Anuj : (00:27)
Okay. So today we have Alex Fraser on the show. I'm really pleased we've got Alex here as he is a leading patient advocate for the use of cannabis as a medicine and has been involved in setting up groups such as United Patients Alliance and the Patient Approach. Whilst there's a lot of noise about big companies like Coca-Cola looking at the cannabis sector, that patient stories are at the heart of what's going on and are the key driver in changing the law.
Anuj : (00:53)
So Alex, welcome.
Alex : (00:55)
Hi Anuj, thank you so much for having me on the podcast.. It's great to be here.
Anuj : (00:58)
Pleasure. So Alex, give us a bit about your background actually. You know, what you've been working on.
Sure. 2009, I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease and that sort of changed my life forever. I was only 19 years old just started university. It was the end of my first year of studying music in Brighton and started to have all these horrible symptoms. Yeah. When you first get it, uh, the symptoms, they get hard and fast and you don't have anything, any idea what's going on, you don't know what medications to take to solve it. And for quite a while as well, the doctors didn't really know what was going on. I went to my local gp and they completely misdiagnosed me for quite a while until I really realized what was going on and took my symptoms seriously enough to go see a specialist and really get checked out. Took about two or three months. But in that time, even before I got the diagnosis, someone passed me some cannabis at a party. I was studying music in Brighton. So it was quite a normal thing to be doing at the time and immediately noticed the symptoms that I had been having subside the pain that I had been having. It was so obvious to me that there was more to this. I immediately went and did some research into it, which was difficult first. I didn't, I didn't get very far until I had my diagnosis. I probably found out what was wrong with me and then I can immediately go into let's say Chrohn's and cannabis. How does this all work? And fortunately there was a number of support groups and research. Um, there was a fair bit of Patients testimonials on how much, how much it helped them. And immediately I realized that there was a whole population of people out there, with Chrohn's and also with other illnesses as well using cannabis for great medicinal benefit. And that was an absolute eye opener.. Cannabis wasn't something that was completely new to me at the time.
Alex : (02:32)
It'd been something I'd, always dabbled my way throughout my, my late teenage years at high school. And so to realize that there was actually this whole other side to it where there were a number of very sick people often consuming what up until that point, I thought was probably the same as most illegal drugs in that it's probably not very good for you or you know wasn't something that I was intending to do long term. Yeah. And that took a long time. The research, and really discovering for myself, how it would help me, which included moving away from smoking to vaporizers, taking tobacco out of the equation and looking at oils and extracts as well and CBD and there'll be other things. Otherwise you can, you can utilize cannabis in a more medical way. It took about four or five years to properly fully understand that. And then in 2014 in the summer I met up with a number of other activists.
Alex : (03:19)
One nameless patient called glove French. And together we formed this organization called the United Patients Alliance, which has over the past four years built up until we've become probably the, the UK's leading medical cannabis advocacy group, at least the only one, the leading one that is this running entirely by medical cannabis patients themselves. And for the interest of medical cannabis patients. And over those years we've had multiple spots on national media and we've been back and forth departments to give testimony. Um, when Nick Clegg in 2015 when he was deputy prime minister and we've handed in petitions to to number 10. And it's been very successful in in some ways in terms of promoting the cause and changing attitudes. What sort of pushed me to carry on as a patient myself, I came to the launch night and you know, promoting it and organizing it. I hadn't necessarily decided whether or not I was going to speak on the night.
Alex : (04:10)
It's all very open and an optional. We don't ever want to push sick people into that, into public speaking if they don't want to, but I decided to speak. And it's about a crowd of a 100, 150 people in a church in Brighton and I stood up and talked about how cannabis helped me with my Chrohn's disease and for the first time in my life people are applauded me for talking about using cannabis. And up until that point had been nothing but a stickler and negativity, even from friends who I was consuming it with recreationally, prior to that no one had thought about it as a positive aspect of mine or anyone's life and that urged me on. And I realized that we needed to have a platform where people could talk about this, where this issue could be raised.
