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“Do I look like a stoner to you?”

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Chrissie Butler is a palliative care support worker and medical cannabis patient in Australia. She tells Cannabis Health about her campaign to end the stigma of ‘stoner’ stereotypes.

“I think cannabis should be in everybody’s first aid kit,” says Chrissie Butler, 45.

The mum-of-three is a palliative care case worker, assistant nurse and a medical cannabis patient herself.

She suffers from multiple diagnoses, including chronic migraines and multiple cavernoma, in her brain (clusters of abnormal blood vessels cause a cocktail of neurological problems).

When she spoke to Cannabis Health from her home in Queensland, Australia, Chrissie was still recovering after recently undergoing a hysterectomy. This was a result of her adenomyosis – where the tissue that grows on the lining of the uterus is also present on the inside muscular wall of the uterus, causing extremely painful and heavy periods.

And the procedure confirmed long-suspected endometriosis, another gynealogical condition which can only be diagnosed by laparoscopic investigations.

When she was first offered pharmaceuticals to help manage her pain symptoms several years ago, Chrissie instead turned to sourcing cannabis on the black market.

“I saw a neurologist and within three minutes he had offered me pharmaceuticals with no other options,” she said.

“I didn’t want to go down that route because I know how it works…before you know it you’re down the rabbit hole. I tried the heavier pharmaceuticals years ago for chronic period pain and they either made me really nauseous or just a zombie.

She continued: “As a teenager I had smoked pot but all that stopped when I had kids.

“When I was given the only offer of pharmaceuticals to deal with chronic migraine for the rest of my life, I thought that’s not the way I want to go.”

Chrissie used cannabis for two years before she was given a legal prescription after going to her family doctor during a particularly bad flare.

“I had a full-blown nerve spasm. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t function, I ended up passing out from pain, it was just a nightmare,” she said.

“I told her that I was using cannabis and fortunately she was an advocate for it.

“Two weeks later she put in the referral to a cannabis doctor and within five days I had legal prescription cannabis.”

Depending on her symptoms, Chrissie will microdose cannabis throughout the day to allow her to function, or take a higher dosage to sleep off a chronic migraine.

“It depends on the level of the migraine that I have on any given day, but it definitely knocks the pain down a notch.

“More recently, I tried it to help with my adenomyosis and endometriosos symptoms and it was just phenomenal.”

But it’s not just physical symptoms that cannabis has eased. It’s helped Chrissie cope with stress and keep her mental health in check – particularly while she was working on the frontline at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s been a mental saviour for me in the work that I do and dealing with chronic health issues myself, as well as COVID,” she said.

“At the moment, the world is just in a huge amount of chaos and anxiety and mental health issues have gone through the roof.

“I’ve come home from crazy days at work and cannabis helps stop that endless mind chatter, I find I can process the day a bit better.”

In her role supporting people at the end of their life, Chrissie comes into contact with many cancer patients who are also using medical cannabis to relieve their pain.

However, she mostly keeps her own cannabis use private at work, from both patients and medical professionals.

“There’s only a few trusted people that I talk about it with, because there is quite a lot of stigma still,” she admitted.

“It is getting better, but it’s still prevalent.”

It was this stigma that inspired Chrissie to launch the Faces of Cannabis campaign on Instagram.

She has been sharing her own health journey with followers of her account since she got her legal prescription.

“I couldn’t really share too much beforehand because of the industry I’m in, but I didn’t want to hide in the shadows anymore. I wanted people to be able to talk about their cannabis use,” she said.

“I felt a sense of responsibility, when you find something that works for you and you think it might help others, you’ll share that experience.

“I know cannabis is not a cure all but it’s definitely helped me and a lot of people that I speak to in the chronic illness community.”

Chrissie is calling on people to share a short video of themselves, giving a brief summary of who they are and why they use medical cannabis, finishing with the line ‘do I look like a stoner to you?’

The aim is to tackle the stereotypes associated with cannabis and draw attention to the fact that it is used by people from all walks of life.

“There’s a lot of stigma out there, particularly in my generation,” she said.

“I remember my mum saying that the neighbours were drug addicts ‘smoking dope’ – that’s the kind of the conditioning I was brought up with.”

She continued: “I was just sitting one day thinking ‘what does a stoner look like?’

