On Weed & Its Articulation

Mennlay Golokeh Aggrey is an incredibly inspiring person to me. She is the author of “The Art of Weed Butter,” an instructional resource, as well as an educator on the ethics of weed. There is something holistic about Mennlay’s approach, and articulation, that is encouraging. It makes me understand the importance of thorough discourse, even about what we consume, and how we consume it. She is also the co-founder and creative director of Xula CBD, the co-host of Broccoli Talk podcast, and the founder of a new benefit pop-up dinner, Cenas sin fronteras. Today we’re talking about her journey through weed, African botanics, her future-dreams, as well as Xula—and what it means to create ethical products.  

My darling Mennlay, how are you?

Well, if I’m honest. I’m not doing super well today. But I think this topic of conversation might be a beautiful way to process some of those feelings. Since we’re still in Cancer season after all.  

As a double Cancer (moon and rising) you know I’m all about this. I have a lot of things I want to ask you because I’ve found over the years you’ve just articulated so many of the things that I’ve often thought about weed, and the world of weed… So I’ll start by asking, can you tell me when you first started smoking? Should we start there? I feel like there’s so much stigma about weed and what it represents, and there aren’t enough (especially femme perspectives) of a relationship with the plant and what it offers. 

This is a beautiful place to start! When cannabis, weed, ganja, mota first came into my life, I was 14-years-old, a freshman in high school. At that time I was neither cool, nor an outcast. Just sort of floating somewhere in between. I was away at a boarding school for low income kids who might have “white potential” as far as success in school or whatever so I was away from home in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Dairy town USA. Life then was confusing and I suffered from what I know now as depression. Mostly because I was displaced from my family in a white town/space. So anyway one day I was at the roller skating rink with some friends from school. These type of activities were allowed on the weekends. So we were there and some of my friends had invited some dudes to come hang with them. As they were all sort of flirting and kicking it, I was passed a blunt. So I took the blunt and smoked what was my first hit of weed. It was less out of the desire to be cool, but more to avoid having to make-out with or talk to anyone—more so out of curiosity—to finally partake in this thing that I didn’t know much about.

This was that typical first time, this out of world experience where time stretched. My memory doesn’t allow for much more than that. But I know time slowed down and I found myself in a space where I didn’t feel depressed or anxious or awkward. I finally felt like myself (a space cadet LOL). At that point, I think I knew that this experience was for me. This feeling. It helped me connect with just being—a teen—a weirdo —whatever. It suspended time and allowed for me to be whoever and whatever I was.

I kept this a secret from my mother, other adults, and most other friends. My cannabis life was undercover from my first time in 1998 until 2005 when I first started cultivating weed in Humboldt, fresh out of college. For a long time, disclosure was dangerous and unacceptable. There just wasn’t space for me to talk about my experience. But I wrote a lot about it in my journal.

I’m trying to have transparency of my own journey with weed, because I’ve seen marijuana—Santa Maria—to be such an important facet of my own healing journey. It’s kind of wild to me that you smoked your first blunt by accident, in order to not make out with anybody. In that there’s this inherent innocence that I love, it’s so cool that we get to rewrite rhetoric that doesn’t always make space for us, and our relationship to this magical plant. Was this your beginning of smoking weed more regularly? Do you smoke weed regularly? I’d love to know your journey and where you are with marijuana. 

That’s a really good question and something I often space out on. No, I didn’t smoke regularly because I didn’t know where or how to buy it. And honestly, I didn’t really yearn (lean on it) for it too much until college. In high school it was a once and a while ritual, whenever the so called bad kids would show up to the skating rink with herb, or if we snuck out. Which is another long ass story.

So, maybe I would consume herb every three to six months. In those times between, it was as if I was still able to hang onto that feeling of open time and space. An open heart and lightness that allowed me to enjoy my youth more than I had been. I think as the eldest child to a single immigrant mother of four, I often was the mother. Or internalized a lot of her woes. And so with weed, even in those few moments I could let go. And that extended beyond the moments of being stoned. 

I wanted to ask about your upbringing. Was your mother strict? Or religious? Sometimes I have a hard time remembering exactly what happened in my relationship to smoking more regularly, but it has been really rewarding to go back to this teen self and try to understand her. Anyway—it’s also interesting to know you were the eldest, because even in your recollection it feels as if you were really mature about your decision to smoke weed (at a young age) and something I feel like is very “eldest child.” What began the transition to actually deciding to smoke? 

LOVE THIS QUESTION. You’re right, there is something rewarding about going back to teen smoking baby. To be able to conceptualize or maybe even compartmentalize what and why and how is nourishing. My mother was sort of the black sheep in her family. She had me at a young age and didn’t go back to West Africa with my father when he wanted to send us back. I think she was an outcast in her African community and didn’t take to religion in the same way as other parents might have. I did have a teen bible that I read a lot. 

When I started consuming herb it forced me to digest and question who this white Jesus was and why my family would worship a god that was brought over by missionaries. My mother and I did fight about this a lot and I think once I was regularly smoking in college I challenged her a great deal about my relationship to god. That’s when I became more spiritual and into the idea of something higher than me. 

The transition was fluid. I started school and had more access to herb and smoked a lot more of it. But my family still never knew. I had to set the example for my little sisters who I think still saw me as a next to mother type influence. Someone who made the grades and did the right thing, but someone who was obviously getting weird when it came to my beliefs about the environment and other self-righteous first year of college bullshit.

White Jesus… Damn, the truth. Well moving from this idea of “the colonizer’s religion” (I definitely struggle with that myself, with Islam as well… that colonized a lot of indigneous cultures as well as profiited off the transatlantic slave-trade) but we started Studio Ānanda as a place to have these conversations. 

I feel like with the rebranding of “CBD” there’s this inherent whitewashing that happens, and I wonder how that’s impacted your work—how that question of whiteness—has impacted the way you navigate these spaces?

CBD aka diet weed has been (for me) a reluctantly deeper exploration of white wellness for. From its unexpected legalization, to its ability to make other psychoactive cannabinoids aka TCH look “bad.” I was initially really hesitant to start a CBD company, but my business partner (who is Mexican and queer) really encouraged me reimagine what we could change about the CBD space. 

One of the most vile aspects of white wellness is the constant appropriation of indigenous plant medicine. So it made sense for us to sort of reclaim it. To sort of position CBD as a gateway drug to plant medicine for BIPOC people. It is after all ours. Patient’s access to cannabis has unfortunately been left out of the discussion in legal markets For example, as we’ve seen legislation change in California from medical to recreational, we notice that free and or discounted access to cannabis for low income patients, and patients with HIV /AIDS, cancer, and other chronic illnesses have become second thought. Even though these same patients in the past are the reason why we have seen so many advancements in the industry.  One of the most important parts of 1996’s Prop 215 was that it was a law passed for patients, The Compassion Act… Back in the day as a professional cultivator, it wasn’t uncommon to gift or donate herb to folks who needed the medicine the most. That was one of the most beautiful manifestations of the law. 

So for Xula, the CBD brand I’m launching along with my partner Karina Primelles, we’ve been very mindful about ways in which we will offer compassion discounts and donations to people most vulnerable in our communities. 

Yes. I wanted to actually start asking about Xula. What was the reason behind starting it? I mean you’ve obviously explained the need for it, but I’d love to know more behind the decision to start it. Especially during a pandemic (or maybe even more the reason for!) 

Xula, as a company, started in 2018 though we don’t officially (legally) launch until the fall of 2020. We initially planned to launch here in Mexico, making CBD available here in the Mexican cannabis market. But as of now according to the Mexcian government herb and all drugs are technically legal to have and use but not to sell, that includes CBD and THC-dominant cannabis. So after a year or so of waiting, we decided to move into the US market since we’re both also US citizens. 

I am not Mexican, though I finally live here legally, she has her papers!! Haha! But the idea of Xula spawned from Karina and I’s desire to give folks access to legal CBD and cannabis in Mexico while also trying to negate the stigma of cannabis initially created by Spanish colonizers. Hallucinogenic drugs like peyote had been used in Mexico for millennia, as you know, but it along with weed became controversial during the colonial era when the Spanish associated them with communion with the devil and with madness. Fucking haters. That vile racist rhetoric crossed the border to the U.S administrators. Mexico’s cannabis prohibition began in the late 1800s years before prohibition in the United States. 