Anuj : (04:48)
That's really good, I can imagine a kind of a scene in Brighton is probably more what people would associate with cannabis. And it's interesting that you came to it sort of from a recreational standpoint and realized that it was helping you in, in more ways than just an enjoyment factor. Have you consequently gone on to look into more of the specific types of cannabis that work best for Chrohn's
Alex : (05:14)
Anuj : (05:14)
And how you kind of go about getting that?
Alex : (05:17)
Absolutely. And that's a big, it's just a fascinating topic to, to, to look ou, to talk to different patients with different diseases and learn about what strains are working for them. And for them it's working for them. So I mean, just off the top of my head, some of the more interesting things there is if you have a strain from the lemon haze family, you've got limonene in there. It Is a terpene. But actually you can have some negative effects if you've got MS or migraines or any, any disease where you, you, you have the possibiltity of Migraines, uh, limonene can actually possibly promote those migraines.
Alex : (05:43)
And you will get more migraines, so lemon haze strains are not the one for MS, but that just shows you how much there is still for us to uncover and and learn about this amazing plant and it has all these hundreds of different cannabinoids in it. And I'm very to have been able to try various CBD products and even some CVG which he's holding. A whole new cannabinoid that alot of people may or may not have heard off as, I mean there's loads that we're going to be looking into, but the next peak wants for me personally, or at least for the industry seem to be CVG, CVC and CBN. And for me CVG was a bit of an eye opener as well. It's a weird imbetween, you know, THC, the psychoactive effects. You've got pain relief and other medical effects as well. And you got CBD, which is almost the opposite.
Alex : (06:23)
So think Ying and Yang, very anti psychoactive or anti psychotic as well, and then CBG almost sits weirdly in the middle there. Whereas I felt definitely inebriated than with CBD but not nearly as much as THC and just knowing how to balance between those two, between them and and then bringing CBG into it, is going to change that whole situation again, so we're at a point where you've got THC and CBD as the two main components of pretty much any medical cannabis that you're looking at. And then we've also going to be introducing these other components to what was the one to one ratio is now going to have to be a one to one to one ratio and everything's going to have to get more complicated again. The comparison I make it often to dogs and breeds of dogs. And it's very similar in a lot of ways in that we've evolved together in terms of how we've bred cannabis for certain uses. We've bred dogs for certain uses, so you've got the skunk strains. You might correlate to fighting dogs spread for that more aggressive element and then you could maybe, you know, you've got the soft fluffy dogs that people have in there and you know for just like toy dogs, I don't even know what to call them. That might be more compatibility of CBD only medicines and things like that do you see what I am saying?
Anuj : (07:27)
Yeah yeah definitely one of the things that you said, which I think is really good is it really is not one size fit all and so your lemon haze example is some things that might work for certain conditions might not work for others. I think sometimes the debate gets reduced to a good or bad. It's very rarely binary. Anything in life is rarely binary.
Alex : (07:47)
Well yeah, especially with cannabis where there are so many active ingredients and decisions of the clock, it's going to be incredibly comprehensive. And I think that's partly why end of prohibition is a big factor in what we're talking about there when it comes down to this very black and white. Main reason there is that when people are getting cannabis in the black market, they don't know what it is. So what those people are trying either works or it doesn't work and really, you know, they going to spend a lot of trial and time and trying, you know, 15/20 different strains to find the one that particularly helps their symptoms. So that lack of access immediately in terms of the people consuming it, can change their viewpoint, purely depending on the, that lack of access to the variety.
Alex : (08:24)
And then again from the medical sphere, you've got a whole other side where how'd you fit something so complicated into the medical systems that we already have? And that's kind of where we're at in the UK right now. I think the people at the top are trying to fit in something incredibly complicated and nuanced into a system that is built for medicines that at most have two active components. It's completely unprecedented in terms of the idea that you'd have a herbal medication with 200 active chemicals that we don't fully understand and that you'd be getting that as a prescription. It's a completely new idea in itself and how that's going to work and how that fits is the issues that we were already trying to solve at the moment.
Anuj : (09:04)
Yeah, and the unprecedented nature of it is, well its quite hard for people to wrap their heads around. Thank you for kind of laying out, how you connect to cannabis and how it's helped you. Would you mind if you'd definitely a little bit of elaborating a bit on how it actually helps you.
