An Interview with Clark French, Director of the United Patients Alliance

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Welcome back to another ISMOKE Interview. This series was produced to give you an insight into some of the UK’s prominent activists, discussing life, the universe, and all things cannabis!

This week we are sitting down with Clark French. Clark is the Founder & director of the United Patients Alliance, an organisation formed in 2014 to promote the medical benefits of cannabis. It is formed of patients, carers and compassionate people who want to see cannabis laws changed in this country.


Quick Links: ISMOKE Interviews Series One

ISMOKE Interviews Clark French French Interview FINAL 2 from ISMOKE on Vimeo.

Interview Transcript

Clark: The thing is I also need to take this time to medicate to because of travelling and all that stuff

Tyler: That’s fine mate.. Now it is recording

Welcome to another episode of ISMOKE Interviews with me your host Tyler Green. Today I have with me Clark French.

Clark is somebody that I have known for a number of years since you first wrote for ISMOKE back in 2011.

Clark is the founder of the United Patients Alliance and this is an organization of patients in the UK doing a lot for the UK medical cannabis campaign so today I wanted to sit down with Clark and to give our watchers a bit of an insight into you, what you’re doing and what you enjoy.

Usually with the interviews I say to people medicate after a few questions, we’ll do a little bit, we’ll get stoned, we’ll continue. Obviously, you’re a medical patient, so you’re somebody that would potentially need to medicate. I don’t want to hold you back, so just a clear run whenever you feel like it during this conversation hit whatever you want. We’ve got some different strains which we’ll go through, so feel free mate.

Where are you from originally and where do you live now?

Clark: So I was born in Slough, I lived in Slough until I was about 6, and then I moved to Reading and lived there until I was 28 and then I moved to Brighton. So I am now a Brighton resident.

Tyler: How is the cannabis scene down in Brighton?

Clark: Yeah I mean, obviously we have Brighton Cannabis Club in Brighton and Brighton is also the home of the United Patients Alliance so you have two very active organisations both within the City.

Clark French, An Interview with Clark French, Director of the United Patients Alliance

And generally Brighton is quite liberal when it comes to many many things – it had a Green council for a while, it has a Green MP. And the Green Party are pro-cannabis.

At the same time, you know, we did have some problems at Green Pride, some people did get cautioned. So it isn’t completely safe, there is still prohibition, at large you have to be careful. It’s a balancing act, but I think as far as the UK goes it’s a great place to live.

Tyler: Did you go to university?

Clark: Yeah – well my mum has MS, so I wanted to kind of stay around locally to look after her a bit and stay with the family kind of thing.

So I went to Reading University. In the end, I decided to move all the way down to Brighton from Berkshire, but I think it was time for me to kind of make my own stand and go somewhere and do something for me, so that’s why I did it.

Tyler: And what did you study when you were at University?

Clark: Ancient History and Archeology

Tyler: I studied History! We’ll probably have a tiny bit of crossover, probably not much.

Out from University did you go into a career after, or did you go straight into founding the United Patients Alliance?

Clark: Well, unfortunately, I’m not in a position to work a lot of the time. I have a very limited energy capacity, I have a lot of pain, a lot of spasms, a lot of problems that basically mean I’m not going to be employable in a regular job, so, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go into work at all, I was really ill.

I was very active before as well, so I did my degree. I was in a band as well, so I was in a Metal band, I was the vocalist. I loved it.

Tyler: Wicked

Clark: It was a lot of fun. And then I also promoted live music. So I put on a lot of gigs, a lot of shows. And I got a lot of experience with putting on events which is what came in useful when it came to cannabis activism because you know, I’ve put on hundreds of events in terms of putting on bands.

Unfortunately, my band said: “Diagnosed with MS? You’re no longer suitable for the role”

Tyler: And did you have a lot of symptoms at this stage?

Clark: I had a lot of symptoms. We were in the final stages of recording our debut album. I was due into the studio quite a lot, and I had to cancel quite a few of those dates because I was too sick to be able to do it.

