Irish cannabis activist, Alan Robinson is set to open Northern Ireland’s first cannabis cafe. It aims to give patients a safe space to meet.
Alan Robinson, who goes by the name NI CannaGuy on social media, is set to officially open the cafe in Co. Antrim, in the next few weeks. He has been advising people on medical cannabis while working to reduce the stigma.
Alan grew tired of meeting people in cafes and coffee shops so decided to open a place where medical cannabis patients can meet. It will provide a safe space where those with a prescription can meet to consume cannabis.
Speaking with Cannabis Health News, Alan said: “It’s a lounge where people with a private script for medical cannabis can come, share their experiences and knowledge with other people. Not only that but they will be able to use the Volcano, the dry herb vaporiser.”
Alan touched on a common problem for those who use cannabis flowers, the price of vapes. It can be confusing for newer patients when choosing a vape and daunting when they view the price. Alan also highlighted even if people choose to buy a larger, more expensive vape such as the Volcano, that some patients may feel uncomfortable having it in their homes.
“The clinicians advise to vape the flower but the best ones on the market are over £300. We have a volcano hybrid for people to come and use which is retailing at £500. Those who are paying that for a private script don’t have it again to spend on apparatus which is really what they should be using,” He said.
“Some people are using the cheaper, handheld vapes that are just awful and it’s no fault of the person, it’s just the price of these things. Some of the smaller ones will waste your medicine more than allowing you to get the use out of it.”
He added: “I thought to myself, these people need a place to go where people feel safe and secure while knowing what they are doing is legal. I’m hoping it will raise awareness for others and hopefully break the stigma.”
Alan has been busy preparing the cafe, called Stay Medicated, which is located in Ballyclare, Co. Antrim for its official opening. As well as the Volcano, he also has other vapes for people to use. It also provides patients will a valuable chance to test the machines before deciding if they want to invest in the more expensive options.
The store will be the first legal space for medical cannabis patients in Ireland. There are currently only CBD vaping spaces available.
Alan said: “There are plenty of CBD shops that have popped up over here with vaping facilities. There are not a lot of people in Northern Ireland with a private prescription but it’s on the rise and people are contacting me every day with medical questions. I’m not a doctor so it would be great to be able to put two people with similar problems in the same rooms for a tea or coffee.”
Police Service of Northern Ireland
How do the police feel about the establishment of a cannabis cafe? Alan explained that they are focused on the high levels of organised crime and less interested in prescription holders.
“The police service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) are fighting organised crime more than they are fighting us. Hopefully, this will be a big step in getting cannabis away from organised crime and taking the stigma away.”
Alan hopes that maybe the premises will encourage the police to visit in order to get educated about the benefits of cannabis.
He said: “Maybe one evening they can come in and we can have a discussion about the endocannabinoid system. I’ve had numerous discussions with police about cannabis and it’s not the problem, if anything, it’s alcohol.”
“The reality of it is, we have a physical space where we are paying rent, bills and it will be secure with locks and buzzers. In general, it’s going to be a hive for the community to come and learn all about the medical side.”
Running a space for cannabis consumption does not come cheap with rent needing to be paid, bills keeping the lights on and the cost of licenses for food or drink. How does Alan anticipate the club will make ends meet?
‘I’ve thought about how to do it. Are you going to charge people coming in the door? Or have things for them to buy? We are definitely thinking of some form of membership for people with a private script so they can identify themselves to the staff without having to whip out a prescription in front of others.”
Northern Ireland Cannabis Compassion Club
At the time of speaking with Cannabis Health News, Alan had just received the keys to the premises. As well as being a medical cannabis patient himself, he has a long history of cannabis activism and helping patients particularly those with cancer.
“I have chronic pain, anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, when people see me on social media, I’m always happy and smiling but when the cameras are off, I can be very different. Cannabis has helped me to kick anti-depressants and a Tramadol addiction.”
He added: “I run the Northern Ireland Compassion Club which provides medical oil to cancer patients. Whenever I meet someone who is getting their medication, I have to meet them in a cafe which is risky. People are disclosing really private information to me which is the last thing they want to be shared across a busy Starbucks. So when the opportunity came up to get a unit in Ballyclare, I thought it would be a start.”
As well as a space for discussion, the cafe will also provide education on cannabis for both patients or anyone who might be canna-curious.
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