Getting a little off topic, but Xula is a direct response to that. Xula is a direct response to the absence of womxn, queer womxn, and BIPOC people in the cannabis space. We’re centered in Mexico City and honor not what it means to be a Mexican woman, a Latina woman, a Black woman, an indigenous woman. But also it means to be femme, non-binary and desire the feminine, softness that is cannabis herself. 

We fuse ancestral herbal knowledge and modern scientific understanding to create our products. They focus on hormonal balance, cramp relief, sleep and anxiety. We grow our own organic hemp farm in Southern Oregon, and use about 50 additional herbs organically grown and sustainably wildcrafted. Xula’s philosophy is embedded in the idea of bringing our awareness of plant medicine back to its native people and the ancestors of those native people. Our philosophy is to shift CBD from being in a white, basic, vanilla, hetero spaceto a one that celebrates the fluid aspects of cannabis. The indigenous aspects of cannabis, the feminine and non gender conforming aspects of cannabis. 

Also—CBD/cannabis is that a good way to differentiate them?

Maybe the best way to differentiate them might be CBD hemp and weed cannabis. It’s such a fucking scam all of it to be honest I hate it. But I think yeah let’s do CBD/ hemp and cannabis.

You’re touching on something that—as a consumer of a lot of different cannabis products—I think is important to question. We need to holistically consider the impact of our consumption. I’ve recently been thinking about ways to engineer radicality in how we engage civically, and what if we started pressuring white owned CBD hemp companies to create a system where they were regularly donating to bail funds, or indigenous groups that harvest CBD hemp/ weed cannabis? Imagine if companies cared less about profit and more on making medicine accessible to everyone. 

I wonder if any of these white owned companies think deeply enough about their responsibility? Because I think if you are white-owned and you have a responsibility to give back monetarily, significantly, and regularly. I wonder and worry about the future of sustainable CBD hemp / weed cannabis, but it sounds like Xula is considering these aspects (and even just how to have integrity as a company) which is really exciting. What are things that you want to see shift in the next few years in regards to how we create anti-capitalist /radical spaces for CBD hemp/ weed cannabis, and we can be dreamy about this.

So Xula also owns our hemp farm. And it’s operated by women. That’s been huge and important for us. We also plan on having an access / patient corner where we offer discounts to certain communities. 

But dreamy anti-capitalist ideas for the entire space, for me, would be for all white-owned hemp and cannabis farms and companies to give 25%, 50%? 100%?! LOL of their sales, or harvest to some sort of board that distributes the wealth and or medicine to marginalized and queer Black, Latinx and indigenous communities. 

In 1619, the Virginia Assembly passed legislation requiring every farmer to grow hemp—meaning that it was illegal to not grow hemp in the United States. Guess who were the people growing hemp? Enslaved Africans. Apart from normal reparations for Black folks, the cannabis industry (hemp and marijuana) needs to also pay. The hemp industry, the agriculture industry, the industry of Wall Street all owe M-O-N-E-Y to the families of enslaved ancestors and to the Native people whose land they looted and stole. 

If there was a way for those payments to be made directly from especially corporate hemp and cannabis farms and companies (particularly those with higher gross incomes or whatever smart economists say) need to pay. We already know that only 5% of people in the industry with executive/leadership roles are Black. 81% white, so something radical has to be done to tip those scales. Because equity isn’t cutting it. Donations won’t cut it. They need their assets taken and redistributed directly from the government as a form of reparations from the establishment of the cannabis industry in the US. 

THIS IS INCREDIBLE. We’re in the middle of a global revolution/global movement toward Black liberation and integrity in this sense seems so important. I keep saying this all the time, but we have to evolve as a species. I believe having these conversations, and just dreaming (which I feel like Mariame Kaba and a lot of abolitionists seem to emphasize how dreaming is SUCH AN IMPORTANT part of real liberation) so I’m grateful to be a witness to yours, as it reflects my future and hope to. 

What are things we can learn from the plant itself? 

One of the most interesting things about weed is what it teaches us. It’s hands-down the only reason why my curiosity and late night stoner nights turn into hard core albeit half-baked research moments. Some of the research I’ve done on cannabis, plants, food, flora and fauna has brought me to my own self discovery of Africa’s botanical legacy. And my ignorance to it. I think I’ve always had an innate understanding of who and how certain seeds and plants found themselves in different parts of the Americas, but I never considered it to be a legacy stemming from Africa. Like duh of course the original people would have had their hand in every species of plant and animal. Why the fuck it that so radical? Of course cannabis didn’t just show up in Asia and then somehow through magic end up in Europe and the Americas. It was changed genetically, chemically and consumed in Africa and like most plants brought to other parts of the world through trade, voyages and of course the fucking trans american slave trade. What I think we all can learn from Cannabis sativa is its ability to use itself as an example of how white dominant thought has plagued our knowledge of our collective botanical history. It challenges everything we know about plants, nature, healing and who is responsible for that knowledge. 

Thank you for that beautiful articulation. This is the crux of something so major—how deep, and far, the impacts of colonization go—as well as the responsibility we have to rectify this. For folks that are maybe new to this conversation, where would you direct them to think more deeply about weed/the colonization of botanics… as well as maybe more holistic conversations around weed justice… 

Botanics / orgs and readings

Soul Fire Farm 

The Black Farmer Fund

Farming While Black

In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa’s Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World

Cannabis prohibition + colonization readings

Home Grown: Marijuana and the Origins of Mexico’s War on Drugs ((Spanish))

The African Roots of Marijuana

Digging up Hemp’s Dark Roots

A brief agricultural history of cannabis in Africa, from prehistory to canna-colony

Cannabis Justice:

Cage-free Cannabis

National Expungement Week



Equity First Initiative

Any CBD companies you feel are worth supporting/ highlighting? 

Brown Girl Jane

Dehiya Beauty (they only sell a balm but i still covet it)



Juggling Access and Intentionality to Plant Medicine with Travis Brown

Hi Travis!!


Can you tell me three words to describe your mind/body/spirit at this very moment? 

Hmmm, three words to describe my mind/body/spirit. I would say…pensive, soft, optimistic. Thoughtful and pensive can be swapped maybe. 

So the month of April is cannabis month at Studio Ānanda & I really wanted to talk to you because we’ve been talking a lot about our relationship to marijuana recently. Mostly about taking space from it & as close friends, just being really open about where we are in our journeys with the plant. Before we jump right into it, And then, where are you at right now in your relationship with marijuana?

I’m in an interesting place. As we talked about before, I wanted to take a break from smoking. Since our original conversation, I recognize maybe it’s more the habit of being high every day, getting lost in the haze of being stoned and losing my grounding in my reality, creating a buffer from fully realized emotions so I could relax, take a break from being anxious always. So lately I’ve been smoking far less, really confining it to the weekends if I want to smoke.

It’s interesting you say that smoking is a way for you to feel less anxious, because for so many, consuming marijuana is something that makes them far more paranoid than they usually are. Do you feel like smoking daily was a way for you to suppress emotions, and do you think that since you’ve pared it back, you’ve been feeling more?

Inadvertently, I think so. I don’t think I’ve ever smoked with the intention to suppress myself emotionally, I’ve enjoyed the feeling of being high, the mental and physical feel of being stoned more so than anything. But as you smoke more regularly, that becomes a part of the equation, and you don’t always readily recognize it until you give yourself some room to get clear, sober up for a bit. I would even say smoking regularly allows for my anxiety and paranoia to be triggered more readily because I’m less grounded in the haze of regular consumption. But I would say since I’ve slowed down the smoking, the anxiety hasn’t increased, but I’m more aware of my feelings in general, like there’s more clarity and certainty in my thoughts. Less giving into the anxieties and thoughts that do pop up that I tell myself are real but aren’t.

I wanna come back to this piece on intentionality. I’ve noticed for myself, when I don’t allow myself come into sacred consumption, actually honour the plant for what it is – a medicine, that’s when I spiral. So, that could look like daily consumption to suppress or even, smoking with folks who also aren’t asking for the integrity from the plant. But whenever I do come back to cannabis with a very intentional goal of excavating deeper truths, relaxing, meditating etc, my journey is a lot smoother.

I wonder, since you’ve now carved out time to intentionally interact with the plant, the weekends, if that’s also contributing to the clarity you’ve been feeling?

