What's New in UK Cannabis: Separating the Strains

This is the first in a blog series profiling exciting companies, projects and people who are paving the way in the UK cannabis space. 

Separating The Strains is a documentary, currently in production, that explores medical cannabis treatments for epilepsy patients and others. 

Hanway had the pleasure of meeting the impressive team behind Separating the Strains when Chelsea Leyland chaired the Crossing Paths: Medical Cannabis Journeys panel at Cannabis Europa. During the panel she spoke to champions of advocacy Carola Perez, Charlotte Caldwell and Tom Curran about their experiences as patients and caregivers, as well as sharing some of her own journey with epilepsy and medical cannabis. Leyland, originally from the UK, is an internationally famous DJ. Both she and her sister experienced life-changing results treating their epilepsy with cannabidiol (CBD), which lead her to become a tireless advocate for the destigmatisation of both epilepsy and medical cannabis. 

What particularly excites us about this documentary is that it explores both personal, human stories, it also assesses of the state of the global medical cannabis industry as a whole and the many conditions that have the potential to be treated as laws liberalise around the world.

One frustrating aspect to any work with medical cannabis is the wide gap between the volume of anecdotal evidence versus the dearth of scientific research on the plant, due to its historic illegal status. One of the things that has been hardest for Leyland so far is the amount of patients suffering without access to the medicines that they need, or reliable resources on CBD and other cannabis-based medicines:


"Even though we knew these cases existed, when you are confronted with them face to face and hear their visceral anecdotes, you realise how convoluted and biased our whole system is. It’s frustrating and totally unfair that many medical cannabis patients not only have to fight stigma surrounding their conditions, but then go on to face more stigma surrounding their treatment choice."
"I hope that people will walk away [from the documentary] with a better understanding of epilepsy and what it really feels like to live with this condition. My hope it that other epilepsy sufferers out there will feel less stigmatized and more empowered. I want to reduce the stigma around cannabis so that people begin to see this as a viable medicine." 


While in the UK, the team met with some of the leading authorities in the field, scientists, politicians, and doctors. Their period of filming couldn't have come at a more exciting time, coinciding with the Home Office’s decision to begin to allow medical cannabis licences and subsequent decision to reschedule cannabis-based medicines. This u-turn was, in large part, a result of the tireless campaigns of Leyland's fellow Cannabis Europa panel member, Charlotte Caldwell, as well as Hannah Deacon, both on behalf of their sons who are reliant on cannabis oil to prevent the seizures they suffer from rare forms of childhood epilepsy. 


Speaking about the Home Office's announcement, Leyland said that while they were excited, it only incentivised them further to keep working:


"We still have to speak out and organise ourselves within the industry to help push legislation in the right direction. Our goal is that access to medical cannabis is determined by scientific evidence, and provided for any patients who need it, without discrimination. There is clearly a long way for the UK to go before this sort of access and approach is taken. That’s why we need to stay vocal, keep educating the public, and continue our dialogue with those with the power to really affect political and legislative change."


The approach of the whole Separating the Strains team to filming and the people they have been meeting for this documentary have impressed all of our team, especially their commitment to advancing public knowledge, legislative change and scientific research on CBD in the UK. The team is now traveling to Israel and the US to continue filming, two other crucial markets in this budding industry. It will be exciting to look back at what they've created during one of the world's most transformative periods for cannabis. We're looking forward to seeing what Sophie, Caroline and Chelsea do next!


Watch the trailer below and support Separating the Strains' Kickstarter here