Over a decade ago, a young man in Britain found my podcast when I was working for NORML. Having very little positive information about cannabis, he devoured my daily recordings, learning the news and science about marijuana here in the States.
He suffers from Crohn’s disease, a painful gastrointestinal condition that threatened to kill him before age 30. Motivated by my coverage of the developing medical marijuana programs in the West, he made his way to the States to tour Colorado, California, Oregon, and Washington, spending a month in each.
I met him and housed him when he came to Portland. Greg de Hoedt is his name, though I knew him earlier online as @CannabisCureUK. His disease showed – he was pale and gaunt – but his spirit was strong. I introduced him to activists and growers and other patients here and he quickly made many friends.
By the time he had visited all four states, consistent access to powerful cannabis medicines had given him a complete makeover. He’d put on about a stone in weight, his skin looked healthy, his hair full and shiny, and he was highly motivated to make this miracle happen across the Atlantic.
When he returned, he used the chapter-based activism model I’d been working with NORML and formed the UK Cannabis Social Clubs. He began educating the public and lobbying the parliament for a change in the UK’s cannabis laws, even as a reactionary government reversed the downgrading of cannabis from the safer, less-restricted Class C back up to Class B in the nation’s illegal drug scheduling.
Fast-forward to today, and Greg is still chairman of the UKCSC, which now boasts over 150 chapters. He’s been a featured guest on BBC2 and a first-call interview for most of the news media. And today, I’m proud to note, his story has been published in the esteemed British Medical Journal:
As a 30 year old with Crohn’s disease, I have lived my entire adult life dependent on drugs, both legal and illegal. I have learnt what works best to keep my symptoms under control and provide me with a good quality of life.
In 2010 I was told that I needed major surgery and chemotherapy or I would live two to five years before dying from malnutrition associated with short gut syndrome. For me this wasn’t an option. The side effects of chemotherapy can include all the symptoms of Crohn’s amplified, and potential impotence, leukaemia, and death. I was a mess.
Pharmaceutical drugs like the immunosuppressive azathioprine and the anti-inflamatory mesalamine nearly killed me, causing nausea, vomiting, and foaming at the mouth. I had worse diarrhoea with blood and mucus than my Crohn’s had ever given me.
Cannabis, however, drops my bowel movements from 20 a day to one or two; it takes away my nausea and chronic pain; and it gives me back the ability not only to want to eat food again, but also to enjoy it.
Click on the link above to read Greg’s entire story.
The case of Billy Caldwell, an epileptic boy from Northern Ireland, has goaded the UK Home Office to revisit the issue of medical cannabis. Stories like Greg’s will go a long way toward determining whether important aspects of medical cannabis, like the right to home grow, make it into the UK’s policies.
I’ve been podcasting now for ten years. The most rewarding part of it is knowing that it may spark someone out there listening to get involved to help themselves and others change these prohibitionist laws around cannabis. If Greg can do it, why not you?