Alex : (09:20)
So I guess there's going to be a lot of people listening who know nothing about Chrohn's disease. So that's a good place to start. Chrohn's disease is the inflammation of your bowels. So you've got the tubes, that go through you, for your food and for your mouth. Down to your other ends. And uh, at any point in that system, if you think of it as just one long tube with a bunch of slightly larger organs, your stomach and other bits on the side, you get this inflammation on the inside of that tubing, very much like Eczema on the inside of your body. So as food passes through, it's incredibly painful. It causes bleeding.
Alex : (09:49)
Food goes through you incredibly fast if goes through you at all, and doesn't just come out straight away Again. You've got pain, you've got diarrhea, you've got the nausea, you've got vomiting, you've got lack of sleep, you've got huge weight loss. And it's a number of different problems that cannabis can mitigate. And just the beautiful thing about it is that I didn't need any other medication for about seven or eight years. I tried to, I tried pharmaceutical medications, which had horrible side effects, gave me flu, like symptoms all the time, which you know, arguably aren't as bad as the symptoms of Chrohn's, but try working any, any type of job with the flu symptoms all the time. At the time I was working doing door to door sales for an organic fruits and veggies company. You can't sell organic fruit and veg If you're sneezing constantly with snot running down the noise. You don't look healthy, you're not going to be able to sell healthy are you? So then that didnt work out very well. But uh, the cannabis for nearly every single one of my symptoms I described, it's incredibly effective for pain. Obviously there are traditional pharmaceutical pain killers available, but opiates are incredibly negative in terms of the impact they have on your bowels. So, so opiates are really a no go, other pain killers like gambling are often described, but the side effects aren't amazing and they aren't actually that effective for long term chronic pain whereas cannabis is incredibly effective because of this anti inflammatory properties directly reducing the symptoms, causing the symptoms itself as the same time as reducing those pain signals at the same time, introducing my nausea. At the same time, certain strains are helping me get a good night's sleep. Any cannabis with high THC as anyone who consumes will tell you, gives you the Munchies, it makes you hungry, which to most people is it, is it sort of side effects that sometimes is lovely and they get to indulge in some gorgeous ice cream or something and sometimes it's just a hassle than you overindulge and you feel bloated at the same. But for me personally, it was an absolute lifesaver and having something where I could consume a very small amount of high THC oil and then just have the appetite to eat three meals a day, there's probably made all the difference between, I don't know where I'd be without it. I really don't. And I often speculate where would I be in terms of my mental health if I hadn't had the relief from all the pain.
Alex : (11:46)
And it's incredibly painful. People compare the pain of Crohn's disease to childbirth. So if you imagine that 24/7 every time you eat anything, it's a really horrible disease. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. Having something that was able to give me that relief, the pain, the nausea to help me sleep and to be able to keep that weight on. And obviously on top of all of this Cannabis has some fantastic anti-anziety and the antidepressive effects as well. All of this, and I hate to think where I would have been without it. You know, you have a very negative thoughts, cross your mind as to what I might have done in those situations If I hadn't had that lifeline. It's not worth thinking about, but I guess doing what I'm doing with advocacy have to think about these things you have to put that out in front of people and say that maybe if I hadn't had cannabis I probably wouldn't be here because I don't know if I'd have coped.
Anuj : (12:30)
Thank you for sharing that.
Alex : (12:31)
It's really starting to get too deep, but it's quite serious.
Anuj : (12:35)
No, no, absolutely. And I mean it sounds like it has an extremely good effect. Chrohn's has an extremely debilitating effect on your lifestyle. So if you've found something that is help to alleviate it and do you use cannabis solely to manage your condition, if that's the right way of describing it?
Alex : (12:50)
So a lot has changed for me in terms of my condition and the last few years. I had a terrible flair up in the summer of 2016 that no amount of cannabis could control and so no amount of steroids could control. That's another drug that I have used intermittently as of course as powerful steroids, time to time when the disease has gone completely out of control and a couple of times that's happily controled the disease and got it back down to the point where after a week of less steroids I can go back to cannabis and not using any serious drugs. But in 2016 I had a very severe flare up and I ended up in hospital and I've now had surgery to remove most of my lower back but that's actually been fantastic. Longterm, it was horrible in the short term, but long term it's actually been a removal of the disease in its entirety and since then I've not had any direct symptoms from the disease.
