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.
Sex & Sinsemilla: The Pleasure Enthusiast on Using Cannabis to Reduce Pain During Sex
For many a cannathusiast, sex and weed make the best of bedfellows. From helping you unwind and taking you out of your head, to increased sensation and pleasure, for some, the herb can be a natural aphrodisiac. An entire sub-category of cannabis products has been developed to help people enjoy sex more, whether it be to reduce pain during sex or to increase their connection with their partner.
However, there is also research that suggests smoking herb increases orgasm length, raises sperm count, that cannabis improves their experience and people who partake in weed also partake in sex more frequently.
Enough sexy data talk. Valentine’s Day seemed like the right time to debut the sex and sinsemilla advice column from Cara Cordoni, Cannabis Aficionado’s resident Pleasure Enthusiast, who will be answering your questions around cannabis, intimacy and sex, as well as offering up product reviews and suggestions to help you maximize your sexy times.
Dear Pleasure Enthusiast,
I want to have a sexy night with my partner, but I’ve been experiencing pain during penetration. I’ve heard that cannabis can help… can it?
– Sexy ‘n Suffering
Dear Sexy ‘n Suffering,
You’re not alone in experiencing pain during sex — and the first order of concern is to explore the root cause. Has there been an injury? Are you emotionally comfortable and safe? Is there an underlying condition like an infection, endometriosis or fibroids? Have you been to see a medical professional? Understand the source before addressing the symptoms. Once you know what’s up, then yes, cannabis could help reduce pain during sex.
Many of us gals feel pain due to lack of lubrication, which can be addressed with relaxation, foreplay and the use of a sexual lubricant like Intimate Oil by Privvy Peach, Smooth Operator by Quim, Awaken by Foria or Quiver by HerbaBuena.
These lubes combine cannabis, in the form THC, CBD, or both and known herbal aphrodisiacs like passionflower extract to provide pelvic relaxation, increase blood flow and reduce inflammation. Many women experience enhanced sensitivity with these infused lubricants, as well. Quim is aloe vera based and safe with latex, while Foria is coconut oil-based and not latex friendly. Luckily, there are many options on the market in legal states, or with CBD for everyone. I always recommend a patch test before applying to your privates. And if the first one you try doesn’t suit you, don’t give up, try another as each is unique.
I applaud you on your journey of pain reduction and pleasure enhancement.
The Pleasure Enthusiast at Work
QUIM: Smooth Operator
Squirt squirt; a slippery, opaque, white liquid coats on my fingers. Smooth Operator reminds me vaguely of semen, which is both titillating and disturbing. I apply it liberally to myself for a solo test flight. I wait for the 5-7 recommended minutes for the serum to penetrate and take effect feeling hopeful and skeptical. Yet as I read Quim’s elegant pamphlet, the slippery serum feels fantastic on my clit and labia and I notice that blood flow is visibly increased. Everything is gently engorging and I like it.
Foria: Intimacy CBD Lubricant and Awaken
I apply four squirts of Awaken directly to my vulva. I like the smell: it’s faint, the slightest edge of thin mint. The feeling is almost immediate, a coolness, very subtle and engaging, then a warmth. I see and feel blood flow increasing.
I then pour Foria’s clear coconut oil-based lube into my palm — it’s messy, some runs down the bottle. Coconut oil is my preferred lubricant when there’s no latex involved, so this liquid oil feels nice. After some experimentation, I find Foria’s products are super helpful with anal play, where the relaxing and slightly numbing qualities work best.
Do you have a question about sex that you’d like the Pleasure Enthusiast to answer? Get in touch: email@example.com.
New G Pen & B Real Collab Seamlessly Fuses the Best of Cannabis Culture
In these days of uncertainty and social distancing, it’s refreshing to finally see some good news. Two pioneers of cannabis culture, Grenco Science (G Pen) and Cypress Hill frontman B Real have joined forces to launch a range of co-branded products.
“B Real has been a cultural force in both music and cannabis, and together with Grenco Science, we are reinventing the cannabis experience for our customers who have come to expect quality and innovation like only Grenco Science can provide.”
Grenco Science’s new partnership with the critically acclaimed artist and entrepreneur behind Dr. Greenthumb’s Dispensaries will see a line of products introduced to the market, that is set to include co-branded product offerings and fully integrating the G Pen line into Dr. Greenthumb’s Dispensaries with custom build-outs in California.
Cannabis Aficionado’s Guide to a Luxurious Valentine’s Day
Treat yourself or that special someone with the Cannabis Aficionado guide to partaking in a luxurious Valentine’s Day. From precious jewels to pleasuring lubes, silky robes to stylish home decor, the dankest weed to delicious chocolate treats, there’s something for all you lovers out there.
Lovers Edition combines five herbal aphrodisiacs with cannabis to create what they call “the best sex drug in the world.” It’s formulated for both a physical and psychological high, working to increase blood flow while also helping you relax and get out of your head.
This multi-aphrodisiac blend is formulated for people with vulvas, to enhance tactile sensation and pleasure while decreasing tension, discomfort and dryness.
Genifer Murray and Glenn Murray are expert jewelry makers as well as being passionate cannabis advocates. This beautiful sativa leaf pendant necklace is artfully crafted from 14kt gold and is available in a variety of sizes.
Jacquie Aische designs jewelry with the intention of empowering women. Join her tribe with these stunning Dream Catcher Hoops from her Sweet Leaf collection.
The Ganja Urn from Jonathan Adler’s Botanist collection is the perfect bougie scene-stealer — a must-have for all cannabis aficionado’s to stash their secrets.
Maria Valentino is a cutting-edge formulator and leader of green beauty and wellness for conscious consumers. This statement ring from her fine jewelry collection features pave diamonds, emulating the plant’s natural trichomes, and is set in 14k gold.
House of Saka
Toast to love with House ofSaka’s luxurious sparkling pink wine. Based on grapes from Napa Valley’s terroir and infused with the finest craft harvest. The resulting experience is intended to leave the imbiber feeling invigorating, clean and relaxed.
Mario Guzman aka Mr. Sherbinski grows some of the finest cannabis you’ll ever experience. His Pink Panties cultivar is a cross of Burmese Kush and a Florida Kush backcross. It expresses dense, medium-sized buds that reek of tart and tangy citrus alongside a strong floral bouquet.
White Fox on this planet is to formulate, alchemize and create specific effect driven medicine with the intention of showing you your own true greatness. Using a 2,000-year-old ayurvedic formulation, they have developed vape pens to increase your sexual energy and sensitivity.