The Legalisation of Cannabis in the UK
Ranald Macdonald interviews Big Narstie in the Cigar Room at Boisdale of Canary Wharf
By Ranald Macdonald
July 4 2023
MC, author, rapper, singer, songwriter, comedian and television presenter, Big Narstie says the UK is still too slow in rolling out the medicinal benefits of cannabis.
Ranald Macdonald: What do you think are the benefits of cannabis?
Big Narstie: Helping those suffering from Crohn’s disease; sickle cell cancer; bowl cancer; anxiety; pain relief – in Vietnam the American Government made a weed strain called G13 because all the soldiers were cracked-out on Opium. G13 helped soldiers with PTSD and depression.
RM: Are there any other benefits?
BN: Oh yes! Right now, I’m in the process of trying to convince British Airways that hemp can reduce 70% of their carbon emissions. Also, because it grows at an excessive rate to other plants, if I took over the Millennium Dome for three years I could make enough hemp to clothe the whole of Britain. I’m not taking about the two-metre plants; I’m talking about huge trees growing to their full height and capacity. Concrete can’t suck in carbon emissions.
RM: The legal cannabis industry in the US is currently worth $16 billion and by 2024 the UK medical cannabis market is predicted to reach £1billion.
BN: That’s incorrect. The UK is the biggest medical cannabis distributor in the world. Teresa May’s husband’s company, Capital Group, which owns a significant share in GW Pharmaceuticals and is one of the biggest cultivators of cannabis in the world, made $7.2 billion last year.
RM: As in cannabis consumed within the UK?
BN: Ah, well that’s a double-edged sword. GW produces the most and ships it across the world. It’s been the biggest distributor of medicinal cannabis worldwide for the last four or five years. The UK stores a lot of cannabis but doesn’t consume it. The crisis of medicinal cannabis right now is not so much down to the product; it’s the ecosystem between doctors and patients.
RM: I see.
BN: Cannabis only exists in the private sector, not the NHS. So, unfortunately, a person like me who wants to buy medicinal cannabis will get stung by three £250 consultations with my doctor, and then another £400- £500 on the actual product. It’s too expensive for a typical patient and creates a thriving black market. It’s not regulated, and you don’t know how its made. The doctors, throughout college and university, their lecturers and the heads of departments, have told them to stay away from this plant. They can look at ecstasy, opioids, cocaine, diazepam, all the other drugs, but they don’t want to lose their licence, so they leave cannabis in the shadows. It’s also a shame that elderly people who could greatly benefit from this won’t take it without their doctor’s permission, bless them. How can my doctor now prescribe something he’s spent years telling me not to touch? Now they’ve been given the go ahead, meanwhile I’ve been using it for decades. Sorry, Mister Doctor Man! Too slow!
RM: But it’s all about to change?
BN: One hundred percent. The government can no longer turn a blind eye to a country that is strongly in favour of medicinal cannabis. People are turning their backs on conventional medicine. Co-codamol tablets may help your arthritis. Whoop-dee-doo. The pain disappears, but they’re destroying your liver and kidneys and after six months, you wonder why your urine looks like my Piña Colada
RM: So, this is a Big Pharma thing?
BN: Yes. It’s a business. “The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round!” Cannabis might be a better solution than drugs on the market now, but no one is not talking about the elephant in the room, which is Big Pharma saying “How dare you come and ruin my business with your cannabis plant. That’s not happening on my watch!”
RM: But there are proven benefits, and a powerful part of the medical establishment who believe cannabis is good for you?
BN: And do you think they are held in high regard?
RM: Surely yes. CBD is totally established and on every high street.
BN: You have to understand CBD and THC are both one of a thousand different DNA. So, when you say CBD there are thousands. There is CBG, CBN, CBF, CBE, so many cannabinoids. If you mix THC Delta-1 with THC Delta 4, it’s legal until you light it – as soon as you light it, it turns into CBD Delta-A, which is a hallucinogenic substance!
RM: Are you taking out a lot of goodness to make CBD?
BN: Weed combines CBD and THC. Natural retail CBD is either broad or full spectrum. Full spectrum is using the whole weed plant and then you separate it. Imagine shaking out gold from sand – you put it in the sieve and shake, shake, shake. That’s how our government has licenced CBD, hence why there are traces of THC after the separation and why athletes can’t take it. This is our crazy country.
RM: You have a range of CBD products, from bath bombs to gummies. How does the quality compare to what you buy in Holland & Barret?
BN: Purity. My separation method uses nano-technology – not a sieve.
RM: And how will you compete with these huge corporations?
BN: I’m just about to partner with IPS Pharma, the second biggest medicinal cannabis company in the UK. What I’m doing for the cannabis industry and the medical industry is trying to be a bridge. Remember, both these worlds need to collide. Every true scientist and devotee of the plant has had to do everything in solace and in secret, growing plants in their attic! All the greatest “strings” – like Cheese (THC Dinafem Cheese) – were made in lofts. That was made in a loft in Luton, from a random seed that came out of skunk Number One. Everything they did was in hiding. Imagine you’ve been in hiding for 30 years and someone knocks on the door and says, “Oi, you’re allowed to come down from the attic and do it downstairs.” When I first talked to my friend about me doing medical cannabis, he didn’t even want me to talk about it on the phone.
RM: So, am I right that some cannabis, like skunk, is not good for you?
BN: No, that’s bollocks! Look at alcohol. Vodka does not agree with everyone. When I drink alcohol I have to drink brandy. That’s my happy drink. I’m not an absinthe drinker. You get what I mean. Each plant is different and has different attributes. Sativa is very uplifting and high, Indica is very hard hitting.* It’s all down to the person and the dose. I smoke every day, so a joint is not going to affect me like a person who doesn’t smoke. If you try to smoke like me and you don’t usually smoke, I doubt you’ll enjoy it because it’s going to be too intense.
RM: So even the really strong stuff is fine but it’s for people who have expertise and experience?
BN: Yes. Weed has been independent for so long; it all depends on who is growing it. If you can grow a cucumber, you can grow weed.
RM: I’ve got 35 acres in Oxfordshire with clay soil, would that be good for growing weed?
BN: Of course. Even if you have bad soil, you can use an aqua system like the one I used in my first set-up in Malawi. Every time the weed would crop, it would leave Tilapia fish for the village. They got the fish, we got the weed. The old-school sinsemilla plant takes 16 weeks to grow, and the new hybrids grow in eight weeks.
RM: If it were legalised would some of those currently in the black market join a legal, recreational market?
BN: I hope so. Remember there are breeders and farmers and there are specialists who’ve spent the last 20 years making the best plant genetics.
RM: So, it’s up to the public to decide if they eat the orange for pleasure or for Vitamin C? Is it correct that marijuana is not addictive compared to alcohol?
BN: Everything is addictive. I want you to write this in big bold letters: EVERYTHING IS ADDICTIVE TO YOUR PERSONALITY.
Big Narstie (Tyrone Mark Lindo) was talking to Boisdale Restaurants & Magazine’s Ranald Macdonald
* Indica strains are physically sedating, perfect for relaxing with a movie or as a nightcap before bed, while sativa strains are energising with uplifting cerebral effects that pair well with physical activity, social gatherings, and creative projects. Hybrid strains are thought to have a mix of indica and sativa effects.