Alex : (13:34)
But now I have to mitigate and manage what it's like to live with half of digestive tracts, which again, this malnourishment, so losing weight rapidly and again, that that munchies effect is helping drastically and the mental health issues that you have when you've gone through something so extreme. Its been a turbulent time, the last decade for me personally, but through it all and every sort of step of the way, whether it's with the disease itself, through surgery, coming out of surgery and coming off the very serious pain killers that I was given, the strongest cocktail of painkillers you can get from the doctors. And I was able to reduce that drastically, uh, very, very quickly with cannabis.
Anuj : (14:10)
So that's a good segue into my next question. We do patient advocacy. How long, what are the kind of main activities do you guys get upto?
Alex : (14:18)
Oh, all sorts, I mean, I can say I've somewhat transitioned that I'm no longer with the United patients alliance. I'm now working with grow and doing my own thing that uh, against mediary between the typical patient approach, which was my initial consultancy, do pretty much anything I could do in the cannabis industry, but trying to push forward patient voices in that scene. And if I hadn't immediately or recently been headhunted for this role, I was being promoting and trying to bring patients into the industry so they're worth in the industry. And I think that's essential. It's essential that we keep that patient voice. We keep going back to patients and asking them, is this working for you? Is it not working for you? Because at the end of the day, it's entirely about them. It's not about these big pharmaceutical companies so that they are an essential part of the question is not about the politicians allowing it.
Alex : (15:02)
It's about patients and, and relieving that suffering. And if we can't focus on that, if we're focusing on profit and it seems as if we're focusing on trying to fit it into whatever legislation has gone before, then we're going to lose out. It's like an equation. You can't. You've got to focus on that side of the equation and not the other side and that's something that we're trying to ensure as this industry develops that voice isn't lost the most. Industries sort of swarm into the country which is, which has been going on over the past six to 18 months.
Anuj : (15:34)
Yeah, undoubtedly it's, as I said at the top of the show is this, the patient stories are the most compelling and then probably the ones that are going to drive the chain. As it happened recently, your story is a very powerful one, but you as part of the United patients and the patient approach have obviously come into contact with quite a number of other patients.
Alex : (15:52)
Anuj : (15:52)
Thousands. Yeah. Can you tell us some of the more kind of interesting stories? I mean both from a perspective of range of types of people that you've been able to meet and also any kind of crazy lengths of the people had to go to in order to get their medicine.
Alex : (16:07)
Well, yeah, I mean there there's, there's quite a few I suppose examples of that. In terms of the range of different things People are using cannabis for, I could go on and on and on about that. We could sit here and I could list things off as long as my memory will allow it, but yeah, there's any illness with pain involved. People with back pain, people with skin conditions, Eczema, is often missed off the list of conditions and lack of sex drive, which again doesn't sound like a massive medical problem, but in terms of your quality of life it's a huge factor and used to be good for PTSD. You could forget all that trauma, it's good for pain. You're essentially forgetting that you're in pain, whilst on it. It's not that the pain goes away or that it eliminates it entirely. It allows that pain to go to the back of your mind and some not be an issue so you can get on a focus of your day to day.
Alex : (16:52)
In terms of interesting stories, I mean I don't want to get too too deep and upsetting. There was a number of patients who've had pat their doors. I got it. There was a, uh, I won't name any names for this gentleman was multiple sclerosis. He was in a wheelchair as living in Scotland who had his door knocked, he was growing his own plants and he spent a few nights in a cell before they really realize what they were doing to him. They realized that he was using these things medicinally and that you can't really put someone in a cell if they have got MS and they're in a wheelchair which seems absurd. It seems like a no brainer and if people think this isn't still happening, post rescheduling, there's another ms patient who again i won't name who has been a prominent activist, people in the scene will know who I am talking about, has also got arrested recently for growing plants, which is again very distressing.
