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

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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.

Culture

Lady Jane Society Hosts First Women in Cannabis Central Valley Retreat

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Lady Jane Society
PHOTO | Stephanie Baker Photography

The Lady Jane Society, a Central California-based event company, hosted its inaugural event for women in the cannabis industry on October 4-5, 2019 at the scenic Bella Forrest venue in Hilmar, CA. Nestled in a private forest located just off the Merced River, the Women in Cannabis Central Valley retreat brought together female leaders, influencers and educators from throughout the nation to the scenic location — many of whom made the trek from Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington state and Florida,

The Lady Jane Society retreat spotlighted the regional Central Valley cannabis industry and featured sponsorships, speakers, and pop-up shops from local businesses such as Legacy Nursery, and Lyfted Farms — both based in Modesto, CA — Sisters of the Valley, Mission Nurseries/Don Primo, and Highway 33 Cannabis Club. Meals were prepared by local eateries Greens on Tenth and Traveling Pizza. 

The event was held in the secluded, magical grove of fig trees, creating a natural, whimsical outdoor setting protected from the elements  lit by sun rays in the daylight and hanging lights in the evening. Dotted throughout the luscious landscape were lounging areas, and vendors offering infused goodies and decked out accessories. 

PHOTO | Melissa Hutsell

Also on site was the multi-media social movement This is Jane Project, Peace of Mind 209, Wind Valley Apothecary, Custom Blingggs, Potency No. 710 skincare, and clothing and accessories from White Buffalo Spirit, Collective Hearts jewelry, among more pop-up shops. 

Attendees were treated to a plethora of infused goodies, which included CBD sparkling waters from DayTrip, THC-infused coffee from SomaTik, pre-rolls from Sexxpot, and a dab bar courtesy of Eel River Organics.

PHOTO | Stephanie Baker Photography

Guests also sipped on mocktails and cocktails from Humboldt Apothecary and enjoyed activities such as Sparked — an interactive card game created to uplift and celebrate women — before ending the first evening with a collective ‘cheers’, made possible by Lyfted Farms pre-rolls. 

The weekend’s agenda emphasized education, networking and the celebration of all who were in attendance.

MC’ed by Kay Ramirez, aka Mskindness B, the speaker series spotlighted community building and women in the supply chain.

Lady Jane Society

PHOTO | Stephanie Baker Photography

The panel included Jennina Chiavetta of Legacy Nursery, who spoke about breeding, genetics and building a canna-company in her hometown of Modesto, Wendy Kornberg of Sunnabis Farms spoke on cultivation, Angela Kadara of MediZen discussed manufacturing, Margot Wampler of Fenix Distribution, Kimberly Cargile of A Therapeutic Alternative talked about retail, Jaqueline McGowan of the Facebook group California City and County Watch spoke about policy, Manndie Tingler of Khemia talked about community building and Scheril Murray Powell, Attorney, who made the journey to California from Florida to speak about civic engagement.

Kyra Reed, co-founder of LJS, said the event was an offline manifestation of what the group has been cultivating on the Women Empowered in Cannabis (WEiC) Facebook group: “encouragement, empowerment through honest dialogue and sharing of resources,” she adds, “all while in a gorgeous environment that made us all feel like we were in a bubble of support that our emcee, Mskindness B, wrapped us in from the moment our guests arrived.”

PHOTO | Stephanie Baker Photography

In addition to the inspirational and educational speaker series, attendees were also treated to some serious swag. Each ticket holder was sent home with a goodie bags with more than $200 in edible, smokable, wearable and topical cannabis products, including pre-rolls by Sexxpot and Lyfted Farms, snacks from MediZen and SolDaze, CBD oil and capsules from Manitoba Harvest, salves by Sisters of the Valley and more. 

As relaxation was at the heart of the event, attendees received the full retreat experience. 

The second and final day of the retreat opened with a Relaxation and Recharge session, complete with breakfast, guided meditation and CannaBliss Yoga with Michelle Patino, and sound healing with Eliza Moroney, the Cannabis Yogi

Lady Jane Society

PHOTO | Stephanie Baker Photography

During the afternoon, visitors were treated to massages, a taco bar, an afternoon of engaging speakers, and pop-up shops selling clothing, accessories and infused goods. 

