This week I caught up with Clark French, who’s a leading light in the cannabis law reform movement in the UK. Clark has come to prominence thanks to his involvement in the United Kingdom Cannabis Social Clubs (UKCSC) movement, along with his media efforts to push the truth of medical cannabis use out to the public at large via numerous radio, newspaper, and soon-to-be television appearances.
Clark suffers from multiple sclerosis, and uses cannabis to help alleviate the symptoms. I asked him about his condition and how he has come to play a pivotal role in the UK movement.
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How does cannabis help your MS?
Cannabis helps my MS vastly. Every single symptom is reduced by using it. The most noticeable are the reduction in pain and spasms, but as cannabis is a neuro-protectant (as shown by the US patent on cannabinoids as a neuro-protectant). Cannabis also helps with the long-term effects of MS which in many cases can be an extremely degenerative disease resulting in death.
Which medications were you on previously compared to those you take now?
I would be prescribed many different medicines to deal with all of the symptoms I have. The one which I think is most striking is Tysabri. Tysabri is a form of chemotherapy which can lead in some cases to coma and death. Tysabri costs the NHS nearly £16,000 a year and is a second line treatment, usually reserved for people who have had MS for 10 years. Now this treatment I actually turned down in favour of finding concentrated cannabis oil which I was lucky enough to find in California last year. To deal with pain I’m prescribed opiates such as Tramadol, which is not very far off heroin. Why I’m allowed that but not cannabis makes no sense whatsoever.
With the opiates they are incredibly addictive, can destroy your liver and had a huge effect on my moods causing me to become moody and irritable. Tysabris list of side effect is huge, as I just mentioned it has a chance of killing me. It was not a risk I was prepared to take at 24-years-old.
How have doctors reacted to your cannabis use? Did any actually recommend it?
My Dr, Neuroligist and MS nurse all have seen the difference that cannabis makes to my life. Having the job they do they inevitably see people getting worse quite often. My neurologist said he would write to the police if I ever got in trouble about it. I also have the support of my Californian Physician who wrote me a Dr’s recommendation for medical cannabis.
Are you able to get a Sativex prescription? Would that work for MS?
I’m not able to get it as Berkshire PCT won’t pay for it. I don’t think Sativex is good enough. It is an alcohol tincture. Alcohol is not good for neurological conditions, so I don’t want to have to take alcohol every day. All sativex is is Cannabis… it’s completely absurd that a plant with “no medicinal value” is grown, made into tincture, then given to people as medicine.
What advice would you give to an MS sufferer who is scared of trying cannabis? How can they gauge dosage?
Each person is different, my advice is to try small and work your way up. Although I have found that many people with MS don’t tend to feel the euphoric effects as most people who have good health. There is a lot of evidence for cannabis and MS, I suggest you do your own research. Google is a great source of information and you can pretty much find anything you like on there, especially sites from California and other medical states where cannabis is an accepted form of medication for people with MS. Americans For Safe Access have a downloadable PDF on their website about cannabis and multiple sclerosis which should be enough to get anyone started!
Have you encountered problems with the police? How does the legal status make life harder for patients?
Never, I’m careful. Although if it takes getting arrested to show just how stupid this law is it is something I’m wiling to go through and something which could ultimately help me to reach my goal of helping to end a stupid law. We have to deal with criminals who often have sub-quality product. The price is artificially inflated meaning many people cannot afford to use the amount that they need. Prohibition really is not fair on people who have already had a bad hand in life. In fact it’s a complete disgrace.
How was your 4Thought appearance? What advice do you have for others wishing to get themselves in the media and promote medical use?
It was really great to be able to share my story with such a large audience. The staff and crew were extremely friendly, polite, and generally interested in what I had to say. I felt like I had a very good reception from them; I was a little nervous but they soon had me talking about what I was there to talk about. Just put yourself out there, send some e-mails or make some phone calls, make sure you know what angle you are going from and most importantly make sure that it is a story that a journalist can get interested in. We need to step it up a gear as a movement in the UK. The tide is starting to turn, with NORML UK and the UKCSC movement emerging at the beginning of the year it is extremely exciting to have reputable cannabis law reform organisations in the UK. Things can change, we just have to all play our part.
You can catch Clark’s 4Thought.Tv appearance on Tuesday 25th September, at 7:55pm on Channel 4 in the UK, or on-demand on 4oD. If you’re a medical user and would like to see your story on The Cannabis Geek, please get in touch via the Contact Us section of the website.