notions about cannabis,” Barton explains. For one, she was worried about how the plant might affect her mental health, given that the herb has a reputation for worsening psychiatric ailments like depression and psychosis. And yet, after trying cannabis, Barton found her world turned right-side round within the span of 10 minutes.

Barton took a few puffs. “I went upstairs and my partner said to me, ‘are you alright?’ and I was saying, ‘something’s missing, something’s odd, something’s off.’ I couldn’t put any words to it,” she says. “And then I realized that the feeling that I had was just no pain.”

“It was so alien to me, not being able to feel any pain in my body, that I was confused as to what was happening. As soon as I realized that I couldn’t feel any pain head-to-toe, that was just like the moment when everything changed.”

“I haven’t touched a drop of morphine since that day.”

Becoming the First Medical Cannabis Patient in the UK

For six years, Barton had been stuck in a haze. Unable to perform simple everyday tasks, she spent most of her time lying in bed or lounging about the house. Cannabis, however, gave Barton her life back. It was time to spread the word. Impassioned by the extent of her recovery, Barton teamed up with other patients involved with United Patient’s Alliance, an advocacy group that services around 50,000 patients that currently rely on the black market to supply their medicine.

Founded in 2014, United Patient’s Alliance acts as a microphone for those who lack access to potentially life-saving cannabis medicines. The group lobbies government officials, provides a platform for patients to share their stories and organizes protests and other events across the United Kingdom. In the years leading up to medical cannabis legalization, advocates at the UPA worked tirelessly to connect patients with the policymakers that make decisions regarding their health.

In October of 2018, United Patient’s Alliance got its first major break — the Home Secretary committed to legalization. Barton, who had been consuming cannabis illegally to self-treat her pain condition, jumped at the opportunity to get a legitimate, legal prescription.

There was one major problem, however. Her doctors aligned with the National Health Service wouldn’t break out their prescription pads. Barton was the first medical cannabis patient in the UK to receive a prescription for the natural medicine. And yet, Barton had to fork over some serious cash for a private doctor in order to access medical cannabis. Even with the money, it certainly wasn’t easy.

“I spent months doing a kind of one-woman clinical trial and marking strains out of ten of the different symptoms and keeping a really thorough pain diary and really almost doing an observational trial on myself to determine what works and what didn’t,” she says. She turned these diligent records over to a private doctor, and it was only then that she received her prescription.

And yet, not all medical cannabis patients have the time, money, and where-with-all to keep such diligent records. “For a lot of patients in the UK who have been to doctors, we’ve had massive issues,” says Barton. “Since legalization, there are posts going up in pain clinics across the UK saying ‘don’t even ask about medical cannabis, we won’t be it to you’.”

UK Medical Cannabis Patients Pay an Arm and a Leg

The state of California first legalized medical cannabis in 1996 with Proposition 215. It took another two decades before cannabis reforms were introduced in the United Kingdom. In what some may see as a cruel bit of irony, the United Kingdom is currently the largest producer of medical cannabis in the entire world. In fact, a report from the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board declares that in 2016, over 95 tonnes of medical grade cannabis was produced in the UK, over 44 percent of the market share.

Unfortunately, none of this cannabis is going toward medical patients throughout the country. Instead, this high-quality medicine is used for research and scientific purposes by pharmaceutical companies. Meanwhile, patients like Barton are required to pay out-of-pocket for newly legalized cannabis medicines imported from Bedrocan, a medical cannabis company based in the Netherlands. Between import fees, the cost of the medicine, and the work with the private doctor, Barton raked up a £2,500 (3300 USD) fee in a three-month time period.

“The cost of it is ridiculous,” says Barton. “The cost of my prescription, just for the cannabis bit, was 400 quid for a month. But, once you’ve added on the import company’s cash that they want to import it here from Holland, that’s an extra £1,000. So, it works out at around £700 an ounce.”

Many patients with serious illnesses already face limited incomes and other medical fees, so the cost for private prescriptions creates a huge barrier for patients all over Brittin. For other medical treatments, the British government absorbs most of the cost via the National Health Service. Unfortunately, however, the NHS is not covering newly legalized cannabis medicines. This is something Barton and United Patients Alliance hope to change.

The biggest hurdle? Financial trusts.

“In the UK, each area has an individual trust and they deal with the funding that happens within that geographical area,” Barton explains. “They put limits on what drugs are going to be allowed to be prescribed within that geographical area.”

The goal of these trusts is to manage costs for government-funded health clinics. The money in these trusts comes from taxation, and each trust faces policy restrictions on the amount of money that can be spent on specific types of medicines and treatments.

“The trusts at the moment are refusing to allow doctors under their area to write medical cannabis prescriptions,” says Barton. “They’re literally terrified of opening the floodgates and there being massive ques and not being able to fund them all.”

Should the NHS begin to cover medical cannabis, patients would be able to access their medicine through government-funded sources. For the time being, however, patients are stuck between sticking with the black market or coughing up thousands for regular access to medical-quality products.

