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A few years ago when we were releasing a monthly magazine Greg de Hoedt, (also known as Cure UK back then) wrote regular features for ISMOKE and formed part of our panel of cannabis experts discussing topics on a monthly basis. Nowadays Greg runs the United Kingdom Cannabis Social Clubs movement, an organised cannabis community that is growing every day.

Formed in 2011, the UKCSC aims to unite and give guidance to the various Cannabis social clubs popping up all over the UK in varying forms, some holding smoke-friendly meet-ups for their users.

We first connected with Greg after hearing his cannabis podcasts back in 2010. Greg is a medicinal cannabis user and uses cannabis to treat Crohn’s Disease, for which it has proven medicinal benefits.

We sat down with Greg to discuss the Cannabis Social Clubs, his thoughts on the laws surrounding cannabis and more:

Hi Greg, good to catch up old friend! Tell us about UKCSC – when was it formed, how, and why.

The UKCSC was born out of necessity. If you look at the UK we have 3 million regular cannabis consumers. We are by our very nature a heavy drug consuming culture – one of the largest per capita in the world, it just so happens our drug of choice means we are deemed criminals. In 2011 I had travelled to the United States to see for myself what the situation really was like for both the medicinal cannabis consumer and those that just liked to smoke a bit of weed or eat an edible. After working in the legal cannabis industry of 4 states, Colorado, California, Oregon and Washington and experiencing their differences it gave me a chance to analyze the differences between the situation my counterparts and peers were living on either side of the pond.

Working with strong activist and campaigning organisations such as NORML, Americans for Safe Access, Students for Sensible Drug Policy certainly rubbed off on me and taught me some valuable lessons in building a social movement – something that was quite dispersed at this time in the UK.

It was an intensive six-month internship: I spent much of that time with radio host and cannabis commentator Russ Belville who every single day without fail broadcast to the cannabis nation what was taking place across all 50 states and how they could be the one to make something change, not just for themselves, but for thousands if not millions around them. Cannabis campaigning has had a very lasting imprint on me. Another thing I was witness to in the US was their Occupy rallies, that, in all fairness, dwarfed some of the efforts here in the UK. The London riots also took place while I was in Washington which I watched on the news in awe thinking “wow, people back home are finally getting pissed off – maybe there is a chance for some change”.

Coming back to the UK there was a need for something new, and the Collective model of pooling plants in California tied in similarly with the model proliferating in Spain with the Cannabis Social Clubs out there. The Spanish cannabis clubs model goes like this: In Spain you have the right to privacy in your own property, so together with pooling you are tolerated two plants per person. Someone grows for the Cannabis Club, and members pay a fair price which covers the ‘growing costs’.A call was put out by myself and a few others that had taken initiative and spoken about pulling things together in what was a culture of nothingness in respect to real “activism”. To get those willing to stick their necks above the line and try to make a change locally as fighting the Government outside on the grass at parliament is never going to change the law – only civil action will. And like I said, there are 3 million cannabis consumers in The UK. They want somewhere to socialise.

United Kingdom Cannabis Social Club
A Cannabis Social Club Event in Brighton

A group of us put out some calls and began to talk to the cannabis community about pulling things together to combat what was a culture of nothingness in respect to the real “activism” we’d seen in places like the US where they’ve had medical cannabis access in one form or another since 1996. Fighting the Government outside on the grass at parliament is never going to change the law – only civil action will. And, like I said, there are 3 million cannabis consumers in The UK. We want somewhere to socialise.

That’s a great insight into the UK Cannabis Social Clubs Movement. What would you say the main benefits are of being a member of a cannabis club?

It’s a trusted network that aims to provide a safer environment for people who want to consume cannabis in a social space. Up until now if you want to smoke cannabis in, for example, a pub, you are likely to get kicked out or even worse nicked by the police. Drinking culture and cannabis culture are very different in the UK, and you do not get any violence at any of the Cannabis Social Club events, let alone anything comparable to what most towns and cities witness on 5/7 nights a week to their nuisance, annoyance and public expense with a drain on the police and NHS resources.

Professor David Nutt has been an ardent supporter of us in the press in recent times, stating that the Cannabis Social Clubs are a “rational response to an irrational law” adding “cannabis should never have been made illegal in the first place.” When giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee reviewing Drugs Policy he made the argument that 20% of people who regularly consume alcohol would switch to cannabis if the criminal punishment were not an issue. This is simply because they know it is a far safer mind altering substance to consume than alcohol, and mind altering is just something humans want to do and have always done.

Cannabis Social Clubs can help educate consumers on the safer ways to use cannabis. Vaporising, dosing edibles correctly, knowing which strains to use for what medical conditions, the right time of the day for certain strains, or what to avoid if you need to get work done but just want that bit of creativity – there is so much more to cannabis than just consumption, and discussing cannabis and its benefits isn’t illegal, which is why the clubs are such a great facility for people that find themselves as part of this culture.