Alex : (17:33)
to know that this is still an ongoing, this isn't something that was like probably a past thing that is being changed. We're still in that position were very sick people are being criminalized and even if they're not having their doors kicked in, if they are growing, just the stress knowing that that could happen is enough in itself. We should decriminalize that. No one should have to live with that stress in frail people. They're not criminals and they're not capable of being criminals with all due respect to those individuals but they're being treated like criminals, so it's pretty upsetting and you go to meet them and talk to these people and they just, they sort of laugh about it as it's the ridiculous thing. So their baseline kind of tragic, tragic laughter of like, well I just, I, I've sort of come to the end of this road and I don't know where to go from here.
Alex : (18:12)
I'm stuck, I'm criminalized. I'd have no access to the medication. I thought it would help you that, that, that, that, that stopped trying and I've stopped as well. you see I talk to them being like, I'm really sorry this has happened to you, I can try and fight your battles and I could help you with media connections and you can continue to tell the story if it's what you want to do. But again, that's a whole other issue is how do you as as a, as someone with a chronic illness, how do you put yourself in front of the media time and time again, if you've already done it once or twice and its not had the desired effects with the politicians and the legislators in your country, and they are still coming down hard on you. Then why'd you go from there?
Anuj : (18:47)
I should pick up on a couple of things that you said. So quality of life, and I think pain seems to be, pain seems to be something that people are generally much more preoccupied by. and also seems to be a very promising area where this can be used in medicine. I mean we'd be remiss of us to not to highlight that. I can also have some less desirable psychological effects.
Alex : (19:11)
Anuj : (19:11)
Paranoia et cetera. In the whole kind of, it's not necessarily one size fits all. There might be different strains that work for different people, the kind of anxiety reducing effects may, you'd be more synonymous with certain strains compared to others.
Alex : (19:27)
That's the high CBD element there. And you've got, well I call the moonshine effect with prohibition where we've had the people producing illegally in the country and have constantly bred for higher and higher THC content. And then you've got what going to 10 in the bed situation. So that nursery home for children is a 10 and a bed and one of them rolls over. It's like you can only fit so much cannabinoids in that plant, and the more THC you're trying to fit in that the rest of them are getting chucked out of bed. So there's no CBD, well there is virtually no CBD in English history cannabis. Unless you particularly have someone growing it for high CBD content for medicinal purposes, which is very rare. And generally speaking, most people are growing it for themselves. Yeah. Like I say, So what you've got is a huge number of illegal strains that are very high in THC and very low in CBD. And that just exacerbates all those mental health harms and it's not even the THC-'bad' CBD-'good', but it's about that balance between the two
Alex : (20:18)
People talk alot about about CBD being the medical element. That's not true at all. THC is absolutely essential particularly for pain. Uh, and also for depression as well. CBD for anxiety. Toc for depression, which is weird cause often they're not together as a diagnosis and obviously THC for pain and CBD for inflammation, which is like the direct cause of a lot of pain. So against CBD, can help pain in a sort of more long term way whereas. THC is an immediate painkiller. And getting the right balance of them for the individual and their symptoms. Yeah, for certain people you'll want as much THC as you can because they're in a lot of pain. You have other people who were also in a lot of pain, but they have a reaction to the high THC without CBD involved. It's incredibly complicated. And you do need every individual to sort of, it's a, it's a level of experimenting. Absolutely. And it takes a long time for me to find, you know, the strains and also the types of cannabis that really helped me.
Anuj : (21:13)
Well, one of the things that struck me was, I think people often have a, they just, when you, when you talk about kind of is immediately visualize smoking and obviously now with many more CBD products available, but yeah the vaping and different delivery mechanisms, you don't have to do that. So the idea of kind of elderly person smoking a joint is not-
Alex : (21:41)
That's never going to happen.
Anuj : (21:41)
But when anyone is advocating that we know is necessary or is the best delivery method, there were lots of other ways which are less kind of, yeah.
