Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category
I was honoured to be invited to speak at Trinity College this week in a debate chaired by the Irish TD Brid Smith. In July, Ms Smith introduced legislation in the Dáil to allow the use of cannabis and cannabis-related products for medicinal purposes. However, the debate itself was much broader than medicinal cannabis. As I said in my own speech, it was a pleasure to get away from the earnest discussion of science and evidence for a while.
This was my speech.
I get high every day.
This morning, as is my daily routine, I walked to the top of the hill behind my house. Looking south-east, about 15 miles away, I can see the Isle of Portland. Then Chesil Beach sweeps towards me into Lyme Bay. As it curves round in front of me I’m about two miles back from the Jurassic Coast and then it runs off to the west past Bridport, Lyme Regis and, on a clear day you can see right over towards Torquay.
So you can tell I’m pretty high, just because of the amazing view I have. And the view itself makes me high. It inspires me, however many times I see it.
But I’m also pretty high because it’s a steep hill, I’m out of breath by the time I get to the top and my body is pumping out endorphins, endocannabinoids and there’s a surge in dopamine, serotonin and other neurotransmitters, hormones, all of which give me a buzz. They make me high!
Being high is a natural state of mind. It’s something we all aspire to and achieve, every day. So my argument to you is certainly that this house would get high but also that it does get high and must get high, regularly, for good health.
I got even higher this afternoon when I drove to Bristol Airport and then Aer Lingus flew me to Dublin at 16,000 feet. I’m also planning on getting a little high after this debate is finished, as I’m reliably informed there will be a “lavish, themed reception” in the Conversation Room, presumably including a drink or two.
So now we come to the nub of the issue. We all get high, through many routes. Even young children, as soon as they can crawl, start to experiment with altering their consciousness. Soon they are hanging upside down off swings, deliberately making themselves dizzy on roundabouts. As they grow up they graduate to their first sips of alcohol. I hope, as I did, they miss out the dreadful experiment with sniffing glue – and so we arrive at the joint, the dried flowers of the cannabis plant, smoked with the single-minded intention of getting high.
What are these arbitrary distinctions our society makes between acceptable forms of getting high and others that are so condemned that we are threatened with incarceration, in some countries, even worse?
What difference does it make how we get high, if being high is a natural state of mind?
We can smoke a little weed, drop an ‘E’, sniff a few lines of coke, down a few large Jamiesons. Or we can just listen to some amazing music, walk to the top of my hill, go to the gym – or, any combination of these paths to getting high.
Our governments seek to determine how we may get high. Their pretext is that they are protecting us, either from individual health harms or from wider, social harms, such as those caused by street dealing, criminality caused by addiction.
But even a cursory examination of this shows that it is false, it is mythology. Our means of getting high are controlled not by any concern for harm but by the imposition of someone else’s moral standards. This is usually a government minister and his or her personal opinion, often heavily influenced, either by the media, where editors also seek to impose their moral standards or, more sinister, by a vested interest, ‘Big Booze’, that wishes to preserve its one way street, no stopping, no U- turns on its path to getting high.
There’s also the legitimisation of sugary drinks, snacks, sweets, cakes and goodies. I wanted nothing more as a child than to get high off sugar. “And a cake please Grandad?” was my childhood refrain that I am still teased with today. But sugar causes tremendous harm and apart from pious, preachy health warnings, it’s all OK because our government says so.
It’s also OK to get high as a medical therapy. When it’s an SSRI anti-depressant, it’s objective is to make you feel better, to alter your brain chemistry to get you high, in fact by flooding your synapses with serotonin.
More of these happy pills are prescribed than any other form of medication. In fact, we don’t really understand how they work, how in some people they have the opposite effect and make them suicidal. But it’s all OK because this is government-sanctioned happiness – or unhappiness – but it’s OK because some privileged middle aged person, who couldn’t tell a synapse from a hockey stick says so , and she or he knows best.
But any suggestion that cannabis might be medicine has to be forcefully caveated with denials that it’s about getting high. Did you know, Sativex, the one legal form of medicinal cannabis, both here and in the UK, gets you high?
No? Yes I know all the doctors say it doesn’t and the nanny-state do-gooders tell you the bit that gets you high has been taken out. But take a look at the statutory documentation and what does it say? Oh! Something called “euphoric mood” is described as a “common” side effect
It’s actually a real pleasure to talk about getting high. I spend all my time engaged in earnest discussions about science, evidence, therapeutic and side effects. I forget that a lot of it is about getting high, however you choose to do it.