For the time being, the black market still seems like the better option.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Culture

Why Jay-Z’s Stand on Social Justice Makes His Move Into Weed Important

Published

on

jay-z
PHOTO | @JayZ

Rap superstar Jay-Z has announced his partnership with California-based cannabis company Caliva, serving as their Chief Brand Strategist on a multi-year deal.

Per a statement released to detail the partnership, Jay-Z’s duties on the job will include outreach efforts, brand strategy and creative decisions, giving him a further outlet to focus his efforts in “advocacy, job training and overall employee and workforce development.”

In his new role, Jay-Z plans to shine a spotlight on social injustices when it comes to cannabis, particularly in the realm of criminal justice, cannabis use and legalization.

“Anything I do, I want to do correctly and at the highest level,” said Jay-Z in the statement. “With all the potential in the cannabis industry, Caliva’s expertise and ethos make them the best partners for this endeavor. We want to create something amazing, have fun in the process, do good and bring people along the way.”

Jay-Z’s Push for Justice

While it’s clear that the billionaire musician has always been about good business and making money, this is more than just a financial choice for Jay-Z.

Having long been dedicated to social justice initiatives before entering the cannabis business, this is another outlet for him to advocate for and boost the black community in an area they’ve suffered disproportionately, the criminal justice system.

This isn’t his first foray into addressing such issues either.

Jay-Z was named as an executive producer on a series about Kalief Browder, a young black man from the Bronx who died via suicide after three years of imprisonment without a trial, has been outspoken in his support for fellow rapper Meek Mill during his legal troubles and partnered will Meek Mill to launch the Reform Alliance, a group dedicated to criminal justice reform.

When it comes to social justice, this isn’t the rapper’s first rodeo.

A Closer Look at Caliva

Already big fish in the ever-growing legal cannabis pond, the San Jose-based company has a tight grip on the Bay Area’s legal cannabis industry. Carried in over 250 retailers in California and in charge of about 150,000 square feet of space between their cultivation, manufacturing and retail facilities, it’s no wonder the company is Jay-Z’s pick when it came time to ink a deal.

Caliva was all for the opportunity to bring the rap mogul onboard, with CEO Dennis O’Malley heaping praise on the rap superstar in a statement.

“For Jay-Z to seek out Caliva as a partner is humbling and confirms our mission of being the most trusted name in cannabis,” said O’Malley. “To find that we were in complete alignment around our values and ethos was just a home run. We believe this partnership is unparalleled in this or any business and we could not be more pleased to be working with him and have him as our Chief Brand Strategist.”

Celebrities and Cannabis: A Likely Match

While this deal is huge for Caliva, Jay-Z isn’t the only high-profile celebrity to play ball with them. Earlier this year, Hall of Fame NFL quarterback Joe Montana was among a group of investors who locked in an impressive $75 million in fundraising for Caliva.

Montana said at the time that he hoped “Caliva’s strong management team will successfully develop and bring to market quality products that can provide relief to many people and make a serious impact on opioid use and addiction.”

Jay-Z is also one of the many rappers that have jumped on board the legal cannabis money train, joining the likes of Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, Juicy J and Cypress Hill. Smart investors all have their money in the legal cannabis market, and Hov seems to be no exception.

After all, the guy who rapped “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man,” seems like the type of guy who knows a good deal when he sees one.

Continue Reading

Culture

76-Year-Old Calvin Robinson Has Terminal Cancer — and is Still Behind Bars

In 1988, Calvin Robinson received a sentence of life without parole for his involvement in a Bay Area drug smuggling conspiracy.

Published

on

Calvin Robinson
PHOTO | Supplied

I don’t know if you can remember where you were or what was going on in your life 31 years ago. Most of us would have to stop and think about it. But Calvin Robinson remembers it well.

In 1988, Robinson was a tugboat captain on the Intrepid Adventure in the San Francisco Bay. In the spring of that year, under the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, he was arrested for pulling a barge loaded with 43 tons of hashish and 15 tons of marijuana. At the time this was the largest marijuana arrest in U.S. history.

For Calvin Robinson, time stopped that day.

Crime and Punishment

When the dust settled after a drama-filled trial, Calvin Robinson received a sentence of life without parole for his involvement in the drug smuggling conspiracy. Calvin spent the next 34 years working, without any outside help, sending appeal after appeal to the courts. To no avail.

He watched murderers, rapists, and thieves come and go, all of them serving less time then he had been given for a non-violent marijuana offense.

From inside the walls of the federal penitentiary in Victorville, CA, Calvin watched the world change. The marijuana industry was booming. Laws were changing. Public stigma was slowly fading and people were beginning to understand that marijuana is not a harmful drug. The public could even go into a store and legally buy marijuana and hashish!

Yet Calvin remains behind bars.

The Calvary

In 2014, I saw a Facebook post about four men, all part of the same marijuana conspiracy, all serving life without parole sentences for marijuana: Calvin Robinson, John Knock, Claude Duboc, and Albert Madrid.

I decided to send them each a card to cheer them up and let them know they were not forgotten. At the time I had no idea how that one card would change my life, and how it would lead to an enduring and deeply meaningful friendship with Calvin Robinson.

I made a Facebook page for Calvin and asked him to send me a picture. That was when I saw the miracles start to happen.