Alex : (21:50)
So you don't have, you don't have most of those combustible materials that essentially are cancer causing, you would get from smoking any plants, whether that's, it's not nearly as harmful for you to smoke cannabis as it is to smoke tobacco cause there's no nicotine and tar, which follows fear in terms of cancer. But yeah, it's definitely safer vaporizing. You could also have more control if you're vaporizing at different temperatures. You couldn't actually go. You can see what temperatures, different cannabinoids and terpenes vaporize out and you can actually, depending on the temperature of the vaping, and you can actually get a slightly different effect as well, depending on what you're actually vaporizing. If there's a high CBD, if it's a good CBD content and you'll notice that at different temperatures, so that's it's worth doing their research into this stuff. I mean, it is well worth doing a lot of research, if you're a patient and in the whole Indica/ sativa thing is another better than a whole nother thing to get your head around how that works, and it's up until very recently, we believe there are two basic types of cannabis.
Alex : (22:40)
You've got Indica, which supposedly comes from a Hindu Kush mountains and a sativa which comes from further north of there in Thailand we believe and they grow very differently. Sativas are tall. There's usually a larger distance between nodules which where the leaves come out. So you've got bushy, a smaller stock. Yeah. Indicus strains with broader leaves in terms of identifying it, but the effects as well generally speaking indica was more sleepy and sativa was more uplifting. However, I mean over the last a hundred/ 150 years, the breeding of cannabis has got into such an acceleration that the strains that we have nowadays all a hybrid mix and then when you look at the strange now being Bred, when we test them for, for their actual cannabinoid content, it varies so drastically. There's no consistency. Products even in legal market site such as California are not necessarily what they're labelled as.
Alex : (23:30)
And I don't think that's because they're intentionally trying to mislabeled them. I think it's just because the plant itself is so consistent. That sort of fantastic talk for the Guy called Donna Haze who works Bedrocan and bred alot of their original bedrocan strains. Bedrocan is actually the Dutch pharmaceutical company making cannabis and he basically made the point that you can grow a plant, just one plant, you know, and at different sides of that same plant. You could get a clone of cannabis from one side and on the other side of the plant, test them and they'll have completely different cannabinoid ratios. We're sort of getting around these things, but it can involve a new system to think about it in a new way.
Anuj : (24:06)
So it's complex isn't it?
Alex : (24:09)
It's so complex. That's the big takeaway from this podcast. Cannabis is bloody complicated and like I say this is a fantastic organization and pharmaceutical companies and also sort of biotech companies doing all sorts of great work to try and resolve all of this complication and make it work. And I personally don't think it's going to work unless we create a new system, a new category of medications specifically for cannabis and cannabinoids medications.
Anuj : (24:34)
And that is a really, really fascinating topic. Probably one could fit into another show. If we can just go back slightly in terms of patient stories, the most prominent one of last summer, Billy Caldwell and um, which was a significant factor in changing the law. Have you, have you got any stories from your, your patient advocacy work involving parents because you know, whether we like it or not, those are the stories that seems to have the biggest impact- it's sick children. Have you got stories of the lengths that some parents have had to go into in order to get their children medicine?
Alex : (25:09)
Well, I think, yeah, I mean it's sort of should go without saying that obviously we've spoken to parents who've been growing medicine for their children and that in itself is a ridiculous risk to go through and ridiculous lengths to go to for your child to be well. the situation with Bily Caldwell is He's been actually forced back into Canada to be able to have his medication there. Only up until very recently, he has been given green lights come home or to have his medication. It's issued by a pharmacy here. So I mean that is, that's perfect example. When we were running in the United patients alliance, we sort of stepped away from the patient and chart side of things. A lot of what we were doing was trying to push patients to talk to the media and we didn't feel particularly comfortable pushing parents to do that.
Alex : (25:50)
And I think it was timing with the Caldwell campaign that made it such a success but also how well it was run and I credit to Steve Moore and families for access to medical cannabis were involved and all of the organizations who were behind that campaign and the wonderful people who run that campaign alongside Charlotte Caldwell.I think a big factor of it was the timing. I think if you'd have done it a couple of years, there might have been an outcry about children using cannabis and We do get that. I see that children using cannabis is obviously a bit controversial, but I think people understand medical cannabis so much faster now because of the changes we've had in the USA and Canada and other parts of the world as well and how that has changed mindsets. And I'd like to think that United patients alliance and all of that was a big part of the UK as well.