We also give businesses in the cannabis industry the chance to reach their prime consumer base and help grow that industry. If there are more legal jobs then there is less unemployment. Spanish clubs employ an average of 12 people each, and there are 1000 clubs. All these workers are paying income tax and contributing to society. We want to do this over here and make people feel more secure.

We completely agree Greg, and heading to Product Earth has shown us the potential for a “Green Boom” as more and more companies are set up in the legal side of the cannabis industry over here. It’s all so exciting! So How many cannabis social clubs currently form your members?

Currently, we have just over 50 member clubs of the UKCSC working towards a non-profit model for private membership and with the aim of eventually opening a club house. Some clubs are not willing to wait for the law to change and are making plans to open clubs this year, while others are taking things at a slower pace. The Government has refused to regulate cannabis despite being given plenty of chances, and now the cannabis users are making a stand and taking a stab at self-regulation. When the people begin to take these kind of measures and go the seriousness of creating something on the scale we have in the short space of time we have done it in, you would hope we will be getting plenty of attention. The recent Lib Dem Bill proposing cannabis regulation included the model for Cannabis Social Clubs – so maybe there is some hope in the near future – but why wait when you could be the first in your area to start a cannabis club? If you think there should be one, and there isn’t one, hey, you just found your calling!

Sounds good to us, and nice to hear it’s growing quickly. What is the largest and most established cannabis club?

Now, Tyler, I know we are mates and all but you’re tyring to get me in trouble here! In all honesty there are a few clubs around the country that are impressing tokers, growers and glass collectors from every nook and cranny in the British Isles. Teesside Cannabis Club have most noticeably got the most press attention of any club to date, from threatening to cover the North East in cannabis plants to holding what is going into their 3rd Annual Canna Camp Fest at Redcar Rugby Club, they really have not held back in doing their utmost to make change a true reality. The proof in the medicated pudding is the work they put in with Durham’s local Police Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg who caused an uproar in the mainstream media for softly decriminalising the personal use of cannabis in his area. Hogg stated that he would not be wasting police resources on cannabis consumers that created no victims and that patients growing for themselves was not a criminal issue. He instead chooses to focus on organised crime growing in domestic houses and using the profits for violent and more horrifying crimes. John Holliday of TCC spent time giving valuable community feedback to Ron Hogg in order for him to fully be able to understand the issues there are in distinguishing the troublesome side of the cannabis world as opposed to what should be known as “the legitimate side.”

Clubs such as Bristol Cannabis Club hold monthly member events, Birmingham, Cardiff, Swansea, Hampshire, Leeds, Mannijuana, and a number of other clubs with members between the 50 and 100 mark hold events whereby locals can join if they know a friend or are given an invite to become a private member.  This gives a taster of what the future might bring if we all work towards it together.

Hampshire Cannabis Club Members

Clubs such as Brighton Cannabis Club have also really pushed the boat out, having full on multi-story pop up Cannabis Social Club events that have provided atmosphere’s that resemble and even surpass the vibe created in Amsterdam’s Coffeeshops and Barcelona’s Cannabis Social Clubs. They have also hosted a number of medicated, multiple-course gourmet meals in fine restaurants with selected wines to match every dish, so things vary on a great scale, and can be from underground to classy fine dining – the sort of thing you would like to take your wife or girlfriend to if they weren’t quite as deep into the culture as some outsiders might perceive us to be.

That sounds very interesting, and hopefully we can cover one of these events in the near future here on ISMOKE. Are there any areas in particular with a lot of clubs?

Recently we have seen an influx of clubs. in fact, we have doubled since we started making a real push on 4/20 this year, two years after test driving the model written by Start Harper and myself, which you can probably tell worked out pretty well as a starting point looking at where we are today. Coastal cities seem to have bigger memberships and there are a number of towns starting to see multiple clubs popping up, which I think is great. What is even greater is that they are all keen to work together on the activism side, while being happy to get on and be their individual selves and help nurture what their own communities are bringing to the table. The Millenials coming of age in the UK really do want to see a fairer society and I think the Cannabis Social Clubs are going to play a huge part in that. Hmmm…cannabis, open-mindedness and acceptance of others, now there’s something.

And do you think we are heading towards a Spanish model of cannabis clubs?

We’d better be. But I think we have already started to see the UK ganjaprenurs putting their own mark and twist on things. Many of the clubs in Spain have UK growers or oil extractors working with them. We even have UK folk going to the US and winning cups for their oil, completely embarrassing some of the locals who have been caught saying things like “How are they doing better than us, they don’t even have medical”. UK producers are getting serious. It’s a craft and boutique industry and there is room for everyone to provide something of value. The fact that we are making sure that there are standards in the UK when it comes to the products that club members are consuming it makes me proud to see where we are.