So, this house would get high. Indeed this house is high and I predict most of you will be a little higher in the next half hour or so.
Getting high is nothing to be ashamed of. Go for a run, climb a hill, eat a space cake ( but mind the sugar).
Getting high is a human right, a necessity and a great way to live. Get high and stay high.
After an entertaining and fascinating debate with contributions from other guest speakers and students, Bridie summed up by reading an extract from Tom Paxton’s song ‘Talking Vietnam Pot Luck Blues”. I’d never heard it before but it carries a wonderful message about how getting high brings people together.
The moment came as it comes to all,
When I had to answer nature’s call.
I was stumbling around in a beautiful haze
When I met a little cat in black P.J.’s,
Rifle, ammo-belt, B.F. Goodrich sandals.
He looked up at me and said,
“Whatsa’ matta wit-choo, baby?”
He said, “We’re campin’ down the pass
And smelled you people blowin’ grass,
And since by the smell you’re smokin’ trash
I brought you a taste of a special stash
Straight from Uncle Ho’s victory garden.
We call it Hanoi gold.”
So his squad and my squad settled down
And passed some lovely stuff around.
All too soon it was time to go.
The captain got on the radio. . .
“Hello, headquarters. We have met the enemy
And they have been smashed!”
Order of Service
15th January 2016
So go and run free with the angels
Dance around the golden clouds
For the lord has chosen you to be with him
And we should feel nothing but proud
Although he has taken you from us
And our pain a lifetime will last
Your memory will never escape us
But make us glad for the time we did have
Your face will always be hidden
Deep inside our hearts
Each precious moment you gave us
Shall never, ever depart
So go and run free with the angels
As they sing so tenderly
And please be sure to tell them
To take good care of you for me
When I stood right here a year ago today to speak about my father, my mother sat right there.
The dignity and grace with which she conducted herself that day are the qualities that have characterised her whole life. In an extraordinary note that she wrote to her children just a few weeks ago, which seemed prescient of her death, she instructed us not to be sad but to celebrate her life.
Thank you for coming here today to do just that. She would want you all to come to the King’s Arms afterwards, so please make sure you do.
In the last six or seven years, as my father’s health deteriorated, I was taking him to hospitals and doctors, sometimes more than once a week. As a result I became closer to Mum than at any time in my life, certainly since primary school age. I am grateful that for these last few years, we shared our lives on a daily basis. I would call every evening between six-thirty and seven. Sometimes we would talk for two minutes, sometimes for half an hour, sometimes about trivia and gossip and sometimes we would set the world to rights. It was a great pleasure and a privilege, as an adult, to get to know this wonderful woman. My mum became my best friend.
And what a remarkable woman she was. It is no exaggeration to say that she was a polymath or a rennaissance woman, someone whose knowledge and experience stretches across many different subjects and is not trivial but deep and profound.
Her father, Jack, was an extraordinary man who blagged his way into the Royal College of Physiotherapy on a promise to produce his non-existent school certificate at a later date. He cleaned buses at night to support himself and was the gold medal student of his year. He became a legend in sports medicine in Wales with Cardiff City, Glamorgan County Cricket and the national teams in football and rugby. Similarly, her mother, Milly, was a formidable woman and woe betide anyone who crossed her. No surprise then that Mum went on to build on these qualities in her own life.
But what must have been a huge surprise to everyone was that one of her first acts as an adult was to defy her parents.
She had met and fallen in love with this rather short, ginger bloke who was going prematurely bald. Mum was a beauty; hour glass figure, absolutely stunning. Dad must have thought he had won the lottery – and he had.
Jack and Milly forbade the wedding. Malcolm wasn’t good enough for Barbara. But the wedding went ahead without the parents of the bride and never, ever has one couple been proved so wrong and the other so right. My parents’ marriage defines love and partnership. It was a triumph.
Mum had an intellect sharper than a cut throat razor and a heart bigger than the world. I have never seen so much joy as in the eyes of my parents at a baby, their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nephews and nieces. Family mattered more than anything and any that have sought to divide our family will answer when they meet Mum and Dad at the pearly gates.
Mum collected stamps, thimbles, pill boxes, china, elephants – models, not real ones. She was interested in literature, poetry, art, cooking, embroidery, tennis, rugby, science, politics. I know the ladies of her Thursday discussion group appreciated her diligence and I teased her every week “Was it just gossip or did you do any work?”