Alex : (26:36)
And changing those mindsets, at least with politicians and with the general public as well. And then TV shows, I can't remember was called and I was on the Pat Butcher, she went around the USA. That seemed to make a huge difference as well. And they were so addressed it[ on coronation street. There was a character using medical cannabis as well. Cheryllee Houston is the actress. I can't remember the character's name is. So these are huge, huge factors that have changed the sort of the mindset of the general population and have enabled the campaign like the Billy Caldwell campaign to really gain traction and for that to succeed. Yeah, so I think it is, we never really focused on the children and that is a kind of frustration from my point of view because we, for years we put ms patients in the media, Chrohn's patients in the media, you know, adult patients.
Alex : (27:18)
And I guess it just, the level of empathy isn't there for those sort of things to gain traction quite the same way. It's bad in itself. But I can understand that when you do have a child in the media is suffering in such a way. It's so obvious the level of heartlessness from government. When they had an medication as well and they were like, you know, I don't know how much you know about the nuances is, but they were coming over from Canada to the UK with that medications and then had it confiscated from them, which is absurd in itself. The idea that regardless of the legality of the medication, you just don't take away a medicine from, from a sick child. It doesn't even matter if the medicine is working or not. You just can't stop the medicine like this. Having serious effects, even if it's not necessarily a medicine thats working long term, you still have to Peter out and wean them off that medication.
Alex : (28:04)
You can't just go from being on that regularly to cold turkey, especially if you're a young epilepsy child. The callousness and the heartlessness with which that was done was immediately thrown back out into the media as like how dare they, what is this and that. That really gained traction and really got that change and huge, huge thanks to Charlotte Caldwell and of course Billy for being that poster child and standing up for all of us patients and for doing that.
Anuj : (28:29)
I mean it was, it was unprecedented. The amount of newspaper attention, I think everyday there was a headline and William Hague was in the front of newspapers talking about it.
Alex : (28:40)
So he actually muddied the waters as he tried to push for recreational access, which is just 'shut up William'. Just let us focus on one thing at a time, which is another issue actually. I was going to say something worth bringing up is the mix between and the crossover between medical and recreational. I'm not going to say that they're completely distinctly separate. There is a lot of crossover, especially when we're looking at mental health and general wellbeing. I mean there's holistic preventative methods as well and things like that. So there is a huge amount of crossover, but actually keeping them distinct when you're trying to change legislation. When you're talking to politicians, when you're talking to doctors and the legislation is what distinguishes between those two more than anything else. It's not really about how you're consuming it or obviously what you're consuming, and what for makes a massive difference in pain. But how they, legislate medical products is why we've had to separate medical cannabis out as a completely separate entity from recreational to focus on that, how it's going to fit into a pharmaceutical model.
Alex : (29:38)
And I think lots of people who followed us initially were very upset with the United patients alliance in distinguishing so completely between the two. But if you're trying to get the public on board and politicians on board as well, that clarity was essential. And I can't wait until we have the ability and the access in recreational ( it isn't the word i would use) but the general access to do some of the less hardcore pharmaceutical things that cannabis can. Because it can do so much for people in terms of their overall wellness. I mean people who aren't seriously unwell would benefit massively from using the right strain of cannabis in the right dosage alongside, you know, whatever exercise you're doing. We know it promotes exercise, we know it promotes the oxygenation of the body. We know if we're using it and you're a sportsman and you're involved in rugby.
Alex : (30:24)
I wanted to stay NFL thing cause everything is so American but they use it in NFL and mixed martial arts and we're going to use it in rugby and boxing using CBD and THC as neuroprotective. So you're much less likely to have brain damage when you come out of those even in boxing matches or those rugby games. So it's it's going to have impacts on such a wide range of human life and experience beyond just the pharmaceutical, manner and recreational. I think there is more even in in the middle between those two and I think that's going to be really where cannabis sits and makes itself at home once we have the legislation to do that. But in the meantime I do think priorities. Let's get the patients off the battlefield and let's focus on how this fits in with our pharmaceutical methods, lets focus on educating doctors and health professionals, lets focus on making sure that the most vulnerable in society are the first people to have access and that they have the access that they need for the products that they use.
