“What are you doing?” asks Dave. He’s just got into bed and I’m scrabbling, in that irritating, apologetic, one-handed way of mine on the bedside table. Irritating because if I don’t stop soon he knows he’ll have to get up again to help.
“Just getting my cannabis,” I say.
He sits bolt upright. He’s appalled. He’s in bed with a drug user. A lifetime enjoying alcohol has never softened his righteous attitude to mind-bending substances. Drugs are a disgrace: he won’t contemplate them in his house and he never forgave a girlfriend of mine who lit a joint in his car after he’d picked her up at the station. What if the police had stopped them?
“Relax,” I say. “It’s only a sugar-free gummy bear. A cannabis gummy bear. How cute is that? Or I’ve got a cannabis jelly dome that’s vegan too. Would you like one to suck?”
For it is true; I have become a user and a pusher. The misery of my nights had been growing – a self-fulfilling prophecy of broken sleep and pain, when analgesics didn’t reach me and addictive benzodiazepines tempted me.
I cast around for someone to buy me proper weed, but I’m so square (as opposed to Dave, who’s cuboid) that I didn’t know anyone. Well, no one I felt I could broach it with, if you know what I mean. It’s a delicate matter, procurement, if you don’t speak the language. My arthritic friend who recently smuggled some back from Canada needs it all for himself; my dope-smoking girlfriend is hundreds of miles away; I know no dealers; I can’t ask local teenagers because I know their parents, and it’s useless asking Dave to make discreet inquiries in the pub, because frankly he’d rather die.Then someone sent me CBD-infused products from love-hemp.com, mysterious things that I gazed upon with the same nervous enthusiasm as the box of totally unfamiliar Ottolenghi recipe essentials I was sent. CBD sweeties? Chocolate? Body salve? Oil from a pipette, like luxury serum? And Britain is only getting started – in the States CBD is a pop-culture phenomenon. Kim Kardashian held a CBD-themed baby shower this year; the fast-food chain Carl’s Jr tested a CBD-infused burger in Colorado. You can get CBD mascara and dog biscuits.
But the thing is that, really, truly, honestly, I found sucking just one humble jelly dome helps me.
I’m one of the biggest sceptics to, er, no longer walk this Earth. I smell snake oil at, well, 50 paces (what’s with all the walking metaphors?). But this stuff, fully legal and marketed as a food supplement, seems to work. Since I started sucking sweeties or dropping oil under my tongue last thing before I put the light out, I haven’t had a ghastly night. Broken ones, yes. But that huge hurdle of falling asleep – that’s gone away. It’s like escaping torture.
The cannabis thing is complicated. CBD – not to be confused with CBT, cognitive behavioural therapy, although that might help me too – stands for cannabidiol. CBD doesn’t make you high, it’s been approved by the World Health Organisation and it’s legal. Anecdotally and, increasingly, scientifically, it eases pain, insomnia and anxiety.
The other main cannabinoid in a cannabis plant is THC, tetrahydrocannabinol. That’s the one that’s illegal, psychoactive and makes you high. (Tetra, huh? I think that’s what I need.) What I’m taking contains no THC. The medicinal cannabis that helps children with terrible epilepsy, smuggled into the country by their mothers, contains CBD and THC.
What fascinates me, of course, is the massive power of placebo. If I chew a jelly dome – a bit nothingy to taste but less meh than oil drops under the tongue – I relax, convinced I’m going to sleep. Does the CBD do that or is my brain convincing my body that it’s going to do it? Or a bit of both?
Frankly, I’m not going to overthink it. Placebos work best when you follow a treatment ritual. So I close my book, take off my glasses, start my one-handed scrabble for the LoveHemp sweetie tin. Which, if it doesn’t sound silly, feels like a way to guarantee peace.
“I’ve got cannabis chocolate too,” I tell Dave. “I’ll give you some in the morning.” He’s still huffing and puffing when I fall asleep.
Melanie Reid is tetraplegic after breaking her neck and back in a riding accident in April 2010