“We deal with patients at work from all walks of life – I’ve got 90-year-olds using cannabis – it’s a really broad spectrum of people. I wanted to see all the different faces and the different walks of life.

“There’s doctors, lawyers, housewives – there’s a lot of people who use cannabis that you have no idea about and who you would never suspect, I just wanted to showcase that.”

Medical cannabis was legalised in Australia in 2016, but despite this many doctors are still reluctant to prescribe and it is not available under the national Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, meaning patients have to pay full price.

Chrissie, who has relied purely on cannabis during her hysterectomy recovery, believes it should be much more widely accessible for those who need it.

“Here in Australia, it depends on your doctor and your state,” she said.

“But when a doctor shuts someone down and makes that judgement it’s a moral one not a clinical one, so I always encourage people to go and find another doctor.”

Chrissie added: “Obviously cannabis isn’t for everyone, and you have to be a responsible user, but it should be more widely and easily accessible. It needs to be an option for people.”

Advocacy

Fair Trials and Last Prisoner Project seek to launch global cannabis justice project

Fair Trials’ Global CEO Norman L. Reimer to discuss the project at Cannabis Europa Conference in London on June 29.

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A new initiative from Fair Trials and the Last Prisoner Project aims to redress the harm caused by cannabis prohibition and to secure relief for those in prison for cannabis-related convictions.

The criminal justice reform NGO, Fair Trials hopes that the industry will support its work in countries across the globe where cannabis laws are being liberalised. Through collaboration with local partners in appropriate jurisdictions, the Fair Trials project will identify people in need of legal assistance, and recruit, train and match volunteer lawyers to take on their cases.

Fair Trials has enlisted the help of the Last Prisoner Project, a coalition of cannabis industry leaders, executives and artists dedicated to bringing restorative justice to the cannabis sector.

More and more jurisdictions are allowing adults to use and distribute medical and recreational cannabis. But after decades of prohibition, countless people remain behind bars or continue to suffer the collateral consequences of a cannabis conviction.

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“The injustice of cannabis prohibition has resulted in millions of people worldwide serving time in prison or being saddled with a cannabis conviction, which brings with it a lifetime of harmful consequences, ranging from education and employment opportunities to immigration status and parental rights,” said Fair Trials Global CEO, Norman L Reimer.

“Of course, these harmful effects of prohibition not only impact the individuals charged, but also their families and communities. And those effects have been borne disproportionately by minorities, communities of colour, and the socio-economically disadvantaged. Legalising cannabis alone does not equal justice. Together, we must address the ongoing harms of past prohibition and leave no cannabis prisoner behind.”

The project will be modelled on the US Cannabis Justice Initiative, a collaborative effort between the cannabis industry and volunteer lawyers in the United States. When Norman Reimer was the Executive Director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), he partnered with the Last Prisoner Project to establish the initiative.

“Key to the success of the initiative has been generous donations from legal cannabis companies and consumers nationwide,” said Last Prisoner Project Co-Founder Steve DeAngelo. “Fair Trials, with its global reach as the world’s criminal justice watchdog, is uniquely positioned to build and house the infrastructure that’s going to be needed.”

Tomorrow (29 June), Norman Reimer will address the Cannabis Europa Conference discussing the project. Mr Reimer will be part of a panel entitled ‘Leave No Cannabis Prisoner Behind,’ and will be joined on that panel by Mary Bailey, Managing Director at the Last Prisoner Project; Dr. Laura Garius, Policy Lead at Release; and Denzel Uba, an individual impacted by criminal cannabis prohibition.

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TOWIE star Amy Childs launches CBD range in honour of Jorja Foundation

The product range sees a portion of the proceeds going to the Jorja Foundation.

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Amy Childs at the launch of her new CBD range, Jorja Botanicals

TOWIE star Amy Childs launched her new CBD range this week, with a star-studded event that shone a spotlight on the story of six-year-old Jorja Emerson.

Amy Childs was joined by former Love Islanders, Amy Hart and Cara Delahoyde-Massey, alongside her  co-stars, Frankie Essex, Tom Skinner, Carina Lepore, Saffron Lempriere and Mark Ferris, for a heart-warming event celebrating the launch of her new CBD Infused beauty range, Jorja Botanicals.

The signature collection sees a portion of the proceeds going to the Jorja Foundation, which was set up in honour of six-year-old medical cannabis patient, Jorja Emerson.