Hmm, it’s hard to say. On one hand, I do think smoking with intentionality is a healthier exercise because creating space to be tuned into the experience and seeking whatever one might be seeking from their time with the plant makes the experience more enjoyable. I think you can leave the high and come down knowing you’ve grounded the parts of yourself you’ve needed to hear and see what you need to more clearly, and not get too lost in the haze. On the other hand, I would say creating space away from the plant has given my brain and my body more room for intentional thought in a sober mind. I think having room to unlock some thoughts with the plant is powerful, and having room behind that to hear those same thoughts sober grounds it a bit more, makes it more real and less a thought that’s blowing in the breeze or one I can only access with getting to the high mind.

Totally, I mean – if we are to consider marijuana a medicine, or a therapy, then we need to be able to sit without it as well to fully process what comes up away from it.

I do think the tendency to rely on it for daily functioning is a facet of capitalism in that, we become disconnected from the plant as a sacred medicine and a gift from the earth, instead using and abusing it for instant gratification. It reminds me of when my Mama asked me if I was an addict when I returned to Sydney, and I had to really sit with the connotations of addiction, and how internalized capitalism shows up in our cravings + attachments to substances… what do you think about that?

I agree that capitalism has created a feedback loop for instant gratification with substances in general. The latest push for marijuana legalization in the US oftentimes feels absent of the people who’ve suffered the most in the plant’s procurement, and the industry itself is so openly biased against people of color + pushing more white and wealthy people into positions to gain capital from the industry. It feels like seeing this brings those thoughts into a sharper focus, because as access increases to marijuana and the commodification of it becomes more widespread, you have to sort of question how does my relationship with the plant change? Now that I can get marijuana more easily, does that mean I open the window to smoking more, and if so, is that bad? Can I find grounding with the habitual change? Does this access mean I should even question it, because isn’t this a good thing? It feels like there’s questions that inadvertently pop up that I think are easy to obscure because it’s considered a net good for legalization. And I have to say, these are questions asked with more intentional practice in smoking, I don’t think every opportunity to smoke has to follow intention, I think one should have whatever reasons they want to smoke. But I think there are questions to ask as access shifts and legalization becomes a stronger reality here in the US and the west in general.

Yes. And the reality is, intention only truly comes with education. So many disenfranchised folks don’t have access to education around marijuana. One can never really ever place judgement on how folks choose to cope, it comes with awakening, I guess. And then there’s the ways that the western medical and wellness industry have commodified marijuana as an anxiety medication, disregarding Indigenous healing that has happened for centuries with the plant. It’s so insidious and so malicious how legalization, criminalization and addiction are all these modern, western concepts imposed and implanted, pitting folks of colour against the plants we raised….

How old were you when you began your relationship with marijuana, and what are some ways you’ve grown with the plant since?

That’s so true, and it’s unfortunate the powers that be have made a concerted effort to stigmatize marijuana and how it’s used (which I think the whole point of doing was to disadvantage people of color because marijuana wasn’t even commonly smoked by white westerners, if I recall correctly). It’s easier to make something a commodity when you already have restricted access to it, and Americans have been traditionally ‘virtuous’ about the law through the government’s own propagandic efforts over decades, so marijuana hasn’t really stood a chance against this timeline. Only when it became more apparent that white (race and economically speaking) people stood to profit off of marijuana becoming legal that there has even been considered a second thought to legalization, but we know that. 

My relationship with marijuana started when I was 19, I had been around it from around the age of 16 but never felt compelled to try it until my summer following my freshman year of college. I was in a more open mindspace and I felt comfortable trying it because I came to that decision on my own, not fully from peer pressure. Since then, my relationship has had many shifts with marijuana. I’ve gone long periods without smoking, I used to take six month breaks over the winter to let my mind and my lungs reset. At another point, I was smoking every day, from midday to the end of the day, just to level out and chill, to sort of be removed from the present and be in my own world. At this point, marijuana sits in a space of social interaction + connection and personal relaxation for myself, intention more so in the act of smoking than before with less frequency.

Beautiful to see how your relationship with marijuana has paralleled with a deeper awakening inside of you, emotionally, mentally, physically. I’m excited to see what the next chapter of your journey looks like & also, always here beside you <3 <3

Before we wrap up, can you share 3 – 4 tracks you like to listen to when you’re in a more sunny, stoned disposition? We connected over music (10?) years ago so I feel it would be so special to share that with the rest of our community.

Yeah, and I appreciate your encouragement! It’s wonderful to have a close friend’s perception on my journey with weed alongside their own, it makes our conversation and this reflection on the journey feel more thoughtful. If I had to give three or four songs (which is difficult because you know I could give twenty, easily) for the days of being in a sunny haze, I would say…

Please Set Me At Ease by Bobbi Humphrey (because a good weed vibe always has a nice jazz vibe for me)

Music That Excites Me by Meftah (because that track feels like a deep meditation into a world of its own, it feels like a track dedicated to love for music, which I also carry deeply)

Crime Pays by Freddie Gibbs and Madlib (I would also swap this with The Unseen by Quasimoto, the common denominator being Madlib, he knows how to bring the high joy out)

Essence of Sapphire by Dorothy Ashby (and I would only swap this with Renaissance by Calvin Keys, but I love jazz music with movement when I’m high, finding the spaces for melody to carry and to be transported to another world. Dorothy’s song evokes great emotion in a short frame of time that feels really good to get lost in, like you could repeat that song many times. Renaissance is a seven minute journey into a shifting world, every moment kinda unexpected but exciting to see where it goes, and I like the unexpected from a good high music session)

Travis Brown is a multidisciplinary creative currently residing in Brooklyn. He hosts ‘By Proxy’ on Playground Radio & an all-vinyl show on Twitch, “Travis Plays…”; freelances in graphic design, product design, and event planning; and enjoys conversations with friends old and new.” (open to edits!)

travbrown.com, mixcloud.com/sbtravie, socials @sbtravie across

A Journey Through Alleviating Shame, South Asian Spirituality and Cannabis with Yognandani Maharaj

Yogi, where in the world are you and how are you feeling today?

Namaste, hello, high! I’m in my garage studio in Hayward, California. This is where most of the magic happens from Luv Kush. I’m feeling a little bloated today and cramping, but excited to be here, grateful for the sunshine and weed to help me get by. I just smoked a bowl of Jack Herer grown by my neighbor and drank some of my cannabis infused Haldi Doodh.

How did you arrive at Luv Kush?

Luv Kush was an idea that came to me after half a decade of self medicating with weed. I faced a lot of stigma from my family and the South Asian community for my cannabis use.  At the same time, I felt alone working in the cannabis industry where, transitioning from legacy to legal markets, the industry became heavily dominated with white males who often silenced and overlooked my input.  At the same time I saw more South Asian culture being appropriated for terrible marketing and branding campaigns. I initially arrived at Luv Kush Co as a space for South Asians in the industry to connect, but it quickly grew to be a community that reclaims ancestral cannabis medicine within the South Asian diaspora. It’s a safe space for our community to learn about weed, to meet other people that use weed, and to share our stories to reframe the stigmatized narrative of cannabis. 

 “ A spot where we can kick it; a spot where we belong, that’s just for us.” – Tupac Shakur

As a South Asian woman, unlearning shame has been a big part of my healing journey. My relationship to cannabis has been a pillar of excavating the remnants of guilt that exist within my psyche, but it’s interesting because I also sometimes feel shame towards my practice of consuming cannabis. It’s awkward – maybe it’s because I live in a city where marijuana is still criminalized. My upbringing in a Thamizh Christian family also plays a big role. What are some tips you have for fellow desi girls who are working through shame and cultivating a relationship to cannabis?

Shame is real. It keeps us from being our truest selves.  It’s a concept designed by the white patriarchy to oppress us and fit a generic, cookie cutter model.  Although cannabis helps us through this, society tells us to be ashamed of our connection to this ancestral medicine. See how that’s connected? Cannabis is a tool designed to dismantle shame, but we are shamed for using cannabis, so for generations we’ve been stuck in cycles of shame.  I feel like finding a way to use cannabis for self discovery breaks that cycle. 

Reflect on your personal relationship with the plant to reframe the narratives of shame that have been associated with weed.  What do you feel connected to when you use cannabis? In what ways has weed improved your quality of life?  How does it connect to our heritage? When we reflect on our experiences, we affirm positive feelings with cannabis and start breaking the generational curse of shame put on us by colonization.  Reclaim what is our ancestral right – to our bodies, our medicine, our truth.  

