Tucked away in a quiet part of County Antrim in Northern Ireland, there’s a place where those who are able to are allowed to consume cannabis products completely at their leisure and legally.
It’s called ‘Stay Medicated’ and it’s a café that provides equipment for people to consume cannabis that they’ve been prescribed medically, although the man behind it hopes to one day sell recreational cannabis as is possible in the US and in places like Amsterdam.
However, there’s a long way to go until Ballyclare is the Amsterdam of Ireland, but that hasn’t stopped Alan Robinson – or NI Cannaguy, as he’s sometimes known – from setting up the UK’s first dry herb vape lounge in the small rural community.
“Medical cannabis on private prescription has been legal since 2018, and a lot of people we meet up in the dry herb vape lounge don’t know that, so we provide information for them," he explained.
“I have a prescription myself for severe anxiety and depression, so I myself would vape on the premises, but anyone that has a private prescription can come up and talk to people.
“At the very start it was strange, we had quite a few pensioners up, so we had a couple of wee grannies up wanting to know which was the proper medical vaporisers and which were the best vaporisers.
“Listening to them chatting away, they were talking about being able to play with their grandkids and spend time in their gardens, and they were happy, which I didn’t see coming.”
Whilst it’s more than just a vaporiser shop, coffee shop, and meeting place for grannies though, Stay Medicated is not currently allowed to dispense weed.
Robinson hopes that one day they might be able to, but currently they just help out with the products for consuming the cannabis
“Unfortunately, we’re unable to dispense at the minute, it would be unbelievable to do that.
“Vaporisers and cannabis on private prescription at the minute can be quite expensive, so people can sign up to a membership with us which gives free use of the devices that we have.
“If they want to buy one, they can buy one, that helps us keep the lights on.”
Outside of their hot chocolate, which apparently they’re becoming known for, the vape lounge also provides a vital point for those who have serious medical difficulties to get out and meet people in a friendly environment.
Robinson explained: “It makes a big difference to me, seeing someone come into the dry herb vape lounge on crutches, and maybe two weeks later they’re walking in without and with a big smile on their face.
“That’s what it’s all about.
“We have a lot of people with PTSD, mental health issues, and chronic pain.
“We have people coming in with cancer, but right across the board it’s been very humbling and at times very difficult and hard as well, because there’s a lot of ill people out there.
“The stories can be sad, they’re being let down by the government, it’s plain to see.”
Northern Ireland isn’t exactly the first place that you’d associate with a legal cannabis café, but apparently the local community and politicians have been very supportive.
There have been some negative comments, but after a ‘quiet’ start, the café is now getting people walking in off the streets and becoming busy.
In the future, Alan hopes that recreational cannabis will be legalised and his shop will be – as he rightly suggests – ‘a lot busier’.
He added: “I don’t see why people who want to use cannabis can’t use it freely.
“It should be available from your doctor on the NHS for those that need it, I can tell a lot of people are being let down by the health system.
“I’d be a lot busier if they [legalised it]."
“I would love to be able to dispense to people, you look at the industry in America and it’s gone through the roof.
“If it was properly decriminalised across the board the government would be quids in.
“The fight must go on, and hopefully this dry herb vape lounge can gather enough public interest that it starts to normalise cannabis.
“Hopefully it’s only a matter of time.”
Featured Image Credit: NI Cannaguy
Topics: UK News, Ireland, Drugs, Health, Mental Health
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