Tyler: So it must have been a tough few years with you after being diagnosed.

Clark: Yeah, it was difficult.

 

Tyler: But you turned that into such a positive by setting up the United Patients Alliance – when did you set that up?

Clark: That was in 2014 – so there was a few years of activism with a few different organisations to kind of learn about it, figure out what I was doing, figure out what was the right way that I wanted to campaign. And kind of go my separate way and do my own thing.

Tyler: The United Patients Alliance that you set up in 2014..is that all made up of patients?

Clark: Not everyone is a patient, but most people identify with consuming cannabis as medicine, or have a family member or close friend that do. So patients and carers, basically.

Tyler: So people that are either suffering or affected by it, or empathise with people like people who care about people and want to see people have access to the best medicine – they are the sorts of people that you have in the organization.

Clark: yeah, definitely.

Tyler: What have we got here, what is the strain?

Clark: Erm, some Glueberry O.G. [2th Prize Indica, Home Grown Cup Netherlands 2017] – it’s a Dutch Passion strain, one of their new strains.

Tyler: I’ve seen a photo. I’ve never tried it, and I’m looking forward to dabbing some. I actually haven’t done a dab for a while, guys.

I have with me the e-nail on the Jaxx Recycler. See you on the other side Clark!

Clark: Enjoy

Clark French, An Interview with Clark French, Director of the United Patients Alliance

Tyler: Oh – I’m getting that taste. Really Clean.

Clark: Yeah it is.

Tyler: So I’m getting.. Is it like a Gorilla Glue-y sort of? Like erm… It’s difficult to describe the Gorilla Glue flavour. Gorilla Glue but it’s a little bit sweeter, it’s got a little bit more flavour than the GG has I think.

Clark: It’s the Blueberry in it. I think mostly it’s blueberry dominant

Tyler: And it’s got a very clean cannabis taste to me, the Gorilla Glue. And that captures that. But, like you say, more fruity, more sweet. Really Nice man!

Clark: I think I might have one as well.

Tyler: How does dabbing compare to vaping or smoking, in terms of using it medicinally?

Clark: Dabbing is great because of the amount you can get into your system like that [clicks fingers].

With my Mighty, or with a handheld vaporiser – to get the amount that’s in there, you have to have like a good go on it. Whereas when you have a dab, especially on an e-nail like – bang, done, to the lungs, to the bloodstream, to where it needs to go, done. You don’t have to wait. So I think it’s great because of that. I think it’s one of the most medicinal ways to consume cannabis, definitely.

[Clark hits dab]

Tyler: And how fast do you feel it acting?

Clark: Instant – it’s like as soon as I exhale

Tyler: So even before the high?

Clark: Yeah – my legs are so much less tighter than they just were.

Tyler: I’m not a patient, so I think of the high as the medicine. But it’s not, necessarily the medicine is it?

Clark: Well, the difference is that maybe you and I have different endocannabinoid system makeups.

There’s a study that I’ve read that showed that the endocannabinoid system for people in chronic pain will create more cb1 and cb2 receptors in the areas that the person is in pain. Thus the cannabinoids directly go and help the places that they are needed.

So it’s not necessarily getting me as high as it would for you, because it’s going to different places in my body.

Tyler: Can you give us an overview of the sort of conditions that some your members are treating themselves with using cannabis?

Clark: I couldn’t possibly tell you every single condition because I can’t remember all of the names, like medical names aren’t something that stays in my brain in general.

All of the conditions that you would associate cannabis helping with, we have patients that represent that. There are quite a large proportion MS patients like myself. I think that’s largely due to more MS awareness around the therapeutic use of cannabinoids. So I think that people with MS feel more comfortable and confident in talking about it than others necessarily.

We’ve also got anxiety patients, depression patients as well. Faye – she has arthritis. Alex Fraser’s got Crohn’s Disease. We’ve had lots of different patients with cancer – some of them unfortunately not with us anymore like Mike Cutler.

We have Winston – who, you know Winston, he has liver problems, and he consumes cannabis, it helps him for that.

