Why does the woman behind a new CBD brand want to see products available on the NHS? Founder of Medrar Wellbeing, Jo Cunliffe reveals why cannabis is more than a money-making opportunity for her.
In 2011, Jo Cunliffe was given the news that every daughter dreads. Her dad had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
When he was admitted to a hospice in August 2012, doctors told the family to prepare for the end. But Jo wasn’t ready to say goodbye.
“They told us to prepare ourselves, that he was going to die imminently – I wasn’t ready for that to happen,” she says.
Jo had heard of Rick Simpson cannabis oil being used to treat cancer patients in America, so she contacted the producers, but her dad was too sick to travel to California.
“There were so many hurdles, I couldn’t risk it, but speaking to them made me feel less alone and actually I could do this myself,” says Jo.
She risked criminalising herself to source cannabis illicitly and make her own oil which she administered to her dad in the hospital.
“After two weeks he was sitting up, after four weeks he was walking and after 10 weeks they discharged him as no longer terminal,” she says.
“The only thing we changed was giving him the oil.”
But the rest of the family were concerned about what the repercussions would be if they were found out.
“I would have gone to prison to save my dad, to me it didn’t matter, but my family didn’t want to be a part of it,” says Jo.
“They were scared that now he was in our care if anything happened and they found out about the cannabis oil we would get in trouble.
“In the end I couldn’t battle with them anymore and had to stop giving him the oil, but it was obviously really upsetting and caused a bit of a rift in our family.”
Jo’s dad passed away in January 2013, aged 60.
Since then she has been campaigning for wider knowledge and understanding of the benefits of medical cannabis – particularly for cancer patients – approaching MPs and lobbying leading organisations such as Cancer Research UK.
Now, after years of research and testing products, Jo is launching her own CBD brand.
The first product available from Medrar Wellbeing is a CBD balm, used by customers to help ease pain relief, insomnia, anxiety.
It won her investment and a mentor from the Westmont Enterprise Hub University of West London in London and she has been working with them since to launch her brand – albeit slightly slower than hoped due to covid.
But this is not about making a quick buck. Jo is using it as an opportunity to collect much needed data and evidence of the efficacy of CBD.
When consumers buy the balm online they have the option to sign up to a membership page, where they can record when they used the product and what results they saw.
“There is not enough research being done and the Government is not going to fund it, so it’s up to the producers to step forward,” says Jo.
“People have been taught this dark perception of what cannabis is and we need to spend some time reeducating people about the benefits of it.
“I could have sold the same white label products as everyone else but I want to do this differently, launching one product at a time and proving that it works.”
She then plans to submit the findings to researchers at the University of West London, in what she hopes could be the first steps to having CBD classed as a medicinal product and made available to patients via NHS prescriptions.
“CBD is such a powerful product that can help so many people, I’d like to see it proven that it is medicinal and available on the NHS, ” she says.
“The Government could issue licenses to producers and support them to step up and do this research.”
However, she recognises that this won’t go down well with everyone in the industry.
“I know some companies won’t like it because they are scared that something they have put time and money into will be taken away from them, but we have allowed CBD to become this massive white label product, which has diluted the market,” she adds.
“We live in a world where everybody just wants to make money, but there are few of us who just really care about people.
“I wouldn’t be how I am today if I hadn’t seen first hand how medical cannabis helped my dad and the difference that it can make.”
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