Imagine that your seven-year-old child lives with an extremely rare medical condition. Imagine that he has 500 terrifying seizures that threaten his life every month.
Imagine that he is admitted to hospital 48 times each year and you’re told that he can’t have the only treatment that could save his life.
That was the reality of Hannah Deacon’s son, Alfie Dingley, until he became the first person in the UK to receive a permanent medical cannabis licence in 2018.
You may well be aware of Alfie’s story, of his epilepsy, and his subsequent journey, but the story of his mother is also noteworthy.
As Hannah will tell you, trauma can be a powerful force for positive change. Everyone hopes that they will avoid the worst in life – accidents, illness, loss, pain. But with determination and the right mindset, even the most difficult life experiences can be used to champion positive change.
After launching one of the most well publicised medical movements of the last decade, Hannah has now founded Maple Tree, an ethical consultancy company in Alfie’s name.
Maple Tree was created to transform the emerging CBD and medical cannabis industry by providing unique expertise, strategy development and leadership for a range of businesses entering and maturing in this exciting sector.
As medical supply continues to be stagnant in the UK amid coronavirus, Hannah knows families will be looking for alternative avenues to getting medical cannabis and CBD, and she wants to make sure they only receive the best products possible.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I am co-founder of ethical consultancy Maple Tree and mother of Alfie Dingley, the first patient in the UK to receive a permanent cannabis licence. Alfie lives with a rare form of epilepsy and prior to medical cannabis treatment, experienced more than 500 seizures a month.
Can you tell us about your campaigning and business journey?
My journey trying to get Alfie a license and then an NHS prescription was a tough one. All the way along there were pitfalls in the road and ways of blocking access to patients. After working as a hairdresser and travel marketeer, I became a full time carer for my son Alfie. Whilst campaigning for him to receive access to life-saving medical cannabis, I met Mike who then helped us to successfully apply for the license. These experiences ignited a passion in us both to support the UK cannabis industry to grow and to move away from dependence on imports.
Tell us a little more about Maple Tree?
Made up of myself and leading cannabis expert Mike Barnes, Maple Tree Consultancy provides strategy and development expertise to a range of cannabis businesses entering this exciting sector in the UK. We are driven by a goal to improve access to medical cannabis to those who need it and hope to achieve this by advising companies on how to traverse what is currently a somewhat challenging market.
We feel so strongly that we can create a fantastic UK industry where product is available to patients. Mike and I believe we can deliver that together. We are keen to help the growth of the UK cannabis industry and get away from dependence on imports (although many of our consultancies are foreign firms wanting to get into the UK!)
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
The medical cannabis industry is mainly a man’s world. I have been at many meetings and been the only woman. The situation is slowly changing I think, and we are seeing more ambitious female entrepreneurs enter the industry. There is something to be said for a woman’s touch but also the traits that they can bring to the table including high emotional intelligence, empathy, intuition and strong interpersonal communication.
On a personal level, I have a young family and I still have a son with a severe medical condition, at times it is very hard to balance this with my work commitments but I feel determined to help others gain the benefits I have for my son.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
I am very lucky that I have a hugely supportive family and group of friends who have never openly questioned my decisions for Alfie, or my career choices. I believe they know I always have had and remain having his best interests in my heart.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
That you can’t trust everyone! It’s sad to say but I have been burnt by being too trusting. I was thrown deep into a world I knew nothing about and dealt with it as I always have by being open, kind and trusting, I am learning that I need to be cleverer.
What is your strategic vision for the company?
For Maple Tree to be seen as the leading cannabis consultancy firm in the UK and further afield. We want to be the company providing support on the complete development of medical cannabis companies who want to trade in the UK and abroad.
What is your hope and vision for the medical cannabis industry over the next 5-10years?
I would like to see all patients who wish to access MC have it available to them. As it stands, there is so much confusion for patients as to what is legal and what should be able to be accessed on the NHS. The UK Government are not making it easy to access licenses to grow medical cannabis for example and we hope these blockages will ease soon. I also hope to see the developing of UK cannabis industry with growers and extractors, of which Maple can guide and foster. There is still time to shape this exciting new industry in the UK and I for one, am truly excited to be part of a business community that seeks to drive change.
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