Create boundaries for people that project their opinions/shame on to you and allow your truth to guide you to like minded individuals who share your experiences.  If you’re reading this, you are already living in your truth in some shape or form~ it’s what led us to each other today.  

It’s super inspiring seeing the flourishing relationship between you and your parents. How has cannabis allowed for better connections within interpersonal relationships?

I appreciate that! It’s a process and we are still doing a lot of learning and unlearning together. I think weed opened up our relationship because cannabis helped me understand my parents struggles and identity as an Indo-Fijian.  It was when I started doing research on weed in India that I learned that weed migrated to the Carribean (Jamaica, Trinidad, Tobago, Guyana), Fiji, South Africa and so many other places because of Indian laborers who were sold as indentured slaves by the British.  My ancestors were one of those Indians. My passion for weed led me to learn about my ancestors which deepened the understanding my parents and I had of each other.  

This flowed into all of the relationships in my life.  Cannabis made it easier to be myself.  I’m finally able to honor my boundaries with people I find draining or that I can’t be myself around.  Cannabis helped me attract like-minded people to build genuine relationships without feeling like it was a separate part of my identity.  As I mentioned earlier, living in our truth has a magnetic power that attracts you to your tribe.  I used cannabis as a tool to access my ancestry- that was my self discovery, but self-discovery is infinite.  Discover your inner artist, badass, goddess, chef, photographer, poet, revolutionary.  

Can you tell me a little about the South Asian roots of marijuana as a spiritual practice?

Cannabis goes back thousands of years as a spiritual practice.  Bhang, the Sanskrit word for hemp, was noted as one of the 5 plants of life in the Atharva Veda ~ an ancient Hindu text dating back to at least 1000 BCE.  Cannabis was noted in Ayurveda (the Hindu medicine of life) to cure ailments such as urinary disorder, malaria, colic, diarrhea, fever, headaches, nausea, indigestion and more. In some Ayurvedic texts, cannabis is referred to as vijaya or the conqueror.  

Bhang is said to be the favorite food of Lord Shiva and Parvati dating back to the legend of the Samudra Manthan, or Churning of the Milky Ocean when the devas (demi-gods) and asura (demons) worked together to obtain amrita, the elixir of immortality. Legend says during the churning, ratnas, gifts, sprung from the cosmic ocean, the final being an elixir of immortality, amrita, which spilled and gave us cannabis. After the last ratna was delivered, a vile poison remained, so Lord Shiva sacrificed his welfare and consumed it to save the universe. Parvati did not want her husband to die and wasn’t going down without a fight. She quickly utilized the knowledge of Ayurveda, to prepare a remedy made of cannabis that would keep the poison from toxifying the rest of his body. Parvati held the poison in her husband’s throat and fed him the bhang, saving him from the venom. Shiva, astonished by the power of ganja, presented it to humans as his personal gift to mankind.  

He is known as the Lord of Bhang and original creator of yoga.  I would even argue to say he and Parvati created the original ‘ganja yoga.’  Legend states that Parvati and Shiva consumed bhang to intentionally channel their sexual energy into meditation and yoga in the Himalayas. 

Their legends are still honored in India today, no matter how taboo.  Bhang tandai (milkshake), bhang mitai (sweets) and more are sold in government certified shops for holidays like Shivratri and Holi.  Babas and Sadhus still smoke ganja (another Sanskrit word for cannabis) and charas (hash) in the name of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. 

I fully believe that marijuana is a medicine that pushes us towards ego death, yet a lot of folks refrain from consumption due to paranoia. Is paranoia just another facet of the ego? What are some ways folks who have trouble consuming marijuana can ease themselves into a relationship with it?

I love that we feel the same way about this.  I agree, I feel like bhang definitely pushes us towards ego death.  Bob Marley said, “When you smoke the herbs it reveals you to yourself.” That means the good, but sometimes it also means the bad and the ugly.  Sometimes, we might not be ready to face our ego, and this can manifest as negative thoughts, paranoia or a “bad trip.” This is just your body and the cannabis guiding you to work through ego to access spirit.  The ego needs security and safety, to feel in control. 

To help with the latter, I highly recommend developing a ritual that sets the mood or intention for your practice.  Light some incense, turn on a nice song and reflect on something that will ground you through your experience.  You can go even deeper and journal your thoughts before, during or after consuming your medicine.  Secondly, start by microdosing (consuming a very small amount of THC/CBD).  Taking your medicine in small doses allows you to feel out the effects and monitor your tolerance level.  It’s also important to remember that cannabis feels different if it’s consumed in different forms- edibles, tinctures, smoking, full spectrum vs distillate. Try out a variety of ways to consume before making a decision! 

What are some of your go to grounding practices over the past year?

The loudest voice in my head is screaming GRATITUDE!!! Gratitude is definitely my grounding practice.  This past year was a really heavy year for all of us as a collective, but coming back to a list of gratitude always seemed to calm me.  If I was feeling ugly, I’d make a list of reasons why I was grateful for my body. If I was feeling anxious, I’d make all the things I was grateful for bringing me comfort. Writing my own affirmations out every morning was also very grounding.  If I was feeling tension in my day, I could center myself back to my affirmation. “I am a vessel for creativity and joy.” 

Another one of my favorite rituals is putting on my Khush & OJ Face Mask, smoking a Backwood and listening to my friends podcasts.  My favorites are Desi Soul Jams by Mandee Banga (@missbanga), Brown Girl Tokes (@browngirltokes) & The DiaTribe Podcast by Pearly Pouponneau (@thediatribepodcast).   It’s a chance to laugh, cry, ove on my skin and myself while feeling like I’m hanging out with my stoner girlfriends.  

This might be off-topic, but these are the people living in my truth led me to! Sharing our experiences with cannabis connected us on Instagram where we’ve been able to hang out virtually and build together.  It’s helped process a lot of the isolation I’ve been feeling this past year.

Yogi is the founder of Luv Kush Co, a community wellness space that explores and reclaims cannabis in the South Asian diaspora through consciously cultivated education, resources, and experiences. Yogi’s work in the cannabis space reclaims thousands of years of medicine and unveils how Britain’s exploitation of South Asians gave birth to the first legal cannabis cultivations in modern history. Learn more at by following

The Landscape of Medicinal Cannabis in Australia with Thomas Brown of honahlee

Hello! How are you doing? 

Good thanks – you? This is such an interesting way of doing an interview 🙂

I’m good, thank you. Yes, Fariha and I are all about comfort and being as casual as possible.. Plus, I love going back to old school back and forth typing like this.

If you could describe your energy today using 3 words, what would they be?

Motivated, happy and excited.

Motivated because we have some really exciting features we’re going to be launching on the honahlee site in the next couple of days that will really help people with accessing cannabis medicine.

Happy because I had some really good sleep and just feel like today started off well and is going to continue that way. And, excited because this is a really nice change of pace – doing an interview in this way, and I’m going to be chatting with a lot of new people and planning some very fun things for work and personal reasons today.

Thank you for sharing and bringing some of that joy that you’re experiencing into this space this morning. I’m so excited to learn more about these new features. Hearing about an opening of access to cannabis in Australia actually makes my heart race – it’s soooo needed and I would love to know, how did you arrive at honahlee? What were the seeds that were planted that brought you to this healing platform?

I’d say that everything started when I was younger. It really all began with recreational use of cannabis back in the USA. I first used cannabis with my best friend and we thought it was something really fun and exciting. However, shortly after smoking cannabis for the first time, I realised that there were many other ways that people were consuming cannabis around me. One of my closest friend’s dad used cannabis as a medicine. He had various health issues and smoked a few times a day to manage the symptoms of this condition. As I grew older, cannabis changed for me. It was still something I used ‘recreationally’ but it was more for relaxation and to unwind. When I moved to Australia in 2011, I asked friends about cannabis and they said that it wasn’t that popular here, so for a few years I didn’t really think much about it. I finally found it again and so it became part of my relaxation routine but I realised it was also really helping with my back pain (I have disc issues with my back). Then I met my wife who has Fibromyalgia and a few other medical conditions. I introduced her to cannabis. It was one of the only things that helped her and so it became more of a medicine. Fast forward to 2018ish and I’d been thinking about starting my own business for ages. I saw a few articles about now being the time to get into the cannabis space in Australia if you wanted to get in on the ground floor. My business partner and close friend was also using cannabis for endometriosis. We decided that, because we’re both marketers, we should do something digital with cannabis. We put out a survey to about 200 people and found that most Australians didn’t know much about cannabis – eevenn the basics. What is CBD vs THC etc… they didn’t know much and took all their info from the US. So we decided on cannabis education. We put up a website with a guide to accessing medical cannabis and gained some traction so we decided to go all in. About 1.5 years later, here we are. Between then and now cannabis has helped people in my family and we’ve been able to help what I would estimate to be thousands, maybe tens of thousands of australians access medical cannabis and learn more about the plant in general!