Greg with Rick Simpson

Great. What about for medical patients? Are the clubs helping give medical access to cannabis?

Most of the clubs are founded with at least one or two members that require cannabis medicinally, so it’s a built-in ethos and understanding that cannabis helps people. Whether they like it or not, when people find out they have a medical condition that cannabis can be helped by and they look around for support, their first port of call is their local Cannabis Social Club. Clubs do what they can to help people get the right education from the right sources, but ultimately aim to help get patients self-sustainable if it is possible for them to do so. No one should have to be reliant on others for their medicine if they are capable of growing themselves, and this often leads to the patients being the main caregivers in the community, as they really know the true value and have been where those in need are once themselves. Some Collectives even charge their members an amount that covers the cost of the patients’ medicine, so it can be freely given to them or at least at a reduced rate, and other Collectives grow it at cost to be shared by all members. This stops patients as well as members having to interact with street dealers and organised crime. We can also make sure growers have good garden ethics, growing organically where possible and making sure they flush their plants if they use nutrients and never used pesticides.

That’s a much better model for medical patients, and good to hear it’s quite established and working to provide medical access where it’s needed. How have the clubs affected the quality of cannabis members have access to?

Six years ago grit weed – cannabis contaminated with things like sand, glass, iron filings, chemicals and god knows what else – had been in circulation for around a decade. This had pushed the price of cannabis up to over double because people were prepared to pay for something decent. But it shouldn’t have to be like that, and that’s part of what the UKCSC are trying to change. We want Fair Trade Grade between friends, not rip off prices to help inflate ego’s. Knowing your nugs were grown with love and not greed is always a bonus.

There are also a much larger variety of strains available to members of the Cannabis Social Clubs. Because they are growing for individual wants and needs they aren’t limited to the constraints of the black market choices which usually consist of Cheese, Lemon or Ammo.

OG, Chem’s Cookie’s and Tangie based strains are working their way through the collections to reach the new generation of “flavor chasers” that have emerged. Much like Pokemon, except gotta taste them all. There’s also a culture of kudos for who can find the newest rarity and it can be quite exciting at times, such as when a new chemotype (individual genetic) is found and opens up a new chapter of strains for the UK helping us influence international cannabis culture. This all goes to show just how much revenue this really could bring to the UK and I am proud that the UKCSC’s are the ones pushing the boundaries in the UK and pushing at the forefront of this.

There are also tested CBD cuts in circulation now such as teh Zero Dark 30, LA Confidential x Purple Kush that is 0.7:1 THC:CBD so patients know exactly what they are growing. Clubs make these clones sharable between other UKCSC Clubs which helps grow the community further.

The UKCSC are going to be working more closely with Bud Buddies UK in 2016 and as we move forward to help provide cannabis testing, for clubs and train clubs to make oil safely, and correctly for their patient members.

What do you think of our current cannabis laws and do you see them changing anytime soon?

Well, the Daily Mail described the UKCSC as “brazen”. We have no shame about what we are doing because we know it is not wrong for consenting adults to collectively consume cannabis if that is what they want to do. We endorse a culture of binge drinking in the UK to epidemic proportions, with death rates reaching over 10k a year – do I really have to tell you what I think of UK cannabis law as it stands? It’s racist, it’s proven. It’s not what the people want, we are showing that and that support is growing, not just for the UKCSC but for reform in general, we are just one part of the way cannabis should be allowed to be accepted and regulated, we don’t think we should be given a monopoly or be the only system but there are people that find this model works well for them. I think we are going to see changes to our medical laws in the way patients are treated and can access some pharmaceutical products but to see changes for the right to grow, share and collectively consume cannabis? Just keep pushing, we have a long ride. From medical to recreational in every state in the US that has achieved it took over a decade and each one is getting further apart and tighter restricted. We need to stand up, take what we want and not let it go without a damn good fight. All eyes should be on Canada right now looking at how their dispensaries are being treated and how Licensed Producers are likely being ultimately favored over a more craft style producing industry that has existed for a decade.

Rando from Piff Advisor, alonside Greg speaking at Product Earth 2016

It’s an unjust system over here, and we hope that we’ll see a change in the next few years. In our opinion, restricting medical access to cannabis is a human rights violation. How can people get involved with their local cannabis social club?

People interested in getting active in the culture should go to the website at www.ukcsc.co.uk/club-list and see if there is a club near them, then get in contact via e-mail or through Facebook/Instagram or whatever way each club suggests is best, as each has their own particular way. If there is nothing in your area, get in touch with us! We have people getting in touch all the time. Sometimes we will have a week where 3 or 4 people from the same town e-mail within a few days and BAM – We have the starting of what could become the next big club on the scene!

