This article is an entry from our first Young Adult Writers competition, where unpublished writers aged 18-25 were invited to submit an article on a subject suitable for leafie. As a competition entry, it has been unedited except for any spelling or typing errors.
I will not be the first, nor will I be the last, to say that cannabis changed my life. In late January 2020, I took my first hit. Like most young adults, I had always been curious about weed, so when I started university, it was just a case of waiting for someone to offer some to me. I felt a sense of calm wash over me, my muscles began to relax, and then the smoke hit my chest, causing me to let out an embarrassing cough.
However, what was the most striking thing of all was that I was no longer in any kind of physical pain. I have spastic diplegia; a form of cerebral palsy in which there is an abnormal increase in muscle tone, or stiffness of muscle, particularly in the legs. For me, this means I have had pain in my lower body my entire life. As a result, being pain-free for the first time in my life was a strange experience.
I slept deeply, and managed to reverse some of the stiffness I had been feeling as a result of finally relaxing. This made me wonder, could cannabis be the solution to my chronic pain? I had tried so many solutions for my pain: heat, ice, stretching, herbal remedies, and, most frequently, opiates.
I have never liked using cocodamol as a means to control my pain, but when I am in so much pain that I could not sleep at night it felt like I had no other choice. Yet, it made me feel hazy, and when I took them before bed, I would have vivid dreams that would sometimes leave me waking up with a panic attack. Then, there was the pain management clinic, which did not do very much. The idea that I needed to understand my pain felt patronising, and I never did receive the physiotherapy which was supposed to help my pain.
After that night, I experimented with cannabis as a means of managing my pain. It took a while to figure out how best to use it. I realised that a small joint was good for when I needed pain relief, but I did not have a great deal of commitments. So, if I was stuck in bed due to pain or fatigue, or if it was the end of the day and all I had left to do was wait to be able to sleep, the fact that weed could make me sleepy or incoherent was not a problem.
That is where CBD came in. The same friend who offered my first joint offered me a CBD cigarette, and I found that I was able to achieve a similar degree of pain relief, without compromising my focus or self-control. I found that combining the CBD with a hint of caffeine counteracted the drowsiness I got from the fatigue I was feeling. Now, I can get through most of my bad days.
While CBD is legal in the UK, it must meet a set of strict requirements. It has to contain less than 1 mg of THC per product, and accompanied by documents showing that it has been tested by a third party for any controlled substances. This makes it difficult to access at times, and the products that I can access are often weak.
According to this article by the Independent, over three quarters of the British public would take cannabis if advised to do so by a medical professional, and the majority overall support the legalisation of the drug. So, it seems like it is only a matter of time before we see a decriminalisation of the drug. However, it seems there is a long road ahead of us before we legalise cannabis in this country, as there is a lot of resistance to the idea in the political sphere. So far, only the Liberal Democrats and Greens support legalisation, and neither of those parties would be able to achieve a legislative change like that without the backing of one of the “Big Two” political parties.
Despite the fact that cannabis has been legal in the medical realm since late 2018, it has only been prescribed sparingly; we are far away from the situation in places like the Netherlands or certain US states, where medical cannabis is easily accessible. As a result of both the plain CBD and cannabis, I have stopped taking the cocodamol completely, and I have never felt better
I feel like have a mastery of my pain, and a clarity of mind since using cannabis to manage my symptoms. Yet, I cannot help but feel hard done by, that the legal substance available to me is more dangerous to my health and more addictive. Real change needs to be made to cannabis legislation if we are serious about tackling issues of disability and chronic pain.