She raised four small boys through the 1960s until the minor scandal of becoming pregnant with Vicky at what was then regarded as the grand old age of 35. Ooh! It was a minor scandal in Chorleywood.
At one time she was secretary of the Church of England Children’s Society. At another of the National Housewives Register, a term which the politically correct would despise but this was my mother standing up for women’s rights in a way today’s feminazis couldn’t begin even to comprehend.
Indeed, she had an open mind, transcending the generations. No one was a bigger supporter of my campaign for medicinal cannabis, controversial though it is but of course she was a scientist, a degree in biology, another in psychology, a trained healthcare professional, a speech therapist. She followed the evidence. She was always rational, considered and she rejected all forms of bigotry and prejudice. She used to joke about wanting a little black baby. I’m not sure Dad was OK about that!
Recently, she had joined the University of the Third Age and was revelling in new friends and opportunities. The courage and determination she showed moving out of the family home after Dad died and building a new life in Chorleywood was extraordinary, a lesson to us all.
So for us, her children, her extended family and all those who loved her, the very worst has happened.
I have lost my mum and my best friend. But I, we, could not be better prepared. We have been guided in life by a paragon, a diamond which will persist in our hearts and memories forever; untarnished, undiminished, permanent.
Thank you Mum, thank you for all you have given me, all you have given us and all you have given to the world.
Mum would have been thrilled. Surely Andy Murray is to take his second Wimbledon title today. In truth, her real, crush was on Tim Henman but Wimbledon fortnight was the highlight of her year when she even took precedence over my father with the TV remote control. For those two weeks she was glued to the telly from late morning until bad light stopped play.
Every year Mum applied for tickets in the wheelchair seats and most years she was successful. I had the privilege to take her last year to her last Wimbledon. We saw Roger Federer amongst other, more lowly players.
Mum would also have been made immensely proud and happy by the Wales football team’s success in the Euros. The scenes in Cardiff when our heroes rode an open top bus through the city would have delighted her. She was strange sports fan, my mother. Not what you would have expected from this petite but fiercely intelligent woman who built her life around her husband and children. It came from her father, Jack Evans, who was a physiotherapist and perhaps the first ever sports medicine specialist in Wales. My father, three brothers, sister and I were all keen participants in sport when we were younger and Mum put in the hours taking us to games and practice sessions. My very last memory of Mum and sport was when I returned to her in the early hours of the morning from Twickenham after Wales beat England in last year’s Rugby World Cup. Her joy was unconfined. It was glorious.
So it will mean great a deal to me if Andy Murray lifts the trophy today. As far as I’m concerned, he’ll be doing it for my Mum.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, again and again, Masterchef is my favourite TV entertainment programme. Every year it just seems to get better. The producers do an excellent job of adding little twists and new ideas to the format and it never fails to keep me entranced. For the contestants, getting to the final is an almost guaranteed pass into a shot at a restaurant business. That’s how influential it’s become.
I like it in all its varieties: the celebrity show, the professional show but the original, where amateur cooks elevate themselves to a professional standard, remains the best and the most inspiring.
I just love the music, often highlighted with the sound of chopping onions or a blast on a food processor. It’s somewhere between house and trance and I often find myself doing a clumsy boogie around the lounge as I’m watching.
This year has been poignant for me because my mother shared my love of the show and we would watch it together or chat about each episode on the phone. I found myself talking to her about it last night as I watched the penultimate episode and there she was sitting with me on the sofa once again.
My tip for this year’s champion? It’ll be Jack, a very talented young man.
CLEAR has formed a partnership with the research arm of GroGlo, a UK-based manufacturer of high power, LED, horticultural grow lighting.
The plan is to grow cannabis under a Home Office licence for the production of cannabis oil, both as a dietary supplement and for the development of medical products. To begin with, a low-THC crop of industrial hemp will be planted. We will be using the finola strain, originally developed in Finland and known for its short stature and early flowering. Unlike hemp grown for fibre, finola is usually grown for seed and only reaches a height of 160 – 180 cm but we will be removing male plants before they produce pollen and cultivating the female plants to produce the maximum yield of oil from their flowering tops.
The low-THC oil will be marketed as a dietary supplement, commonly known as CBD oil. There is already a burgeoning market in the UK for CBD products, all of which is currently imported from Europe or the USA. In the USA, the CBD products market was said to be worth $85 million in 2015 so there is huge potential here at home. Aside from the benefit of being UK grown and processed, we anticipate achieving a CBD concentration of about 40%, which is higher than most products already on the market.