Wow – what a journey. That education is so crucial for so many reasons, but what immediately strikes me is how through cannabis education, Australians can overcome a lot of stigma and a lot of shame around plant medicine. I live with PTSD and there are some days where I feel like such a felon lol because of how I medicate with cannabis. Can you speak a little more to what cannabis access in Australia actually looks like – in terms of who has access? Do you see a shift happening with a destigmatisation of the plant through your work?

Sure…so, any GP or specialist in Australia CAN prescribe cannabis – it’s just down to whether they want to. The only exception to that statement is in Tasmania, where currently the government is making it very hard for patients to access. However, as of 1 July 2021, all GPs and specialists in Tasmania will be able to prescribe also. I should also mention that medical cannabis has been legal in Australia since 2016.

We always recommend that patients go to their GP first – before going to a clinic or some cannabis specialist for a few reasons. Firstly, your GP really knows your health the best (if you’ve been seeing the same GP for a long time). Honestly it’s probably best to say to go to your primary care doctor over your GP because that’s who you really want managing most of your treatments. If your GP doesn’t want to help then you can always go to a cannabis clinic. Clinics have been set up to help patients access cannabis. They’re great if you want to get cannabis, however, all they do is prescribe. They don’t really manage your overall health and well-being like your primary care doctor does. That’s why we want to try to move people away from clinics to their GP. Well, that’s one of the reasons. The other is that the clinics are often very expensive and charge a lot of money for a 15min consultation. This is one of the reasons people think that accessing cannabis is so unachievable from a price perspective. 

But, if you go to a GP and get bulk billed or get a medicare rebate then the cost of access doesn’t actually have to be that much.

Then you need to understand eligibility. There are two ‘types’ of cannabis that are currently legal:

  1. Prescribed medical cannabis
  2. Low dose CBD products which are over the counter

For prescribed products you need to have to meet a criteria:

  1. Have a chronic condition
  2. Have tried other treatments and the treatments have failed or given you unbearable side effects

If you meet that criteria then a doctor can apply to prescribe you cannabis. There’s no list of conditions for which a doctor can prescribe so, technically, a doctor can apply to prescribe cannabis for any condition as long as they can make a case based on some clinical evidence.

If approved then the doctor can write you a script and off you go to a pharmacy. There are a few other intricacies to this process but they’re really not worth mentioning as this is the most used pathway. Low dose CBD products became legal over the counter Australia wide as of 1 Feb 2021, however, we won’t see any of these products in chemists for at least another 18 months because they’ll need to go through clinical trials and meet a whole bunch of special criteria. But, when they are available you’ll be able to get CBD products that contain mostly CBD and 1% or less THC for specific ‘minor’ conditions – just not chronic conditions.

Regarding the perception changing – yes, I think the perception of cannabis is slowly shifting. We currently have about 65,000 active medical cannabis patients in Australia. But that number is probably a bit low as the Therapeutic Goods Administration isn’t doing a great job of tracking all the pathways of access. 

We’re seeing cannabis medicine on the news more, we’re seeing more political parties focused on legalisation of cannabis popping up – two members of the Legalise Cannabis WA party just won seats in WA parliament recently, and we’re seeing more politicians start to talk about legalisation. The only problem that I see with the way cannabis is becoming more ‘normalised’ is that we’ve gone from one end of the spectrum to the other. 

Cannabis has been this plant that’s been villianised for so long – it was only for ‘stoners’ and ‘potheads’ etc. Now we’re seeing it as a medicine but only for those who are chronically ill or on their deathbeds. The reality is that cannabis is an aid for health and wellness. It can be a medicine to some, a tool to relax for others, maybe it enhances experiences for others. We can’t box it into one space. As a community we need to see cannabis for what it is. It’s a plant that is relatively harmless. Yes, it does have negative side effects and can harm if used too much or incorrectly but it’s very harmless when compared to other drugs that are accepted like alcohol and tobacco and even opioids. We need to see cannabis as something that can be used safely and that people should be able to choose to use for whatever purpose they want as long as they aren’t harming others, or themselves.

Phewww!!! I’ve just learnt so much, thank you for sharing such valuable information. I think, even learning that medical cannabis has been legal since 2016 in Australia has alleviated some of my shame. And I totally agree that there needs to be a more nuanced approach to how we view the plant medicine. With all medicine, we need to be able to understand what it treats and how we can use it as a treatment. Platforms like honahlee make me hopeful that as a community we can come to that understanding in the near future.

I know honahlee did some work around world Autism day, which was last week. I have a nephew who was recently diagnosed and while I still haven’t suggested medical cannabis to his parents, it’s something that I’m thinking about as I’ve lived with the therapeutic effects for the past 6 – 7 years. What were some key things you learned while digging into medical cannabis as a therapy for people living with Autism?

I have to start by saying that I’m not a doctor so nothing I say here is medical advice. That’s one of the reasons we work with experts – because they have the experience. I think there are a few important things that people should know when looking at cannabis to help treat Autism.

  1. It’s not a magic cure. Cannabis doesn’t work for everyone so it’s important that people (and parents) don’t go into a situation thinking that cannabis will cure their child or someone you love.
  2. That said, cannabis may help. There is a lot of real world evidence that cannabis can help with symptoms of Autism. Cannabis may help with aggression, agitation, and sleep. It’s different for every individual so you won’t really know until you’ve tested it.
  3. Cannabis doesn’t mean ‘high’. And, when treating Autism, specifically in children, the psychoactive component of cannabis, THC, is often used at extremely low levels. I won’t go into the details of CBD and THC but when treating Autism, again, specifically in children, the solution is often mainly CBD which is non-psychotropic. 
  4. There is actually research that looks at CBD and treatment of Autism symptoms and it’s not perfect but it’s solid. A lot of doctors will say that there’s not enough research and it doesn’t work but we’re getting there. In this case, there is some solid research and some of it is coming from Australia.
  5. Finally, cannabis can have side effects and downsides. We often hear that cannabis is bad for children due to the developing brain. The research we have on cannabis and children/kids is mainly recreational and mainly high THC, not CBD. So while people often think that cannabis will hurt children, that’s only one part of cannabis. Now, that said, we don’t have too much data on long term CBD use, however, what evidence we do have shows that there isn’t much to worry about.

I think the takeaway here is that cannabis may be able to help individuals, adults or children, on the spectrum and if it’s something you want to test you shouldn’t be scared because of the stigma. The drugs that are normally used to help treat symptoms of Autism have a huge number of side effects and some far more dangerous than cannabis. Just know that you need to do your research and find a practitioner that you’re comfortable with. There are some really great doctors in Australia who have lots of experience treating kids and individuals with Autism.

I wonder if cannabis treatment for autism is similar to treatment for folks who live with PTSD? It’s so interesting to me that my therapists will suggest really hardcore anti depressants that make me feel terrible, and encourage me to stay away from medical marijuana. Is that something that comes up for you at honahlee?

I’ll answer the treatment question first – noting again that this isn’t medical advice. Cannabis is really interesting in the fact that cannabinoid treatment is really the same for everything. The only major difference at this stage is the dose. We’re still in the early phases of learning about the different cannabinoids – CBD, THC, CBC, CBG and so on. Scientists haven’t figured it all out yet so the two major components of our medication are CBD and THC. Regardless of your condition, you’ll start with a very low dose and titrate up slowly to avoid side effects. Some doctors understand other parts of the plant more, like terpenes for example, and may suggest certain products with more sedative properties etc, but that’s not happening often in Australia as we’re still a bit behind. So to recap that – yes treatment is pretty similar for all conditions.

