Wednesday 21 March 2018

Neil deals cannabis (but it's all legal!)

Reporter David Medcalf ventured into the Wicklow hills to find a man who believes that cannabis - but without the highs - provides a valuable alternative to many conventional medical treatments

Neil More O’Ferrall administering some of the cannabis oil to his dogs
Neil More O’Ferrall administering some of the cannabis oil to his dogs
Some of Neil More O’Ferrall’s products

Neil More O'Ferrall quickly moves to clear up any misapprehension.

Yes, you almost certainly have seen the surname. But, no, he has no known connection with the More O'Ferralls who are responsible for many of the billboards which enliven Irish streets and roads.

Perhaps, if he were related, then he could use the clout of his namesakes in making an impact on public consciousness, as he has recently started a new business.

Instead he must rely on less brash methods in reaching out to potential customers who might consider using his cannabis ointments or drinking his cannabis tea.

Cannabis? Neil is at pains to point out that the merchandise he sells is completely legal, offering no chance of a high to anyone seeking cheap thrills. The Dublin-reared entrepreneur is strictly kosher and above board.

Brought up in Dún Laoghaire, he has been resident since 2008 in the Wicklow Mountains, living amid the scenic splendours of Glenmalure.

'I am very, very lucky to be in a fabulous part of the world,' declares the 46-year-old. 'They will only be taking me out of here in a box!'

His family has good County Wicklow connections, though not originally with the hilly bits in the middle of the county.

His parents had a fruit and vegetable shop on the Main Street in Bray, in a premises which is now Holland's public house.

It must have been there that young Neil first acquired the urge to be a salesman, as he delivered bags of spuds to customers around the town.

'I am always selling things' - he ponders this as a fact of life rather than a decision taken. 'I was working from a young age and I did not go to college. I was always working.'

A career in banking proved short-lived and he also flirted with a software company before emigrating when still a young man.

He had stints in Australia where he sold cars, then in South Africa where he sold beer as partner in an Irish-themed pub.

He ended up in London involved in 'sales and marketing' for a while and before returning home to more automobiles and to Dublin.

He had his own car yard in Templeogue before suffering nasty injuries in the road accident which proved a profound turning point in his life.

One of his legs sustained six fractures in the collision and the damaged limb required a series of operations.

His personal misfortune coincided with the dramatic fall from grace of the Celtic Tiger, a combination of personal circumstance and economics which led to Neil shutting up shop in Templeogue. He realises now that, as his health suffered and his business foundered, he slid down a dangerous spiral of mental anguish and pharmaceutical dependency.

Well-meaning doctors concerned that their patient was suffering in the wake of the accident prescribed a series of painkillers.

A second accident when he was rear-ended in Wicklow only compounded his difficulties.

There was no problem renewing the prescriptions again and again until the patient concluded they were doing him more harm than good.

He began to take a cynical view of the pharmaceutical industry which promised him relief - in return for being bound, body and mind.

Unemployed and disabled, he had a great deal of time to ponder the matter. His investigations led him to take an interest in his body's 'endo-cannabinoid' system and to break away from reliance on conventional treatments.

'I was not in a position to work, due to the accidents. I discovered a more rational way of healing myself.

'I am my own doctor. I was a believer in Western medicine until it was giving me more and more pharmaceuticals.'

Years afterwards, he is still full of praise for the orthopaedic surgeons who put his leg back together with plates and screws.

He is highly critical, however, of the health system's response to his post-op physical pain and mental depression.

In June of 2014, he stopped taking all the painkillers and all the anti-depressants, in defiance of medical orthodoxy.

'I didn't feel that I was being brave,' he insists. 'It was a case of having to find an alternative.'

The alternative that was effective for him proved to be plant-based healing - and the plant turned out to cannabis, though this was not immediately obvious.

Around the time that he was thrashing around in search of a fresh approach, he chanced to fall into a new relationship bolstered his mental wellbeing - he fell for a horse.

Kasabian now grazes land near the house in Glenmalure, a magnificent 17 hands tall at the shoulder, and well capable of trekking the hills with Neil in the saddle.

But he was in a thoroughly miserable condition when found abandoned near Moneystown, starved and run down.

Once he had been rescued and brought home, it was clear that four-legged arrival was in as much need of a tonic as his new master.

The remedy that proved most effective was CBD oil, derived from cannabis or hemp which was apparently used by the US Cavalry to treat horses in the 19th century.

Neil More O'Ferrall has become a passionate advocate for the therapeutic power of the oil and a fount of information on hemp. For many centuries it was a very widespread fodder crop grown around the world and it is only in recent times that its cultivation has required a special licence. He says that the founding fathers of the United States of America insisted that landholders must devote part of their farms to hemp.

Authorities turned against hemp in the 1930s, making it illegal and, according to the man from Glenmalure, thus removing valuable cannabinoids from the food chain.

'This stuff has been used for thousands of years,' he says of the plant which yielded the oil that he rubbed into Kasabian's gums to cure bowel problem.

The horse had signalled distress with constant pacing but the restlessness ceased within a matter of minutes after receiving the cannabis, followed in due course by a massive bowel movement.

Neil later found the same treatment efficacious in dealing with an old Dalmatian bitch who was becoming incontinent.

Though he had no hesitation in taking CBD himself, he first thought that cannabis as a business might be for consumption by animals rather than by humans.

He changed his mind as he became more and more convinced that this was a substance with calming and healing powers, taken as a dietary supplement or rubbed on the skin as an ointment.

'Being a car dealer was a soulless occupation but I now operate this business from my heart,' he says about the career change which allows him live and work amid glorious scenery.

He takes heart from the testimonials which come his way, citing a woman whose daughter was in touch to tell him that the stuff, taken as a food supplement, allowed her mother live without pain. He reports studies undertaken at the University of Tel Aviv in Israel suggesting that cannabinoids improve healing time and the repair functions of the human body.

He says that boxers are being persuaded of the merits of CBD in keeping them focused in the ring because, as he puts it: 'It enables you to operate from a much calmer space in your brain.'

And he stresses again and again that there is no 'psycho-active element' in the products he sells to customers seeking alternative treatments for everything from joint pain to skin conditions.

You would be as likely to experience an opium rush from eating a mound of poppy seed bread as to have a cannabis high from a substance which contains a miniscule 0.2 percent THC - the initials stand for the tetrahydrocannabinol that pot-heads crave.

Neil notes that hemp is grown under licence in County Wicklow and acknowledges contacts in Monaghan, while also mentioning sources in Germany and Slovenia, all duly licensed by the European Union.

The latest addition to his range is a tea, a drink, an infusion which he has labelled 'Chill the Feck Out' in order to add some humour to proceedings in a shameless, good-natured bid to get people talking about the stuff.

It certainly adds a fresh dimension to the phrase 'tea-pot' as the incorrigible salesman touts it as helpful in dealing with anxiety and with difficulty sleeping. It may even have a role in combating diabetes, he hints.

If ever you need to pick out Neil More O'Ferrall in a crowd, chances are he is the man wearing the T-shirt with the cannabis logo referring to the drugs once prescribed for him by the medical establishment as a 'cocktail of crap'.

Wicklow People