Demand for legal access to medical cannabis is pushing the debate ahead….

Pearse Donnelly, a musician, activist and medical cannabis patient. Regional co-Chair for United Patients Alliance here demonstrates how Cannabis debate is taking off even in politically becalmed Northern Ireland .

Two decades in and almost forty weeks into Stormont’s mobocracy, cannabis becomes a unifying force between all major parties in Northern Ireland. All while our nomadic First and deputy First Ministers quibble at an ill-fated Conservative Conference.

The representatives in support of this fresh controversy would surely that agree our hearts were taken by young Castlederg warrior, Billy Caldwell. Battling intractable epilepsy, Billy took refuge not only in California, USA but in cannabis.

Discovering an unlikely medicine and remarkable recovery was the result of a mother’s unyielding effort to save her child’s life.
He holds the first NHS prescription for cannabis oil.

Without Billy and the children like him (Ava Barry, Sophia Gibson, Deryn Blackwell and Tristan Calahane, to name just a few), the true stories of cannabis medicine may have been consigned to oblivion.

The urgent need to address policy in our region is undeniable.

Strong, independent mothers, seeking nothing more than the effective treatment of their desperately sick children, are being unwittingly – and unfairly – plunged into myriad engaged and developed environments; the media circus, international health and legal officials and the underworld of Europe’s – oft-times jittery – cannabis community.

Paramount to all, twenty-four hour care for a vulnerable child. A collection of tasks not one of which the bravest among us would tackle, unless we must. All while being subject to scrutiny from people who have not walked an inch in their shoes.

Presenting as emotional a conversation as they do, do not be fooled, these mothers (and activists, as they in fact are?) do not fall short of experience or knowledge.

With the subject of cannabis-based medicines being as consistently measured as it is, the information is here. The scientific argument is won. The debate is over.

Doctors in developed countries are treating children from the UK and Ireland freely with a full spectrum and various combinations of all cannabinoids and related compounds.

Not only these children but in some cases their families become what the community refer to as, ‘Cannabis Refugees’. What is currently being demanded of the establishment is to allow cannabis as a medicine so that people can access it at home.

How did Northern Ireland develop a public relationship with cannabis?

In an age of information, ignorance is a choice. It is being demonstrated to us on a global scale; medical cannabis regulation is safer and beneficial. The activity of recreational users, however, cannot be ignored.

Access to illicit materials is limited to the unknowing and the risk is greater if there isn’t a seasoned intermediary willing to share the burden. This has been happening for a long time.

Activist groups, social clubs, compassion clubs and online social communities at this stage cannot be ignored. They have established themselves as a viable cornerstone for an emerging market and supporting industries.

Introducing United Patients Alliance: much like Labour MP Paul Flynn they stand in defence of legal cannabis. UPA back his 117th and upcoming call in Parliament to allow legal access to medical cannabis.

Having been vocal in the media in recent years and working with Professors Mike Barnes and David Nutt, Baroness Molly Meacher, Paul Flynn, Tonia Antoniazzi MP, the APPG for Drug Reform, gaining trustees and patrons to their board of directors in these very people, United Patients Alliance have struck a deserved role in becoming a nationally-recognised lobby group for Parliament.

In recent years we could not deny the efforts of Northern Ireland’s first cannabis legalisation party. Consider this a tipping point. Bear witness: the political arena is engaged. The momentum to follow was not the Trojan Horse that the government thought it would be.

Instead, children, mothers, entire families, doctors, legal professionals, activists and even politicians are all singing from the same hymn sheet; we demand legal access to medical cannabis.

Thankfully due to his treatment, Billy has been seizure-free for almost three hundred days. Only over a year ago he was subject to up to one hundred seizures per day.

He and his mother Charlotte will be attending a public display at Stormont Parliament Buildings on Tuesday, 10th October at 12pm. ‘Patients at Stormont’ will be a unique public gathering of patients who use cannabis as a medicine, together to make a plea to a keen group of attentive officials.

There are multiple members of our Assembly, from each major party (even the staunchest of former opponents) who have agreed with the organisers and Charlotte to attend on the day to support the cause, which was originated by Gareth Tuff and United Patients Alliance as a mirror event to ‘Patients At Parliament’.

It will not only support Labour and Paul Flynn’s call to legalise medical cannabis, it will demonstrate the need for rapid change in legislation, further discussions and ultimately give all patients from the island another opportunity to speak where it matters most.

This is a guest slot to give a platform for new writers either as a one off, or a prelude to becoming part of the regular Slugger team.