Re a doctor saying to stay away from cannabis – yes that happens all the time. Most doctors in Australia are still anti-cannabis. When you put it in the context of how you feel from the medications a doctor prescribes and then look at some of the side effects of those drugs vs how you feel and the side effects from cannabis, it’s actually pretty crazy that more doctors don’t at least give cannabis a go with their patients.

This is all about the stigma of the plant – many doctors either still believe the lies that were told when cannabis started to be portrayed as this thing that made people mad. Others just don’t feel that the research is there yet, which is kind of true. We don’t have a lot of double blind placebo controlled trials – but when you look at the real world evidence – your story, mind and the hundreds of thousands and millions of people world wide. The ‘evidence’ that it works for some people is there.

It’s important that doctors see cannabis as a tool in their tool kit. Not the go to thing that they should give everyone. That’s all we really need. Doctors need to accept that it can help. Done 🙂

Amazing. Yes, just being open to the possibilities of healing that come with honouring such a sacred plant is so crucial. I guess we are still waiting for western medicine to catch up in that realm, but again, knowing that platforms such as honahlee exist makes me feel so assured.

As we come to a close, can you share a few grounding practices that you have come back to over the past year? 

For me it’s been yoga. I started to practice about two years ago and it’s really changed my life. As mentioned I have a back problem. Not only did yoga help with my back but because of the knock on effect that nerve pain can have on your overall health, yoga has helped me find a place of less pain and more calmness and open mindedness. I aim to practice 5 days a week and alternate that with swimming which I also find extremely calming and peaceful.

In terms of cooking, during covid I started to make pizza from scratch. This may sound silly but I really enjoy the process, particularly the kneading of the dough. People often think that pizza can be made without kneading, and it can, but the best pizza I’ve made has come with consistent kneading and a lot of precision. I find that the whole process focuses me and then the outcome… it’s delicious!

Tom Brown is a co-founder of honahlee.com.au, a startup junkie, a cannabis enthusiast and a digital marketer. Tom loves to trawl through cannabis research, documenting cannabis truths and myths. His interest in cannabis began as a teenager growing up in New York. 

Tom started consuming cannabis at an early age for recreational purposes. However, he quickly realised that people were using cannabis for various purposes, including health, wellness and medicine. Like many cannabis consumers, Tom’s cannabis consumption changed as he matured. 

You can connect with Tom on Linkedin or Twitter.

Cannabis and Indigenous Sovereignty in Canada with Cheryl Maurice

Hi Cheryl, I’m really excited to talk to you. I found your work by digging through the net for Indigenous women in Canada in the cannabis industry and found Digital Buffalo, and was just intrigued. I’d love to hear more about it.

So, I’m Dene, we’re from the northern part of Canada, northern Saskatchewan. I don’t know if you know much about the residential schools in Canada, we’re currently going through the truth and reconciliation commission. We’re now getting more recognition for what we went through, but also trying to change how we move forward. This is ‘The Great Reset’, right? What does that mean for us, as Indigenous people? We’re different, we speak a universal language. We’re not about race or anything like that. This is why we have our medicine wheel with all the four colors of the world in the four directions. I was raised on the land. I didn’t speak English till I got to grade school. I’m very proud of my language. 

This was about five years ago when we thought of the idea for Digital Buffalo. We were researching different technologies that are out there, and we felt that there was a need for more Indigenous people to be in the technology sector. Not only technology, but innovation as well which is really important, so that’s something else we’re working on.

I got involved firstly because of my passion and love for the plant. For us as Indigenous people, it’s a living spirit and we talk to it. You have to be in love with it, and grow with it. In every Indigenous culture, we have this traditional practice where we do ceremony and we put the seed under our tongue and that seed goes specifically with your DNA. There’s a lot of knowledge from our people that is connected to Mother Earth. This is why the environment, the water is so important to us, protecting it as well.

When we incorporated Digital Buffalo it wasn’t just about technology but also about training our people, which we are going to be working on as our second phase. We wanted to get more of our people into the technology world, because I always say we speak the universal language. We are visual learners. Everything that went on in the past, the things that happened that are not so good in this world as a whole, affected everybody. It didn’t only affect Indigenous people. It affected every race and color.

The way that I understand it is, cannabis as a plant is now one that is being commodified, healing being commodified and sold despite the fact that it has been integral to Indigenous as a whole. Even in terms of the ways that the plant has been stigmatized, and villainized and criminalized and yet there’s this huge booming business culture around it.

With us, inclusion means everybody. It doesn’t matter what color you are. There’s a difference there with like minded people who want to do wonderful things with the plant, and on the other side you have the corporate washing. Corporate washing means, it’s only for a profit. They have absolutely no respect for the plant. What they did with cannabis in Canada, I was involved from the beginning right before legalization. I was involved with many different events and I even spoke at the Canadian Hemp Alliance conference back in 2019. We try to have Indigenous inclusion in the cannabis sector for a few reasons. One in particular: tobacco was our plant, it’s our ceremonial plant. Corporations came in and added chemicals to make it addictive and sell it for a profit. I was in this fight ten years ago with the government. And that’s exactly what I told them. You stole it, you poisoned it and you made a profit out of it. That’s why I called it corporate washing. That’s why I got involved with the sector. Not only that, but it’s done wonders for me as a medicinal plant. I’m involved with this group of like minded people who want to heal people through natural medicine that doesn’t have side effects, not like big pharma. If I were to tell you of all the companies that offered me big money but didn’t have good intentions that I walked away from, I could’ve been a very wealthy woman. But I stuck to those beliefs for a reason. 

I was involved with the whole legalization process here in Canada and it turned out to be the same way as what they did with tobacco. They separated medical cannabis from recreational cannabis which is silly, because there is really no difference. I then found out the difference was that they took out the medicinal value of recreational cannabis and turned it into another addictive drug. It’s hard for a lot of people to actually see the truth of what’s happening in the world. There are two groups, one that wants to do good and one that wants to make money. That’s the reality of what’s going on right now. To me it’s not right and I’m still actively involved with everything we’re trying to do on the Indigenous side. 

In Canada, they put us on these lands and called it reserves. We have these treaties, 1 – 11, I’m part of treaty ten. That was an agreement between my nation and the crown to work together and to co-exist. But it didn’t turn out the way we thought it would, because history kept repeating itself. That’s why a lot of our people were left oppressed with highly addictive behaviours and higher rates of suicide. You know how they say third world countries, well come and visit our reserves and you’ll see a third world country. That doesn’t make sense to me because they help organizations all over the world, but they forget their own. 

We have our own lands, that they call ‘reserves’ which they put us on. We’re actually sovereign nations and a lot of Indigenous groups in Canada are exercising their sovereign rights right now. A lot of First Nations have told the government to back off, that we’re going to create our own cannabis bylaws, our own quality control, our own research. We’re going to do business here. There’s over 150 sovereign dispensaries on the reserve. But once again, we’re handcuffed because the money that we make from the dispensaries, we can’t put it in a bank account because they say it’s illegal. Even though they gave us that right to be sovereign. Yet they have a hard time when it comes to us creating our own economic opportunities. That’s why there is so much poverty in our communities. 

Digital Buffalo was something that I created because I was really interested in technology, because of the weather up here. We were thinking of doing indoor agricultural farming using various technologies, so that’s another concept that we’re working on right now. I have some really interesting people in my circle. Right from a technologist to a permaculturist to an agronomist. Just good people that want to do good things. So lately, it seems like everything is kind of moving forward. Our projects are moving and more people are paying attention. It’s an amazing time to be alive. Now is the time to make a difference. 

Working with like minded people, with people whose intentions are so aligned to do right, it just creates so much innovation. You can only really consider new possibilities whereas, when it’s a profit based model, you can only go so far till you hit a ceiling of perpetual consumption.

I’m in Australia right now and medicinal cannabis is legal but it’s not widely used. I just wonder how that could change if our First Nations people were given more autonomy with the plant. Hearing your story is inspiring and encouraging.  

It sounds like for the most part, you’re working autonomously from the larger business of cannabis – do you think about the changes that could be made if they were working more ethically?