Alex : (31:18)
That needs to be priority number one.
Anuj : (31:20)
So that really gives a message to sort of round off where we are. Like my final question just coming back echoes what I've been asking people is around .. I guess your reasons for being in this area are more obvious and you've explained it, but did your family have any issue? Did they ever struggle in understanding what you were doing?
Alex : (31:37)
Yeah, I mean, so when I first got diagnosed with Crohn's disease, my dad did some research. The first thing he came back was with was that stuff that you're using, you've, you've got a legit reason for using it now, which I thought was funny, but interesting that he brought that back and was the first person who really externally to my own research or experiences said that this thing is probably going to help you. My mom was, was very against it.
Alex : (31:59)
She'd always been against me using it when I was younger, which is completely understandable and when I first decided to go on TV and talk about it, she was very worried. 'You don't know what you're going to do to your career, your personal reputation, is this something you want to do? Are you sure?'. And by that point I was commited. I'd already started being a massive part of the organization and it just had to be done. It was one of those things where for myself, I knew that this had to be done. I knew that if it wasn't me, I was going to be praying that somebody else was doing this fight. Actually, you know, why should it be someone else? Why should it not be me? Why should I wait for somebody else to stand up and be counted and say, Hey, this is me, I use cannabis and it helps me.
Alex : (32:36)
Why, why should that not be me? And then I think the responsibilty of actually doing that and being that person was, it gave me a purpose in life in a weird way as well. When you get diagnosed with such a serious illness, at 19 years old, your life goes off track entirely. It takes a whole new course and a lot of the things that you plan to do. I was studying music, I was planning to be a touring musician and I immediately realized very quickly that yeah maybe being a touring musician with Chrohn's might be possible. I'm not saying you've got Crohn's disease, you can't do that. I'm just saying that's going to be a lot harder and the strengths and the struggles you're going to have to deal with are going to be a lot more serious, I think it has opened doors for me to talk to politicians.
Alex : (33:14)
It's opened doors, sorts of bumps, surgical companies to the doctors, at a very high profile level and to be invited to conferences and to do what I'm doing, is for me, it's become my passion. It's become what I do and hopefully this will continue. I am only 28 so it's early days. Maybe this won't be my final career for the rest of my life.
Anuj : (33:35)
First of many..
Alex : (33:38)
But let's hope. And I think that's something I'd also, I'd open that up to other people is if you're deeply involved in medical cannabis, even in private life, now is very much the time to come out and talk about it. If you haven't yet. Now it's very much the time to get involved with the industry if you are interested in doing so. I think that there's going to be jobs opening up in the UK and across Europe where they haven't been before in the cannabis industry.
Anuj : (34:00)
And come and talk to me!
Alex : (34:04)
Yeah yeah, like i say, more podcasts,more and more media. Let's keep talking and let's keep that pressure on it because it's like I said at the very beginning, it's far from over- the medical cannabis situation. We've confirmed very few prescriptions in the hands of patients. I'm hoping there'll be more of that very, very soon. But it is a slow game. It is taking us a long time and it's going to take a lot of educating. There's health professionals and we're going to need patients to be involved in that. It's going to be essential to have patients as a voice in this industry. So that's the message. I would like to say you, if you are consuming kind of a medical reasons out there or if there's something that you're interested in, or even if you're a health professional, do the research and then Share the research, with everyone around you. I heard someone describe it as a rising tide raises all ships, and from my point of view it's a tidal wave in the USA and it's heading this way. Let's just get on our surfboards and get ready to jump and ride this wave because, yeah,
Anuj : (34:53)
What a brilliant final message! Uh, cool. Well, thank you Alex. It's, it's been really, really illuminating and thank you for being so candid in sharing your story.
Alex : (35:03)
Thank you so much for having me here. It's just been great.
Anuj : (35:05)
Anuj : (00:27)