A Friend In Need
When Mahatma Gandhi advised us that we should ‘be the change you wish to see in the World’, it went down as one of the most inspirational philosophies of all time. In our current socio-political climate, it is more important than ever for us all to take responsibility for our own actions and take positive steps towards creating a better future for ourselves and the future generations who will inherit what we leave behind. Countless individuals support a cause in their own way (making donations, attending rallies etc.), yet all too often we find that most of us are simply spectators at the sidelines who cheer on the brave ones from the safety of the crowd. But not all of us. Some people are willing to risk it all to fight for what they believe in.
In the last part of the last millennium, one man from the North of the United Kingdom felt it necessary to take matters into his own hands. Fed up of seeing his friend suffering unnecessarily due to Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Jeff Ditchfield, offered to help them ease their pain by giving them access to cannabis which he had grown.
Unsurprisingly, the results were dramatic and Jeff found that his friend received huge medicinal benefits from the plant material and cannabis products he provided them with. He realised that there was a much greater need beyond his circle of friends and decided that it would be beneficial to set up an organization which could provide more patients with alternative methods of care. In 2002, he set up ‘Bud Buddies’ as a non-profit venture which acted out of what he deemed was a ‘medical necessity’. Over the next five years, Jeff and his merry band of like-minded individuals made it their modus operandi to help people from across the UK in their quest for a better medicine. What they found was that the majority of patients suffered undesirable side-effects from many of the legally-prescribed pharmaceuticals on the market, but these same symptoms simply didn’t appear when cannabis was used as an alternative or supplemental treatment. Jeff knew that he was doing the right thing, even though it was seen as being wrong in the eyes of the law.
Despite being fully aware that he was known to the police, Jeff expanded his role in the community by opening a coffee shop in Rhyl, North Wales and using it as a base of operations.
Triple-mocha-frappuccinos weren’t exactly the order of the day, which must have disappointed the officers who dropped in to see him regularly, yet he kept the fantastically named ‘Beggars Belief’ open for business for the next five years. Beggars Belief became the epicenter of the local community and allowed potential patients to meet up with kind-hearted growers to exchange hints, tips and medicines in a friendly environment.
Obviously, this drew the attention of the local law enforcement and the shop was under surveillance and subject to the odd raid or two. Jeff has been taken to court several times for supplying cannabis for medicinal purposes, yet the jury always ruled in his favor (much to the dismay of the judges) and found that he was acting in the best interests of the people he was trying to help. Perhaps his most significant defense was that he wasn’t supplying someone with an illegal drug, but rather he was donating medicine to a patient in need. In his own words, Jeff says that ‘he will never turn his back on an ill person’ and stands firm in his belief that he needs to fight this fight until the law is changed.
Eventually, Jeff and his fellow ‘freedom fighters’ decided that they would be able to make more progress and, ultimately, help more people if they relocated to Spain, where the laws regarding medicinal research were much more reasonable and conducive to success. The United Kingdom’s government’s insistence that cannabis has no medicinal value stifled the progress of research for many years, and recent work with select companies, whilst a step in the right direction, still leaves many great minds out in the cold. By moving to Spain, Jeff has been able to expand his research and work with some of the leading minds in the field of cannabis as a medicine.
Professor Manuel Guzman, from Madrid University, is seen as one of the key pioneers of our time by people in the know and he and Jeff have established a fantastic working relationship which continues to flourish.
During a recent conversation with Jeff, he explained to me how they were looking to investigate the anti-cancer properties of cannabis as a whole plant in comparison to the effectiveness of individual cannabinoids. They are also interested in the potential of synthetic cannabinoids as a treatment and Jeff set up a project to secure funding from ordinary people from around the globe using an online crowd-funding site, which can be found at http://www.gofundme.com/CancerCannabinoids (feel free to check it out for yourself and donate if you can). It is hoped that this funding will allow the various involved parties to conduct their research without the interference that is associated with corporate investment and their obsession with potential return. Once again we see the power of the people is strong when we unite for a cause.
Back in 2013, work began on a documentary which focused on the potential for cannabis to be used in the treatment of cancer sufferers. Many people have begun to ask the key question it seeks to address: Does cannabis kill cancer? But Bud Buddies felt that simply asking the question wasn’t enough and knew that it was down to them to put the concept to the test and document it in the form of ‘Project Storm’. Its aim was to trace their personal journeys and give first-hand accounts of how the work of Jeff and his associates made a difference in their lives and the lives of their families. The film was made on a budget which came as the result of kind donations and it offers an insight into the minds of leading researchers, self-sufficient growers and terminal cancer patients as they try to fight for a better standard of living.
Since it was posted online it has been viewed by tens of thousands of interested people, and in the age of online viewing this is more than likely only the tip of the iceberg.
It’s incredible to think that all of this was set in motion through one simple act of kindness: if Jeff hadn’t made the gesture to help a friend in need, he may never have helped countless others. Too often in this life we stand by and feel helpless, yet we never know how far taking that one chance might take us. Fortune favors the bold, but the greatest rewards are what money can’t buy.
At the time of writing this article, Jeff is preparing to set off on another journey of discovery and is looking forward to attending Spannabis. He’s recently been to Jamaica and is looking to return their soon to work on another phase of his ever-expanding plan to help people in need. We wish him all the best and look forward to seeing what the future holds for this bold and caring soul.