Kieron with epilepsy – so you know, people with epilepsy it really helps. He was having a seizure every other week. He started to consume cannabis, it was almost a year between seizures.

Over the years that we’ve been founded now, we’ve put on events and we try to empower patients to feel comfortable in telling their stories. Because when you’ve been through quite a lot, and you’ve had like a really tough time in life, it can be really empowering to just stand up in front of people and say “you know what, this is me, this is my story – it’s pretty shit – but with your help I can get through”.

And to have other people relate to that, it’s really powerful, and I think that a lot of people have found something through the UPA, including myself.

Diabetes as well – the diabetes patients, quite a few of them. Fibromyalgia, ME, COPD, PTSD – as I said, there’s more and more and more and more… but I can’t remember them all.

Clark French, An Interview with Clark French, Director of the United Patients Alliance

Tyler: You mentioned that a larger proportion perhaps are represented by MS patients because of the increased awareness now – you just had the biggest MS charity come out and say that cannabis should be OK.

Clark: Yeah, and I think that it’s really important to recognise where and why this has happened. We’ve had that because we’ve had people like Lesley Gibson THC4MS and Biz Ival who really went a long way to get the message out there that cannabis was medicine for them.

So because of those people who have had that courage, others are more likely to talk about it. And the ball keeps going and going and going so that’s what I really wanted to try and do with the UPA was inspire others to do similar things to what I’ve done because it can help – the more people that do it, the more awareness that is spread, the more people that understand cannabis is medicine, the more people that feel comfortable talking about it. And it goes on, and it gets bigger and it gets bigger and it gets bigger. Really wanted to help other people on their kind of journeys and help them get into the media and really push that message out there, and I think we’ve been really successful with that.

Tyler: I would say that you guys are masters of the press because you actually achieve what most of the cannabis campaign doesn’t which is featuring on the major news channels. I notice that whenever Sky News do anything about cannabis, they must give you a call?

Clark: Not all of the time, but quite a lot of the time. I think I’ve been on Sky 5 times.

Tyler: You’re seen as an authoritative figure for medical cannabis in the UK and it’s so important to have that and to have someone like yourself who’s got a story to tell, knows your facts, knows the background, does the research, keeps up to date with everything and helps people.

So it’s inspiring to other people within the campaign. What’s been your top interview experience so far?

Clark: I think one of the best – I’m not sure it’s available anymore – but it has to be the 4thought episode that I did.

Channel 4 used to do a programme called 4Thought and it was on after the Channel 4 news every night. And they just gave 3-and-a-half minutes to talk about a subject. And I just got to talk about cannabis, talk about how it helped me. I went there in my suit, feeling like I was making a difference. It was the first time that I got such a massive positive response.

Tyler: I think I might have even seen that back in the day, I think you might have showed it to me because I do remember.

Clark: Yeah, I think it was roughly around the time we started to talk, it was about 3 or 4 months after I did that article for you, something like that.

Tyler: I was still Nuff Said back then…

Clark: Yes you were!

Tyler: This is my video confession..It was me guys [both laughing]

Tyler: You’ve always been open, because of your condition and-…

Clark: I think I’ve always just been open. Honestly, I don’t think its because I have MS that I’ve been open. Because when did I first ever post a picture of me smoking a joint on facebook? All the way back in 2007

Tyler: Ten years ago

Clark: I’ve always just been I am who I am – if you don’t like it, well, I’m a big person, I’m not trying to harm anyone, not trying to hurt anybody, if you can’t see that, then whatever. I’ve just always been like that.

I never used to shout about it like I do now – this is my calling in life., you know. I don’t know what I believe in terms of religion, I’d say I’m agnostic right, but, sometimes there’s like just this little feeling that you go “do you know what, I’ve been put here for a reason” and that’s what cannabis activism does for me, it makes me realise that I’m here to try my best to make a difference.

Tyler: Have you faced any challenges from being so open about your cannabis consumption?