As the sun started to set on the final evening of the retreat, more women took the stage for The Lady Jane Society’s Award Ceremony. The society’s co-founder, Kyra Reed, presented scholarships to Oaksterdam, and Cloverleaf University. 

The awards ceremony, sponsored by My Bud Vase, recognized leaders and allies. Awardees included Manndie Tingler of Khemia, educator Amanda Soens, and Ed Breslin and Brian Walker, founders of Making You Better Brands, which include Xternal topical relief sprays.

PHOTO | Stephanie Baker Photography

AnnaMaria Riedinger, founder of Hey Honey! Artisanal Lemonades, said she noticed the doors opening slowly for women in cannabis here in the Central Valley, “not only to connect but to own their truth as team players in the local industry and understanding their success depends on moving forward collectively.”

“As co-founder of the Lady Jane Society, I am so honored to be part of making the space and shift for women wanting solid and authentic lasting relationships,” she added. “I truly believe change begins at the local level, and witnessing the change all weekend was the most heartfelt experience!”

PHOTO | Stephanie Baker Photography

The most important thing women took from the Lady Jane Society event, explains Reed, is that women were given “permission and inspiration to ask for what they want! And the results were real empowerment.”

Many of the women in attendance had little to no cannabis community with other women. “That changed at the event, too,” added Reed. “That is what we wanted — to build community and truly empower women to thrive in their cannabis careers.”

Make sure you don’t miss next year’s Lady Jane Society retreat. Save the Date — the first weekend in October 2020.

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Network in Paradise at the CanEx Jamaica Business Conference & Expo

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CanEx Jamaica
PHOTO | Konstiantyn

According to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc, the global legal cannabis market is expected to reach USD 66.3 billion by the end of 2025. Helped in part by the increasing acceptance of cannabis to treat numerous medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, cancer, arthritis, and neurological disorders, along with the lucrative revenue created by legal cannabis sales, there has never been a more crucial time for entrepreneurs and businesses to network and expand their businesses on a global scale.

As one of the leaders in international business-to-business (B2B) events, the CanEx Jamaica Business Conference and Expo brings together top cannabis industry experts from around the globe including the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and the Caribbean.

Taking place September 26-28 at the Montego Bay Convention Center, in beautiful Montego Bay, the fourth annual CanEx Jamaica Business Conference & Expo features addresses, panel discussions and presentations on a variety of topics — from advocacy, cultivation, science and medicine to investment, banking and finance, and the business of cannabis including women entrepreneurship.

Over 70 world-class speakers and panelists will provide insights into the direction of the global cannabis industry to over 3,000 delegates.

Steve DeAngelo, founder of Harboride dispensary and the Last Prisoner Project, is speaking on two panels — “Post Decriminalization of Cannabis: Towards Restorative Justice” and “Strategic Approaches to Cannabis Investments” to how the investment landscape is evolving.

Bruce Linton, founder of Canopy Growth Corp, the first cannabis producing company in North America to be listed on a major stock exchange, will host a fireside chat with CanEx founder, Douglas K. Gordon.

Former President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, will host “The Global Cannabis Movement” that will explore what globalization means in practical terms for the industry, where things stand presently and the future of the global market.

Cam Battley, Chief Corporate Officer of Aurora Cannabis Inc., will be speaking on the panel “CEO Roundtable: Roadmap to Sustainable Profitability for the Industry” to discuss the global challenges and opportunities facing the cannabis Industry.

Plus, over 200 exhibitors and sponsors, from cultivators to investment firms and media experts will provide attendees opportunities for networking, business expansion and identify new areas of growth within the legal industry.

Held for the first time in 2016, CanEx Jamaica is responsible for connecting cannabis experts, researchers, business professionals, creating new strategic partnerships in a truly memorable and vibrant setting.

For more information, visit canexjamaica.com.

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After 25 Years, Supreme Closes Iconic Lafayette Store

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PHOTO | Supreme

In a move that has shocked through the streetwear community, Supreme has closed its original space on Lafayette after 25 years of business.

Back in February, the brand announced that its famous Lafayette location would be under renovation. Now, due to the unforeseen closure, the 190 Bowery location in Manhattan will now be the brand’s main location in the Big Apple.

 

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Celebrating 25 years. Pooky, Lafayette Street, New York City 1995 📷 @suekwon_

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