'I feel you need to be in the room to effect change,' says Carly
In the world of cannabis, there are many people with many opinions and ideas. Carly Barton has recognised, from the very beginning, that we cannot affect change by stamping our feet and shouting - it’s counterproductive and builds more walls and barriers. She recognises that building relationships and communicating openly is necessary to bring about change.
“I feel you need to be in the room to effect change, standing outside is never an option.” says Carly. And she’s been very successful with this approach. It has led her to having open and challenging conversations with the police, with MPs and with medical professionals about medicinal cannabis and growing. It has enabled her to build on these relationships to bring about change through Carly’s Amnesty and Cancard.
In this piece, Carly talks about her visit to the Global Medical Cannabis Summit in 2019 which took place on Richard Branson’s Necker Island.
‘I had spent a long time campaigning and speaking as an advocate of medicinal cannabis in the UK. I had no idea who was listening or if it was even making a dent.
In 2019 a weird and wonderful thing happened. I received a call out of the blue to invite me to a conference, this wasn’t unusual, what was unusual was the destination - Necker Island, as in Richard Branson’s Necker Island.
I was quite used to piling on a load of coats and hobbling through the streets of London to tell a load of people in suits why cannabis is actually a medicine -but I was not used to flying to the Caribbean to do the same. I hadn’t travelled in a while due to my mobility issues and the issues that comes with travelling when depending on an illegal medicine, but, after hearing what the event was about, I was keen to try.
Richard Branson is a controversial character and despite his business interests not being everyone’s cup of tea, he does annually dedicate some space and time to allowing groups to
come together on the island to discuss global issues. This year, a group had approached him to ask if they could run a summit on medicinal cannabis. Richard has been part of a global drug reform effort for some time and agreed to host the conference.
As there were some industry professionals in the crowd, I chose to speak not only about my personal journey and the journey of some fellow patients, but also about the need for industry not to block patients rights to grow their own medicine. This is a subject I have always felt incredibly passionate about as I know how much that can empower a patient. Taking full control of their health and nurturing their medicine can be one of the most life-changing and liberating paths that is fundamental to a patient’s healing journey. This was a nerve wracking subject to tackle with those who were building an industry that relied on patients accessing directly from them, luckily I managed to cobble my way through a speech and afterwards sat with some of the most senior people in industry who told me that they never really understood that angle before and that they as a result would not be looking to campaign to remove that right from patients.
During conversations we unpicked some of the most common barriers to legalisation, the points of stigma and the need for education within the medical establishment as well as the public in general.
Unfortunately, in order to continue the work funding was required and that did not come to fruition.
One of the biggest takeaways for me was the connections I made with other advocates and scientists. Having connections to researchers in other countries has meant that I have since been able to run specific and rare cases by them and support patients more effectively.
It didn’t all go that well though, I’m pretty sure I was the only person at the event who had to go to the laundrette before they left home as the washing machine was on the blink and also I accidentally kicked Richard Bransons tortoise* across the living room. Eek!
Some people may not agree with the fact that I attended this event, but for me, I think some good came out of it.'
*no tortoises were harmed during this incident, although I was understandably mortified.