The event saw The Only Way Is Essex star Frankie Essex, break down in tears as she heard Jorja’s story. Frankie, who gave birth to twins four weeks ago, wiped her eyes when Robin Emerson, Jorja’s father, showed videos of the life-threatening seizures his daughter was suffering before they discovered medical cannabis

Love Island star, Amy Hart has since taken to Instagram to spread the word about the latest political campaign that sees Childs and Emerson petitioning to make medical cannabis more widely available on the NHS

The Jorja Botanicals range was inspired by Jorja, who was diagnosed with a rare chromosome abnormality called 1q43q44 deletion, which has a side effect of life-threatening seizures. Her illness resulted in her being admitted to intensive care on two separate occasions, where Robin was told that she may not make it.

jorja botanicals

TOWIE stars joined Amy Childs for the launch of her new CBD range

To save his daughter’s life, Emerson knew that he had to dig deep and find a treatment that would not only help Jorja but ultimately go on to help others.

At the time it was still illegal to prescribe cannabis in the UK. Emerson joined the campaign to see medical cannabis legalised in the UK in November 2018, and Jorja’s was among the first children to be legally prescribed medicinal cannabis.

In 2021 he went on to create the Jorja Foundation – a charity set up to help other families and children going through the same battles that Robin had to face.

The Jorja Foundation’s core principles are to fund special needs equipment that is not funded through the health system, fund family counselling, private appointments and tests when a second opinion is needed, as well s cannabis-based treatment for children in the UK and to continue to campaign and educate for wider NHS access in the UK for cannabis-based medications.  

Childs commented: “When I saw Robin & Jorja’s story on social media it broke my heart.

As a mum, I couldn’t imagine the pain of being told to take my child home to say goodbye to them. I love that Robin has fought for Jorja & is now helping other families with the Jorja Foundation. 

“I’m so happy that I can help the foundation by being the Creative Director of Jorja Botanicals. We have created some beautiful products for the whole family to enjoy. We will be donating a percentage of the proceeds to the foundation so that we can help as many families as possible. ”

 Emerson added: “ This is the fruition of a lot of hard work over many months and I am extremely proud to launch what is the first family brand in this category. In the coming weeks, we will also be launching a ‘parent’ focused cosmetic range in partnership with our creative director Amy Childs and our premium line of tincture oils.”

 

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South Africa launches first trial of cannabis for chronic pain

The study will test whether cannabis can replace opioids in the management of chronic pain.

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South Africa’s first cannabis trial has launched after initial results “show promise” for the treatment as a replacement for opioids.

The Pharma Ethics Observational Study is led by Biodata, a subsidiary of Labat Africa, and will test whether cannabis can replace opioids in the management of chronic pain.

The study will involve 1,000 participants who have been taking opioids for pain management for at least three months and are prepared to switch to cannabis as an alternative.

Biodata is the brainchild of Dr Shiksha Gallow, a cannabis clinician and the principal investigator in the trial which took over 18 months to get official clearance.

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Dr Gallow said the trial is set to be ground-breaking as South Africa’s first real-world study of medical cannabis. Researchers predict that it will provide much-needed insight into the link between cannabis genetics and patient outcomes.

Dr Gallow told Cannabiz Africa: “We are currently recruiting patients, and data-capturing all the questionnaires and feedback from the patients for the live Study. It has been fairly slow. However, more options have been introduced, as suggested by the patients in the pilot study.

“The pilot results of the study were very promising, as it showed 98 per cent of the patients have some sort of pain relief from the cannabis.

“We were able to wean these patients off their opioid treatment. In the pilot group of patients below the age of 55, it was shown this group preferred to smoke cannabis and patients older than 55 years preferred oil. The patients who smoked the cannabis had relief almost immediately, while the oil took some time to alleviate their pain.”

“Once we reach the sample size required and all of the relevant data has been collated, the results of the study will be published. We have currently renewed this study for another year, due to the initial slow uptake of research participants.”

Patients can apply to be research participants through the Biodata website.

Labat is expanding its footprint over the next few months with the introduction of CannAfrica kiosks in major shopping malls.

The company believes these will be the “ideal locations for physical sign-up points for the study”.

Labat said the kiosks will also serve as Biodata dispensaries and is engaging with a number of vape stores to do the same, although these would have to be subject to South African Health Products Regulatory Authority’s pharma-ethics requirements.

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