Cultivation will be in glasshouses supplemented with LED lighting. GroGlo already has an established glasshouse facility in the east of England. Initial trials will experiment with adjusting the LED technology to provide a changing blend of light wavelengths at different stages of plant growth. This is GroGlo’s area of expertise -combining LED lighting and plant sciences, including existing relationships with some of Europe’s top universities. Professor Mick Fuller, GroGlo’s director of plant science, will lead this research and development process.
During the R&D phase, CO2 extraction of oil will be carried out under laboratory conditions at universities in York and Nottingham which already have extensive experience of the process. Each crop will be measured for yield, cannabinoid and terpene content using high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC). Safety testing will also look for the presence of heavy metals and other contaminants. The results of testing will be fed back into cultivation and extraction processes to maximise yield and quality.
It is anticipated that the first batches of low-THC oil will be ready for market in six months. We are already in discussions with potential distributors and wholesalers. The CBD market in the UK is ripe for an effective marketing campaign which could build a very substantial business for whoever gets it right.
Once we are successfully achieving our production goals with low-THC cannabis, the same testing and development process will begin with high-THC varieties of cannabis. The aim will be to produce a range of oils extracted from single strains, selectively bred and stabilised for different THC:CBD ratios.
Professor Fuller says that GroGlo lighting products “are in use worldwide to grow a range of crops, but some 60% of sales currently come from overseas users growing cannabis for legitimate medical use.” He explains that there is an emerging market for all sorts of nutritional and medicinal plant products but cannabis shows particular promise. GW Pharmaceuticals is the only UK company to enter this market and it has become a world leader, despite the current restrictive legislation. He says: “Together with CLEAR we believe we can help bring a range of safe, high quality UK-produced cannabis products to market within a matter of two to three years.”
A key issue in the development of a successful medicinal cannabis product is the method of delivery. Smoking is not an acceptable solution as inhaling the products of combustion is an unhealthy practice but one of the great benefits of cannabis smoked as medicine is very accurate self-titration. That is the effects of inhaled cannabis are felt almost instantly and so the patient knows when they have taken enough or when they need more to achieve the required analgesic effect.
The oral mucosal spray developed for Sativex is unpopular with patients, many complain of mouth sores from its use and it was developed at least as much with the objective of deterring ‘recreational’ use of the product as with delivering the medicine effectively. It strangles the therapeutic benefits of the cannabis oil of which Sativex is composed in order to comply with the concerns of the medicines regulators about ‘diversion’ of the product into what they would term ‘misuse’. Absorption of the oil is quicker through the mucous membranes of the inside of the mouth than through the gastrointestinal system but, inevitably, some of the oil is swallowed and the pharmacology of cannabis when processed through the gut and the liver is very different.
We believe the best option is a vapouriser device and our intention is to source a ‘vape pen’ of sufficient quality to operate within clinical standards of consistency and safety. Vapourising cannabis oil avoids inhaling the products of combustion but still enables accurate self-titration of dose. A vape pen would provide a handy, convenient and very effective method of consuming medicinal cannabis. However, aside from the technology itself, initial research shows that vapour is more effectively produced when the oil is blended with either vegetable glycerin (VG) or propylene glycol (PG). Establishing the correct ratio of VG or PG to the oil is another important task.
We anticipate that clinical trials for the use of cannabis oil in treating chronic pain could start within two years. We want to compare different oils, ranging from high-CBD to equal ratios of THC:CBD and high-THC content. Prior to that we have to overcome the challenges of cultivation, oil extraction, vapouriser development and assemble the necessary research team and gain ethical approval for the trials. Recruitment for the trials will start in about 18 months time. If you wish to be considered please email ‘email@example.com’ with brief details of your condition (no more than 100 words). Do not expect to hear anything for at least 12 months but your details will be passed to the research team as a potential candidate.
CLEAR is promoting this venture simply because someone needs to do something to make this happen. For all the campaigning and lobbying of MPs and ministers, at the end of the day, the plants have to be grown and the various legislative hoops have to be jumped through. We cannot wait any longer for a radical change in the law. We have to progress through the government’s regulatory regime if we want to bring real therapeutic benfit to patients.
This opportunity arises because of the vision of GroGlo’s managing director, Mike Harlington and the team of experts he has built around him. There is huge demand for legitimate medicinal cannabis products in the UK which is only going to increase with the inevitable progress towards law reform and increasing awareness of the benefits of cannabis. Together, CLEAR and GroGlo are bringing the great hope that medicinal cannabis offers closer to reality than ever before.