If we didn’t have to fight with corporations to do what we wanted to do, there’s a lot of things they say that are ‘illegal’ even though we know that they work. The difference is we want to heal people and they just want to suppress people. Our vision would be to build our healing lodges, so if a doctor says you have six months to live, then people could come and see us. I work under the guidance of the tribal clan grandmothers. They guide me on everything that I do, and I have to be true to what I do, and truthful as well. That’s an important component of what I do. There’s not very many people like me, I would say. That doesn’t make a difference to me, because I know as a woman, I have leadership abilities and I know that with what I’m doing, it’s a plant for the children, the grandchildren. I’m a grandmother of three, and when you’re moving into the future and you see what’s happening, and you’re working with all these different spiritual people that can see what’s coming, then you have to have that vision of: what is it that we need and how can we start working together to create unity. How can we create revenue with what we’re planning? We have markets, we’re one of the biggest plant and root medicine companies in the world. We’re using our own Indigenous branding because we did studies and found that a lot of people would prefer our own branding than something else. It’s more like promoting healing, wellness, the whole element of the medicine wheel. Mental, physical, spiritual wellness.

That would be my vision. I have a lot of people on my team with amazing gifts. I feel so free about what I’m doing right now, I know it’s going to work. Now is the time, the Great Awakening is happening now. 

Cheryl Maurice is a member of the English River Denesuline Nation located in northwest Saskatchewan. She is very fluent in her language. She spent over 25 years as a team member in the Indigenous governance sector and developed a natural talent for business.

Cheryl is an avid entrepreneur and is currently involved in creating natural healing products and sustainable solutions with industrial hemp, cannabis, food sovereignty plus innovation and technology.

Cheryl has always been driven to create opportunities and solutions for Indigenous groups and continuously strives to create economic independence. She credits the passion to her grandparents who helped raise her and taught her the importance of maintaining culture and traditions while living off the benefits of the land.

She has also planned many events including national events focused on creating economic independence. Her passion to help people continues as she works hard to bridge the gap. Her dedication and wide network of international clients has demonstrated that she carries a desire that will no doubt assist people to create a quality of life that she has always dreamt of.

Sexual Healing and Social Equity through Canadian Cannabis with Antuanette Gomez

Hey Antuanette, how’s your day?

My day has been really really good, it’s been super sunny, I meditated and did a study class. I still have a few more meetings.

Lovely. I found your work just through digging through women who were working at the intersections of cannabis and sexual healing and stumbled upon Pleasure Peaks. It’s such an amazing initiative, how did you arrive there?

I was a holistic nutritionist back in 2015 working at a chronic pain clinic. I was so fascinated by being a holistic nutritionist because I learned that there were so many different forms of alternative healing and using foods to heal different ailments, naturally. When I saw cannabis it just made sense that it is one of the biggest super foods on this planet. Natural alternatives are very fascinating to me so it wasn’t till later that I got involved with tantra and learned sacred sexuality. When I was learning tantra there were a lot of ancient sages that used cannabis in tantric practices for sexual healing. I thought that was very fascinating because I was also a ganja yoga teacher at the time and I loved using cannabis consciously in meditation practices. 

When I was working at the chronic pain clinic, I was shocked that there were so many people that had so many different barriers to fulfilling sex lives. As a person who never thought such a thing, I just had so much compassion for them. I heard stories like, I havent had sex in five years, me and my husband havent had sex since we got married. And all these things are very common in a chronic pain clinic. That’s how I really learned how cannabis can give people quality of life. When it came to sexual health, I always found that these people were dealing with other things as well. People don’t prioritize their sexual health because they don’t think it’s that important, but everything is interconnected. When I find that people aren’t having a healthy sex life, they’re not having a healthy life, period. And so many of my patients at the clinic were saying that cannabis helps them with their endometriosis, that cannabis helps them with their fibroids, that cannabis helps them with their polycystic syndrome, that cannabis helps them with their insomnia, pain through sexual intercourse, the list goes on and on. I just thought it was worth doing the research on. 

It wasn’t until I came across Katy who has endometriosis and was in her early twenties being told that she would never bear children, that’s when I really learned what endometriosis is. And it affects 1 in 10 women. If you think of that statistic, 1 out of 10 people on this planet know what cancer is, that’s a huge population but nobody knows what endometriosis is. I thought it was shocking, and wanted to raise awareness because no one should be suffering in silence. It’s such a taboo topic to talk about, there’s too much guilt or shame. There were so many different types of barriers that had to be broken down. Obviously it doesn’t work for everyone and that’s the most fascinating part, because we have to do our own research, which is why we have our own Pleasure Labs. I just find sex so fascinating, which is why I’ve been doing it for the past 8 years.

I like to think about how we return to the plant, consciously. I was using it for years as a teenager and young adult, not consciously but living with vaginismus. Only after I began using it consciously did I find all these sexual health benefits. I also had to work through a lot of shame around using the plant. 

Do you see that with women who are sexual assault survivors who are already carrying this burden of shame and then coming to the plant, there might be a little shame there as well?

Shame and trauma are so complex. Something as small as what somebody has told you, don’t touch yourself there you are dirty, when you’re between the ages of 5 – 11, is enough to traumatize you for your whole life. This is why those developmental ages are so important, around those ages and at adolescence we’re learning about sexual health and drugs. And it’s mostly, don’t do drugs, it’s bad for you, and abstinence is the best form of birth control. Now we can have an educated conversation around it. What I love about being a teacher and educator is knowing that we all come from different walks of life so it’s important for us as a brand and a company to educate people on all of the different ways they can heal. One does not fit all, especially with sexuality and cannabis.

We now know that all humans have an endocannabinoid system, just as we have a central nervous system and digestive system. We have a system specifically for processing and using cannabinoids, aka, using weed. We have these systems in place, so we have a lot more connection to the plant than we think. On top of that, our endocannabinoid systems are as unique as your fingerprint. Your endocannabinoid looks nothing like mine. So it doesn’t matter if we all use the same product, cos we’re not going to find the same benefit. 

I hate to compare it to alcohol but it does make sense. You have different experiences when you’re on tequila as you do gin, on vodka as you do rum. I find that when I drink vodka I turn into a complete 18 year old mess, and when I drink rum, I will cry and make sure you are the fault of all of my problems. I have these different personalities, emotions and experiences that it brings out of me based on my biology and makeup. Different cannabinoid profiles will do the exact same thing, so it’s important to learn about cannabis as we have with alcohol as adult users. It is very much personalized so that’s a very good opportunity to keep strain journals. 

I find that we can be a little bit more responsible with conscious cannabis responses. With that being said, I want to take it a step further. Even if it is the same product, we need to bring out a range of variants. Some people want to be in the sexual health space and bring out a lube. Not everybody wants that, not every sexual experience needs that. It means that you’re not speaking to the proper demographic. You’re just selling a product. Sexual health is mental as much as it is physical. So using tinctures are great for that, for a cerebral effect. But for some people, it’s pain. A large portion of survivors suffer from pain, so using a lubricant may not be for those people. And when it comes to the high stress lawyer or maybe anxiety ridden creative who has a really hard time connecting with their body, bath salts can be incredibly effective for moving energy around the body and becoming more open. That’s why we have various products. We even have massages, because a lot of people need touch.

Cannabis has been such an amazing opportunity to rip open the sex industry to what it could be.

What is it like being a woman of color in the Canadian cannabis industry?

It’s really exciting to be part of an industry that has so much potential and to be in these decision making positions that are really crucial in how this industry will move forward. There’s great power and with great power comes great responsibility. I’m always fighting for what’s right in this industry. Having access to patients, having great quality products, having products with integrity, uplifting minorities and helping social equity grow in this industry. Demanding justice for all of the injustice that has happened before us. To be a woman of color in this space, you already know our communities have been impacted by the War on Drugs and systemic racism and oppression. So to know that you’re an inspiration to others, you have to be here for the right reasons.

It’s very difficult and overwhelming but it’s also an incredible opportunity to have this experience to finally change the narrative. It wasn’t always this way. People of color have always been attached to drugs in a negative way. To see people of color part of a legal regime is empowering to minority communities. 

I am now the Director of Canada for M4MM. Creating chapters across the country to address education, funding, training and social equity in Canada. Today the legal Canadian cannabis industry makes up of  1% Black, 1% indigenous, and 1% Latino. We have a “grass-ceiling here in Canada that’s often not talked about. Our first partnership is with Vivian Wilson, from Green Port the first black women to own a dispensary. And Superette, foundered by Mimi Lam. Together we’re creating sponsorships and education for retail in Canada and addressing the need for black Asian allyship in today’s climate. 