Soon after I met writer and activist Cheri Sicard, and Calvin not only received more exposure, he found a new friend. Then, attorney Cait Boyce began to help. Then Tracie Gloor-Pike, whose son Lance Gloor’s incarceration for cannabis had turned into a prison activist, joined in.

Calvin was still incarcerated, but for the first time since he had been locked up, he knew he was not alone and he was not forgotten.

Calvin had been battling cancer for five years without medical treatment and it was spreading and getting worse. We started protesting and through a letter writing campaign were at least able to get him transferred to the prison hospital at Butner Federal Medical Center in North Carolina.

Sadly, it might be too little too late, as after having gone untreated for so many years, Calvin’s doctors at Butner predicted his cancer would take his life within 18 months. But if anyone believes in miracles, it is Calvin, whose rock-steady spiritual conviction and large stature earned him the prison nickname of “The Gentle Giant.”

The New Prison Reform Act

In 2016, President Trump passed the new First Step Act. Calvin meets the requirements because of his age, declining health, and the amount of time he had already served. He should have been first on the list for a reduction in sentence.

In reality, Calvin has been stonewalled by the prison system. Despite countless letters and pleas to prison staff, they have done everything in their power to keep Calvin from coming home.

Calvin and I have spoken many times. He knows that the fight for freedom is not just about him. It is about the stigma of marijuana and a judicial system that makes money off every marijuana arrest and conviction.

The bottom line is, Calvin, and every prisoner like him is worth at least $35,000 a year to the prison. They don’t want to lose that money.

There is some hope, however, as Mary Price of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) just wrote Calvin to let him know that his new request for a reduction in sentence is currently in the DC office of the General Counsel. We pray the counsel does the right thing and quickly.

I don’t know what will ultimately happen to Calvin. Maybe he will die in prison. Maybe he will be released, although that would have to happen soon.

What I do know is that over the last five years I have been a first-hand witness to the incredible strength and resiliency of the human spirit and how that spirit can come alive and thrive when its flames are fanned with love.

In essence, at this stage of the game, Calvin’s story really isn’t about Calvin any more. It is about all of the activists and members of the public who have reached into prison to give the only real thing they own: their time, their love, and their concern. That and his unshakable faith in Yahvah is what has kept the Gentle Giant going, even through times of utmost adversity.

Write to Calvin Robinson

If you would like to send a letter of encouragement, please address it to:

Calvin Lyniol Robinson # 83327-011
FMC Butner
PO Box 1600
Butner, NC 27509

Please note, BOP rules only allow for ink and paper in white (only) envelopes. No greeting cards, nothing can be stapled, attached, or glued to the letter, ink and white paper only. Photographs are OK.

We encourage you to follow Calvin Robinson’s Facebook page and support Families Against Mandatory Minimum’s work.

Brad Schluter is an advocate and activist who remains committed to those serving prison time for marijuana.

Continue Reading

Culture

Blunt Talks Brings You the Best and Brightest in the Industry

Published

on

Blunt Talks
PHOTOS | Courtesy Blunt Talks

Legal cannabis is big business. The post-legalization boom following California’s passing of Prop 64 in November 2016 has seen rapid growth in cannabis business opportunities.

With the “Green Rush” have come an unprecedented increase of brands, businesses, and products around the world. In fact, it is predicted that the global cannabis market will be worth $16.9 billion this year.

Events like Blunt Talks bring together the best and brightest minds in the industry to help you navigate these new and exciting waters.

Each month, Blunt Talks host Sam Zartoshty is joined by industry innovators who present insightful “Ted” style talks that focus on networking, education, and creating community. Tonight’s event, in partnership with L.A. Weekly, is set to be the biggest so far.

“We are looking forward to bringing together both newcomers and veterans of the cannabis industry to learn and network in a historical venue in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles,” Sam Zartoshty told us. “With over 350 confirmed attendees, this is going to be our biggest Blunt Talks yet!”

To date, 33 Blunt Talks have taken place in eight cities, with 95 speakers imparting their knowledge. This month’s speakers are Mario Guzman aka Mr. Sherbinski of SHERBINSKIS, Jackee Stang of Quarter Brands, Nichole West of Inclusive Cannabis, Ted Lidie of Alien Labs and Bill Levers of Beard Bros Pharms.

“Blunt Talks is a vital tool to the success of the emerging industry for a multitude of reasons,” said Bill Levers of Beard Bros Pharms. “We feel like it provides a safe, inclusive space that helps networking, education, and collaborative efforts to flourish in a social setting. It gives operators who’ve had to hide for years a chance to tell their stories, and new entries a unique perspective on the industry that you don’t get at large trade shows.”

Head to Blunt Talks tonight, 7 PM – 11:30 PM at Exchange in Downtown Los Angeles. Chef Rudy of Cannabis Catered Events and Chef JJ of Ayur Ras Healing Foods will be serving up delicious (non-infused) treats while Jeff Welsh plays some sweet tunes at the afterparty.

Get your tickets now from Eventbrite.

Continue Reading

Trending

Join The Cannabis Aficionado Community!

Copyright © Cannabis Aficionado