If you just want to see what we are all about, come along to one of our open events during the summer or one of the talks that the clubs put on in the less friendly months outdoors and meet people involved. Talk to them – (they don’t bite and they won’t set you on fire and try to smoke you) – they will be happy to give you advice.

To read a full copy of our guide and model go to www.ukcsc.co.uk/csc and download the PDF if you really want to know what running a Cannabis Social Club is all about.

OK thanks for the info Greg, and hopefully some of our readers will be getting in touch. Now on to some of the more ‘fun’ and lifestyle questions:

What is your preference, flower or concentrate?

Well, as I am a Crohnie (Crohns’s patient) I have found that oil and edibles are best for me. Dabbing is pretty much my first port of call when I need to medicate and having the new technology like oil pens make my life so much more livable now compared to when ISMOKE started almost 6 years ago. I still love to vape however and find that can cut through dabs as it gives you something else that concentrates don’t have. I’ve even found a joint once a week is beneficial –  I cut out smoking for a year after being diagnosed with asthma. Since having the occasional joint my problems seem to have stopped – but only ever pure.

Great little rig

Something we’re still trying to do – kick that tobacco habit in our joints! So do you prefer Indica or Sativa?

When? Who with? Were? I am a high paced, fast thinking creative so I love energetic, antidepressant Sativas sometimes classed as Royal Indicas. They have the strength of an Indica for the body, but keep your mind going.

What is your favourite cannabis strain?

We have a chemotype of Girl Scout Cookies x Bay 11 by Sappfire Seeds that we aptly named Brighton Rock due to it’s rock hard dense structure and powerful stone. It’s incredibly medicating for many physical and mental conditions, so that’s my number one right now. When extract Rosin from this it yields a good 23% so I’m confident that it’s going to look good when we get lab results back on it. Can’t wait to find out what these crazy terpenes are too!

What vape pen do you use?

Brighton Cannabis Club Dual Coil. I have been given so many pens to test in my time over the years and I am good at destroying them just from normal use. Rob our Chairman recognized the need for a long lasting coil so he designed the club some dual ceramic titanium wrapped coil atomisers which last me a month. Vape wise, I have been sticking to my Storm by Vapefiend because for the affordability and the fact it has so many attachments and a changeable rechargeable battery is just a winner. Set it to purple let it heat up, then stick in your ground herbs and you get dank clouds dry or through a bong/rig that you can use to help you expand your lung capacity with circular breathing. It clears out the nasty stuff at the bottom of your lungs and if you have been a tobacco smoker I more than recommend giving this a go.

Again, sounds very interesting. We’ll have to try it next time we catch up. What is your dabbing set up?

I love supporting my friends and helping to build a UK industry. One of the ways we can do that here is by supporting the UK Glass artists that are putting their hearts and souls into their dreams of become borosilicate glass artists – a way to be part of the legal cannabis industry in the UK. I like my mini and micro rigs so I have a little army of Frank Odyseed’s Hive Glass mini tubes and a couple of Mellow Glass’s funky little pieces. I recently commissioned him to make me a new travel rig after dropping my bag (hey, it happens) and I kid you not it is smaller than my fore-finger and the function is incredible. It has a gold fumed mouthpiece and blue amber purple illuminati honeycombe disc on the bottom. I’m blown away by the standard of these self-taught glassblowers. And I want to see more! The Dabadman Melt Off Tent at Product Earth was insane and the mini Love Glass events where you can even pay to get to have a go at making a marble or pendant with the UK Glass artists are well worth the day out so if you are a glass hound like myself you should really keep your eyes out for them.

We need to invest in some new glass! What are your favourite type of edibles and ideal dosage?

I microdose all day with nibbles of candies that I make myself with hash rosin which is lab tested as 2:1 THC:CBD. I think 30-50mg is the kind of dose that has no mental effect but just takes the edge off the constant pain my body is in. 150mg is where I start to get the effect I need but if you have had small amounts in the day and are still in pain this can sometimes mean having to take 200-300mg capsules. I prefer to do this half an hour before a meal. As I have issues putting on weight I don’t just use coconut oil in my capsules I add in cocoa as it contains high amounts of stearic acid in which is found in meat fat, but as my body won’t tolerate meats anymore I don’t have that in my diet. Coconut oil is great for losing weight which is why dietary blogs tout it so much but it is also great for absorbing cannabis into the gut. I also make my own fruit roll ups that I medicate at 250mg a pack. A pack also contains between 6-10 slices of mango or pear with kiwi.

It’s been great to catch up Greg, and thanks for stopping by! Finally, please tell us where our readers can find UKCSC online and how they can get involved:

You can find us on the web at:

www.facebook.com/ukcsc

www.instagram.com/ukcannabissocialclubs

www.twitter.com/ukcannabisclubs

www.ukcsc.co.uk

We also have a newsletter which you can sign up to receive updates on cannabis events all over the country, and most importantly, near you!

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