Clark: I got kicked out of my old place because of the smell of cannabis basically, unfortunately. I was living above a disability health centre, a disability care centre that sent carers out into the community. And I went and I told them who I was – I didn’t tell them about the activism – I just said you know I’m Clark, I’m your neighbour, I’m upstairs, I have MS.

But then they just complained to my landlord about the smell. And the landlord got wary. And then they complained again and then I went and spoke to them and then literally the same day they were knocking on my door like “NO, it stinks”. And I was putting on Incense as well. So I tried really hard to cover the smell, but when you’ve gotta medicate, you’ve gotta medicate. You kind of think that people who are working at a disability care centre who are looking after disabled people would probably understand that someone in pain might want to not be in so much pain – but obviously not! But that led to me trying to find a new place. And the day I was due to move in, the agent said “oh no, the landlord has just suddenly pulled the plug and has just suddenly said no for no apparent reason”.

And just thinking about it, what could that be? Like he wouldn’t give a reason, wouldn’t say anything, had my name, what’s he done? I think he’s googled me.

Tyler: I’ve actually been in a similar situation, I’ve also been kicked out of somewhere for smoking. But I told the landlord before I moved in that I smoke weed, and then I smoked on the balcony. But then he had an issue with the amount of weed that I smoke, which has been a continuing issue since I started cannabis consumption.

ISMOKE Your Way

Tyler: So this is a section I like to call ISMOKE your way – Clark has rolled a joint. What’s in the joint Clark?

Clark: Girl Scout Cookies

Tyler: Nice! I love that strain. You’re not always a smoker.

Clark: No

Tyler: And one of my questions was going to be: do you smoke? But obviously, you do

Clark: Yes I do

Tyler: So, when did you start vaping, and what got you into vaping over smoking?

Clark: First and foremost, I think it’s important to say I stopped smoking tobacco. So when I was diagnosed with MS I felt like, you know, tobacco is pretty bad. I’m sick anyway, I don’t really want to be risking all the other illnesses that potentially go along with that, so I’ll knock that all on the head. I smoked pure for a long time, and then I found dabs, basically. And then between dabs and the Mighty, I probably smoke about 20-30% of the time now, so mostly vaporise, mostly dab and Mighty.

Tyler (smoking joint): That tastes good

Clark: Yeah – the taste is good. When it comes to strains like this, you can still get the really nice flavour from the smoke but a lot of the time now its way more pleasant to vaporise just because you get – it just tastes nicer.

Tyler: You’re always going to get the better taste vaping, I concede that point. But what I like about smoking is the power. With vaping it feels – I really like it, and I think it’s important to stress that it’s the safest way to consume. Definitely vape other smoking.

Clark: Definitely

Tyler: Definitely vape over smoking, if you don’t smoke – vape

Clark: Don’t start

Tyler: There’s no point

Clark: Just vape and dab

Tyler: Yeah, vape and dab is absolutely fine.

I feel like vaping is quite light.

Clark: I think without dabs I’m not sure I would be vaporizing as much, it’s definitely had a positive impact on my level of smoking and massively reduced it.

Tyler: What do non-medical patients not understand about the medical use of cannabis?

Clark: I think that we don’t get as high – I think that’s something that a lot of people don’t understand. They think – “Oh you’ve just smoked that massive joint, or had that massive dab – you must be smashed”. And actually no, you’re not, you’re just taking it back to normal – to probably even below normal actually for standard people – but you’re just taking away some of those symptoms, some of those problems and kind of getting a little bit from it.

And I think that people don’t understand the necessity as well because medical cannabis isn’t just like for fun. Although it is fun, it is so about wellness and being happy, and being healthy and being comfortable.

Tyler: This is something you’re gonna love – the user vs. consumer debate.

Clark: Yeah

Tyler: I’ve actually come round to your way of thinking recently

Clark: You would agree?

Tyler: I would agree that consumer is better terminology to use than user.

Clark: I’m pleased about that

Clark French, An Interview with Clark French, Director of the United Patients Alliance

Tyler: So my question is – perhaps a bit of a leading question – are there any other cannabis terms that have been adopted that annoy you?