In my Green Rush Program, I launched 12 black businesses last year. It’s a cannabis incubator that provides resources and support on how to build a compliant legal cannabis business globally. With access to mentors and licensee holders internationally. 

I also founded the Cannabis Built By Blacks Expo.

What are your hopes for the future of social equity?

To be impactful in not only the business economy but also creating an education for people of color and equal services and wrap around services for communities that have been impacted. It’s not enough to say that this amount of licenses will be granted. There have been generations of families that have been ripped apart because of the Wars of Drugs. Let’s talk about what went wrong to get it right. Let’s understand the history, to fully look at what has been done so we don’t have to make the same choices in terms of strategic and racist oppression. 

Antuanette Gomez is the Founder and CEO of Pleasure Peaks, the leading Canadian cannabis brand for improving women’s sexual health. Antuanette is also a full time cannabis consultant and a proud public speaker on cannabis and its cross-section with sexual, women and minority issues. Antuanette has been involved in and engaged with the Canadian cannabis community for over 8 years. She is endlessly passionate about inspiring women in entrepreneurship and helping them to navigate the cannabis industry. Antuanette actively engages in grassroots business planning with women inspired to work in cannabis, helping them to develop their business plans, find investors, and understand compliance in Canada.

Cannabis, Christianity and Creativity with Sarah Michel of Canna Culture

Hi Sarah! Thanks for being here, hope your day hasn’t been too hectic. How are you?

Thank you Prinita! I’m doing well, blessed to be here. How are you feeling with your allergies?

I’m ok. We’re having a change of season here in Sydney and my body is still getting accustomed to it. I took your advice and made some tea and am sitting in the sun. 

If you could describe your spirit today in three words, what would they be?

That is an interesting question, and I’m happy you’re having tea! I’d say, “thankful,” this is tough, “happy,” and uplifted. I guess I’d say that. 

Three powerful emotions. I’m glad to be in that energy with you today. 

Can you tell me a little bit about how you came to Canna Culture Connect?

I created Canna Culture Connect during one of my lowest moments in life. During that time, I’d recently left my role at VH1 after about 3 ½ years. While at Viacom, my alcoholism was enabled, with the constant press events featuring unlimited amounts of alcohol. That mixed with microaggressions in the workplace was a recipe for depression and before I slipped in any deeper, I left that role that I loved so much. On April 15, 2019 I went to a prayer meeting my church was having. I gave up drinking that day. This Friday will make 2 years since I put down the bottle, picked up a bible and redirected my passion. I’ve always been a cannabis consumer but now that I gave up drinking, when I’d smoke I’d wonder why I didn’t feel the need to drink, recalling days when I was working I felt I couldn’t function without it. Through research I learned of our endocannabinoid system and was amazed and kind of disappointed in how much knowledge around cannabis and healing has been kept from us. I learned cannabis is meant to maintain homeostasis in your body and the anxiety I used to feel wasn’t there anymore. Being a writer, I transmuted my passion for writing into the cannabis space, resolving to not give up on my talent. (At this time, I could NOT find a job, no one would hire me.) I wanted to create a space to educate people about the holistic benefits of cannabis, while advocating to end the war on drugs, where anyone can feel they can have that platform to share their business, story, or advice. 

Ok, wow. What an incredible journey you’ve been on. To be completely honest, I only learned about the endocannabinoid system yesterday…even though I’ve been a cannabis consumer for nearly all of my adult life. Learning about that really alleviated so much of my shame. 

There’s so much you’ve just shared that I want to dive deeper into. But firstly, why do you think there’s been no education around how humans have this way to process and use cannabis via the endocannabinoid system? Is that just another symptom of living in a heteropatriarchal/capitalist system where our divine power is consistently degraded?

I absolutely believe that. I think if more people knew that the cannabinoids in weed directly interact with our CB1, CB2 receptors for example, then why need Big Pharma? Why do doctors who don’t listen to patients, prescribe medication the patients themselves say doesn’t work, or agree with their body, to bleed more money from that patients insurance? Because to them, that’s what it’s all about. America has this thing, where they villainize anything that goes against capitalist interest. Cannabis is one of those things. A naturally growing plant, that’s proved it’s medicinal capabilities. What they saw in the 60s for example were talented Black creatives, being too creative, minding their business so they villainized it as an excuse to lock them up. A new Jim Crow where inmates are paid $1.33/hr to make products we use in society today. By degrading marijuana, it gives my government cause to degrade the Black and brown people who consume it.  

Right. And there’s so much to say about this sort of spiritual warfare almost, that the war on drugs – and the capitalist/modern society we live in – is and was. That creativity they find threatening is really a harnessing of our own power + connection to spirit.. It’s all so malicious and insidious. 

How do you consciously consume cannabis as a church goer? Do you find yourself brushing up with contradictions in that spiritual space + how do you work through them?

I think like cannabis, the church has been misrepresented by this country, and by church I mean the idea of God, and the body who serves Him, not religion. I was fortunate to be raised at a nondenominational church, so even when going to Catholic school, I wouldn’t do things that didn’t make sense to me. I’m not saying Hail Mary’s just to say it, if I’m going to pray for forgiveness, I’m going to keep it real with Jesus and have that conversation. So while people may judge me for consuming, God doesn’t because any Christian who knows Him, knows that’s not his style. As long as I’m not over-indulging or using it as a means of procrastination or spending on that rather than bills, Him and I have a pretty tight relationship. 

I love that. I grew up in a Christian culture and while I don’t heavily identify with it now, I love hearing how folks have really created space for subversion and reclamation within their own spirituality. I also like to think that when Moses was speaking to the burning bush…that bush was a marijuana plant lol.

Back to what you said earlier about leaving your job at Viacom at this low point, what a reckoning. To go from such a huge media agency to then starting your own must have been so jarring. How do you feel about the corporatization of cannabis culture that is taking place?

I wanted to first clarify, I grew up in the church but for a LONG TIME, I was in these streets. It wasn’t until I fell, lost everyone, had nothing, became homeless, that God proved Himself to me, and that’s why I believe in Him. At that time, I created the site and was going to Church twice a week, volunteering for a christmas show we had, as a stage manager because it was still in my media wheelhouse. And like I said, I couldn’t find a job. One day I shared my experience at Viacom on Faebook and my old manager reached out to me and had let me know I was blackballed for speaking up about, everything, despite the president at that time reassuring me that he was passing along my resume. This was ongoing for a year. I applied for this job at Group Nine Media, and prayed on it. Applied in December, so a week after I wrote a public letter (in June of the next year) about my disappointment in how Viacom treated employees of color, the job I prayed for at Group Nine Media, is the one I have now. And they all know of Canna Culture Connect and it’s empowered me even more, humbly because God put me in this space where I have the freedom to continue to build my platform while working on the corporate side of cannabis where I feel my experience and voice can help amplify the marginalized who many not have equity or ability to get fancy licenses because of past marijuana arrests. It’s a unique position to be in, but I’m thankful and excited to help uplift those voices. 

So grateful for your ability to share and articulate your experience with such humility and also, as a way to empower others. Before we end, what are some of your hopes for the future of the cannabis industry?

This is tough because this country is so damn greedy, but I hope more Black and brown folks have business that they own the majority of. That more records are expunged, not just the ones of those with solely marijuana charges, but those who had extra charges piled on from that initial one as well. I hope more people who genuinely care about the plant and not the trends, are at the forefront. For New York particularly, I’m part of a group called WoCC, Women of Color in Cannabis, a group I joined during that low point. And these Black women lifted me up, they provide resources for anyone looking to get into the business. They have cannasessions with panelists from various parts of the industry to teach us about everything from growing from home to which taxes you need to beware of. So as NY gets into MRTA, I hope women like the leaders of WoCC do get a space on the committees responsible for who gets licenses, that way it’d ensure those people who genuinely care I mentioned have a fair shot.

Sarah Michel (No Gellar) is a branded content editor from Brooklyn, NY who’s worked in media for over a decade. As founder of Canna Culture Connect, a digital platform dedicated to removing stigmas surrounding ‘God’s favorite flower’ while advocating to end the War on Drugs, she believes cannabis has the power to heal, despite its societal label as recreational. Her motto: Take pulls & pray.