Trans-Iberian

Trans-Iberian

Covering everything from the major news of the week and burning social issues, to expat living and la vida local, EL PAÍS’ team of English-language bloggers offers its opinions, observations and analysis on Spain and beyond.

The day I joined a cannabis club

Por: | 16 de marzo de 2017

A lot has happened since the last time I wrote for the Trans-Iberian Blog. Somehow, I’ve transitioned from travel blogger extraordinaire to medical cannabis writer on a mission. I’m not sure how it happened. One of those unexplainable chain of events, or were they heavenly stars aligning?

Either way, my days now involve wading through PubMed papers, unpacking the intricacies of the little-known endocannabinoid system, and telling the stories of the thousands of patients who find relief through the much-maligned cannabis plant.

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The funny thing is that before my new incarnation, I hadn’t really smoked a joint in years. In my twenties in Madrid it was something I’d do from time to time. But that was smoking hash in the mid-nineties. Back in the UK where grass ruled the roost, a few puffs saw me entering an oppressive inner chamber of fear and paranoia. So, that saw the end of my relationship with cannabis.

But then began a gradual trickle of information about the cannabis plant and its health benefits: people claiming it cured their cancer, stopped their Parkinson’s shakes, and freed them from the rigid prison of multiple sclerosis. 

Fast forward a year or so, and the gift cannabis gave of dying with dignity to my friend’s mother ignited a heartfelt commitment to shatter some of the myths peddled by mainstream media.

And then, it happened. My path crossed with a Danish company called Endoca who make health products from hemp. Before I knew it they’d offered me a job, and I’d become an accidental expert on the cannabis plant and its therapeutic uses.

So, how come I’ve just joined a cannabis club?

Well, if I’m honest, it’s some sort of weird, completely unscientific experiment I’m doing on myself. Through my work I’d read a lot about the compounds in cannabis called cannabinoids. Hemp is rich in a cannabinoid called CBD, which studies show to be anti-inflammatory, anti-epileptic, reduce feelings of anxiety, and can be a safe alternative to prescription pain killers. Because unlike THC, there’s no mind altering ‘side effect,’ it’s sometimes painted as ‘the good cannabinoid’ and by association THC ‘the bad’.

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But the more I read about THC, the more I began to realise that despite its sometimes uncomfortable high, it had been tarred with a brush it didn’t deserve. So, living in Spain where cannabis clubs are a plenty, I figured that this was the best chance for me and THC to get better acquainted.

So here I was, standing in reception at ‘El Perro Andaluz’ in the historic centre of Seville, one of the many cannabis clubs peppering the city. It was lunchtime on a Wednesday and inside the atmosphere was more six form common room than illicit drug taking den. It’s fair to say I was the only 40 something English woman present, everyone else seemed to be male, slightly grey in pallor, and in their 20s.

In what reminded me of a school tuck shop cubby hole, a smiley chap called Javi patiently advised me on the strain of cannabis that might suit me: too Sativa heavy and I might never come down, too much Indica and I’d have to be peeled off the sofa. So, in the end I opted for a strain called ‘cheese’. I didn’t even need to be stoned to find that amusing.

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I was just about to leave my new friends when I was offered the chance to try out the house vaporizer.

‘Don’t worry,’ they said. ‘It’s really mild, you’ll hardly feel any effect at all.’

Fast forward twenty minutes and I was gingerly picking my way back home, silently worrying about the possibility of meeting anyone in my path. Because guess what - I was completely twatted. On a Wednesday afternoon.

Safely back at home, I was suddenly overwhelmed with an intense hunger. From a biological point of view, I know why this happens. THC convinces the brain we’re hungry, even when we’re not. That’s why it can be an effective treatment for any illness where appetite is impaired. But knowing this didn’t take away from the fact I was ravenous. And all I had was a pan of homemade broccoli soup, not your usual munchies fodder by any means. By the third bowl I felt vaguely satiated, but still utterly stoned and incapable of doing any work for the rest of the day.

Eventually ‘normality’ did reign once more. And now my ‘cheese’ consumption involves ‘micro-dosing’ a couple of puffs a night before going to bed.

It’s been about two months now since my 'THC experiment' began. And while this doesn’t constitute any form of double blind, placebo randomised trial, my experience has been the following: I have been feeling well. When I say well, I mean happy. Not stoned happy. But happy in my heart. Optimistic, positive. Something I haven’t felt for years.

Is it down to cannabis? I don’t know. What’s different in my life since I started experiencing this feeling? If I’m honest, I’d say cannabis. Will I continue taking it? Yes, but only in small doses. Does this constitute medical advice? Absolutely not.

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Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of Andalucia.com and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at korenhelbig.com.

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area perelloplus.com. @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Spain-Holiday.com. Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check: www.lookingfordrama.com.

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