Clark: When people say marijuana that annoys me a bit, I just feel like it’s unscientific and it has mild – well not mildly – very racist undertones from America

Tyler: It’s propaganda – it’s a hangover

Clark: Exactly – say cannabis, so everyone knows it’s cannabis. It’s linked to hemp, it’s the same thing like, I just really feel like that’s the scientific name – it is cannabis, so let’s call it cannabis.

Tyler: I feel like that about “skunk”

Clark: Yeah – skunk is ridiculous.

Tyler: It’s bang on – what you said about marijuana – skunk is like that, 2.0

Clark: Go to a dispensary in California, right. And you look at the test results – 75-80% of the strains that are in medical marijuana – see, marijuana, I just said it – but that’s what they call it there, so…

Tyler: It’s the name of it!

Clark: It’s all high in THC

Tyler: That is the medicinal aspect… One of them

Clark: And if Peter Hitchens or Theresa May, or any of these other skunk idiots who think that cannabis is bad because it makes people mad, I think should go and see this because actually it is exactly what they are saying is causing people psychosis and schizophrenia over here. Where are all the psychosis and schizophrenia patients in California, in Colorado, in Washington State, in all of the places that have legalised and regulate medical cannabis because believe me if the DEA had that, if they had proven cases where cannabis caused psychosis and schizophrenia that would be all over the American media, because they love to demonise cannabis as well.

Tyler: It’s still federally illegal so they’d still be looking for the excuses

Clark: Exactly – it’s some form of weird British – it’s uniquely British. Skunk madness is uniquely British.

Tyler: It is!

Cottonmouth Quencher

Tyler: This section is called The Cottonmouth Quencher and we are enjoying a nice cup of tea.

Do you find better results from Indica or Sativa?

Clark: Depends what time of day it is. Indica more than Sativa, but I don’t necessarily want to smoke or consume an indica as soon as I wake up in the mornings. I need both. I think that’s something that people also need to be aware of, the difference that different strains can have.

Tyler: What country have you had the best weed in, would you say, out of all the places that you’ve travelled?

Clark: Well, it has to be America.

Tyler: Do you think that’s because of regulation?

Clark: I think it’s because of regulation. But I also have to say that a lot of the UK cannabis is a good standard nowadays. It’s getting much better now – not for everyone. But I think you can get as good cannabis in the UK now as you can in America, but it’s much rarer, and much harder to come by. So it’s like…

Tyler: You’ve got to know the right people, and unfortunately due to prohibition a lot of people don’t have that luxury.

Clark: Yeah.

Tyler: so I’ve got some Afghani..

Clark: Purple Afghani

Tyler: Purple Afghani

Clark: Purple Kush is an Afghan landrace and an Afghan landrace, so it’s afghan.

Tyler: It smells purple.

Clark French, An Interview with Clark French, Director of the United Patients Alliance

Clark: It does! That’s the exact the way to describe it – crazy isn’t it?

Tyler: It smells like..almost like.. Does it smell like a palma violet?

Clark: Almost.. Yeah almost.

Tyler: I want to review this man, is this the only bud that you’ve got?

Clark: Well, these are the only two that I’ve got, unfortunately.

Tyler: That’s alright – we’ll do it next time!

Quickfire Round

Tyler: Let’s do a quickfire round then Clark and just answer these with the first thing that comes to mind. What is your favourite colour?

Clark: Purple [laughss]

Tyler: Name someone alive or dead that you’d love to smoke with.

Clark: My stepfather who passed away when I was 11, because he consumed cannabis around me – well, I caught him – he tried to get away with it but I caught him. And you know, it would be great to share a joint with him and be like “Try these Girl Scout Cookies”

Tyler: That’s powerful man..

What’s your favourite type of fish?

Clark: Erm.. I don’t know, I’ve never thought of that before

Tyler: Name a fish!
[Clark Pauses]

Can you not name one fish?

[Laughing]

Clark: I can see them, but I cant think of their names

Tyler: Like a starfish, or like a shark?

