Alan Robinson, better known as NICannaGuy, is a cannabis activist from Belfast, Northern Ireland, and the owner of Northern Ireland’s first cannabis cafe. Alan is one of the hundreds of cannabis patients registered in the United Kingdom. Indeed, the UK accounts for 70% of the global export market for medical cannabis. Nonetheless, I had doubts about my ability to obtain a marijuana prescription legally. That is where I erred. There are a few loopholes to exploit, but everything is perfectly legal and regulated.
Alan and a group of other activists met with politicians from all of Northern Ireland’s major parties in 2018 and convinced them to amend the law to allow for private medical cannabis prescriptions in England and Northern Ireland.
This was also not a one- or two-party meeting. Attendees included representatives from Northern Ireland’s numerous political parties. Even the notoriously conservative DUP supported the project, which may indicate how attitudes towards this plant have shifted in the twenty-first century.
‘At that point in the meeting, the only opposition was procedural and red tape,’ Alan explained. There was no mention of reefer madness or schizophrenia. Politicians were only concerned with ensuring that everything was done legally.
Of course, it’s critical to keep in mind that some studies link daily use of highly potent marijuana to an increased risk of developing certain psychological disorders. Although the evidence is not conclusive and has been contested, I’m fairly certain that no doctor would recommend taking large doses of any mind-altering substance on a daily basis. As with alcohol or any other substance, the key here is education and moderation. Colorado actually spent a portion of the tax revenue generated by legalisation on a variety of programmes aimed at raising the state’s educational and health standards. Among them are school construction, marijuana education, anti-bullying campaigns, grants to public schools, youth mentoring, substance abuse and treatment, and grants to the Future Farmers of America.
So how does Alan’s Cafe operate?
To be sure, he is not selling weed there in the manner of a Dutch coffee shop. However, he sells CBD and a variety of other CBD-infused products, including CBD coffee. It is also illegal to smoke inside his show — CBD, weed, or cigarettes, due to Northern Ireland’s smoking laws. Alan circumvents this by allowing only vaping in his shop. Additionally, he is assisting in connecting individuals with a private clinic in England that will prescribe medical marijuana. You obtain the prescription, send it to their affiliated pharmacist, and they will immediately mail your cannabis to you! It all feels slightly illegal, but I can assure you that it is entirely legal — the PSNI would quickly shut down the establishment if he was engaged in illegal activity.
The most remarkable aspect of the cafe, however, is how he is bringing people together and assisting in the de-stigmatization of medical marijuana use. Alan related to me the story of a small elderly lady from Derry and another pensioner who were both prescribed different strains of antibiotics for the same illness. They came to the shop and vaped their weed together, experimenting with various strains, laughing and conversing, and legally consuming a drug that has long been demonised. To me, this is really beautiful — especially during a pandemic where the elderly have been somewhat cut off from the rest of us — to hear the story of people coming together, making new friendships, and legally enjoying a treatment that has been very beneficial for them.