Clark: I guess I thought of shark but then I thought is that specific?

Tyler: Not specific enough?

Clark: I definitely thought shark..but then I don’t really like sharks, so I didn’t want to say shark. [both laughing]

Tyler: Movie, or TV series?

Clark: Top Buzzer – it’s a 2003-2004 on MTV, I think you can get it on Amazon or eBay. So it’s these guys that share a flat and smoke cannabis together and have good times – there’s some crazy things that go on. Prohibition happens, and some stuff goes wrong because of it, but it’s overall a good time. But not many people know of it, so really highly recommend that.

Tyler: What would your favourite Bertie Bots Every Flavour Beans flavour be?

Clark: Sorry what?

Tyler: What would your favourite Bertie Bots Every Flavour Beans flavour be?

Clark: I think watermelon

Tyler: Nice

Clark: Just cos it’s so refreshing.

Tyler: What’s your most used emoticon?

Clark: Probably smiley face

Tyler: Standard smiley face?

Clark: Yeah

Tyler: What’s your favourite film?

Clark: I’ve thought about this, and I think I have to say – only because I watched it when I was younger and I loved it then – Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. And I don’t tend to like that many action films or bloody or shooting people kind of films like it’s not really my thing. But there’s just something about that film that I just love it’s just all of the lines and you know just memorizing – “We grow copious amounts of weed yeah and you turn up on our doorstep with a wasted girl and a bag of fertilizer? You’re not your average horti-fucking-culturalist”

Tyler: Chill Winston.. [Laughing]

Tyler: Amsterdam or Barcelona?

Clark: Barcelona, easy choice.

Tyler: Barcelona or the US?

Clark: US, easy choice

Tyler: US, or the UK?

Clark: US, easy choice. (Laughs) Why am I still here?

Tyler: That is your winner!

Clark: But we can make it happen here. And we are making it happen here so it’s only a matter of time. I think it’s important that we all do what we can.

Tyler: It’s a when, not an if – we’re gonna get legalisation, we need to fight for it. This will be remembered, it’s is important guys. We need legal access to cannabis for medical patients and we need it for recreational consumers and everything in between – people that use it to enhance their lives spiritually – whatever, like it should be your choice.

Clark: In my opinion, cannabis has vast medicinal benefits right? So even though you say “I’m not a medical patient” really, if you use it for a headache or to relax after work or instead of alcohol – you know, really, that is a benefit to your life. So actually, what is recreation anyway? It’s doing something to enhance your life.

Tyler: So the other founding members and people within the UPA to shout-out – so Jon Liebling, Winston Matthews as well – who else?

Clark: Jon Liebling, Faye Jones, Abi, Winston, Chris, Mike, Kieran…

Tyler: So many important people doing wonderful things for the medical cannabis campaign in the UK. So guys, if you want to check out the United Patients head over to

Clark: www.upalliance.org

Tyler: And I’ll put a link in the description, and yeah – check them out at one of their events soon. But it’s been great having you here, really good chatting to you, getting a bit of insight into you, what you’re doing with the UPA, and yeah, just cannabis in general. So thank you very much for being here.

Clark: Thanks for having me mate.

Tyler: It’s been an absolute pleasure, and I’ll see you very soon. We’ve had fun.

Clark: Is this the most high you’ve ever been in an interview?

Tyler: Probably – well, no, I don’t think so

Clark: I think this might be the most high I’ve been in an interview.

Tyler: Nice

Clark: Or maybe not…

Tyler: You can’t get this high on Sky News

Clark: No. Eamonn Holmes wouldn’t have it.

[Laughing]

Tyler: If you enjoyed this one, hit that subscribe button and go and give the UPA’s Facebook page a like as well. Help them grow, and share the video – tell your friends about the medical benefits of cannabis. As always, thanks for watching, and keep toking.


We hope you enjoyed our interview with Clark French! If you liked this article, you can let us know by tweeting @ISMOKEMAG

Note: This is part 3 of the series. You can catch up with part 1 (Sy Dignam) and part 2 (Simpa Carter) here.