As a young professional woman, I hadn’t realized how exhausting it was to hide my cannabis use until I finally gave up my front and emerged as proudly green.
Here’s my story of my personal and professional journey, and how I found my perfect professional niche within cannabis.
Building the Façade
By the time I was 30, I’d become a respected specialist in my field within higher education, where I had the privilege to work for one of the most renowned research institutions in Canada. My work was all about making connections between knowledge and research and emergent local and international needs. By working extremely hard, I’d grown my program 400% in just four years, and by all accounts, I was the poster child for the young, successful professional woman.
Meanwhile, I was a daily cannabis user, using cannabis for a variety of reasons, including pain relief for endometriosis, to reduce anxiety, and to help with concentration and productivity.
I can remember sitting in a boardroom once at one of our local teaching hospitals with which I was partnering on a big public health initiative and I had centre stage. As nurses and doctors sat and looked up at me, I thought to myself, “I wonder what these people would do if they knew that as soon as I get home every night, instead of pouring a glass of wine, I roll and light up a big joint?”
I’d always chuckle at myself because there was no way that I’d ever admit myself to be a cannabis user for both medicinal and recreational reasons to my professional circle. How could I? It was shameful. Cannabis was for losers and lazy people, or so I thought they believed.
Another aspect of my role was to work with and mentor students in their late teens and early-20s. It was a privilege in my view, as nothing served my soul more than helping students gain important insights on their lives, education, and eventual career path. I had great relationships with students and often felt like a “proud mom” as I saw them excel and thrive in life, school, volunteerism and work both locally and globally. I knew I made an impact in a lot of students’ lives. I wrote more recommendation letters for medical, social work, legal and other professional programs than I can count.
Still, I wondered to myself all the time what my high-performing students would do or say if they found out that their mentor had a box of marijuana paraphernalia likely to rival their whole residence floor’s collection. Of course, I’d keep that aspect of myself hidden as I was supposed to “model the way” towards good, and legal, behaviour.
The Mask Grows Thicker
As a community volunteer, I worked within the area of addictions and safe drug use with large non-profit organizations, and in these contexts especially, I held my cannabis secrets closest.
I eventually began a new role as manager of a research centre that focused in the poverty area, wherein one area of focus was mental health and addictions. I would sit around board tables understanding drug use in communities, looking at statistics of substance consumption, and often see marijuana lumped into the road to drug addiction. I felt I was living a lie, especially since I often relied on cannabis to help me concentrate on the work I was doing.
Something needed to change, because I had come to the point where I had accepted myself and cannabis’ role into my life and I realized it wasn’t me that needed to change, but perhaps my own perceptions and surroundings.
At last, I allowed myself the permission to explore impasse I’d come to about the life I wanted to pursue, and the authenticity I wanted to live. I finally had the courage to make the change I needed to for my life.
Starting Fresh in Warmer Climates
Life took a bigger change than I could have ever predicted when my partner and I decided to take a big risk and relocate from Canada to Costa Rica. I have always been a traveler, and my soul was just waiting for the right time to pursue life abroad.
We threw caution to the wind, sold everything, and took three suitcases and a Chihuahua on a plane from Toronto to Costa Rica.
I had been dabbling in freelance writing for a few months on a moonlighting basis before leaving traditional employment, and it proved to be able to sustain our life here as I supported my partner’s dreams to tattoo in his own shop.
Then I found cannabis writing. It became a game changer.
A Career in Cannabis Emerges
I recognized early on in our Costa Rican adventures that there was a strong emergent need for professional writers in the cannabis industry in Canada, North America and abroad, and I was lucky to get into it at the right time.
I was once again working with the legal profession, doctors, and professional associations, those I had become accustomed to working with, yet it now as all under the topic of cannabis.
Still weary of telling my secret, I kept my work in cannabis hidden for a good six months or so and would dodge questions from my professional connections about the “type” of writing I was doing. I wasn’t still yet to emerge as green, but the forces of the cannabis community were proving to be so energizing and inspirational, I just couldn’t take it any longer!
Emerging as Green
In January of this year, I admitted to my professional circle and every single person who knows me that I am a proud cannabis user, advocate and representative of the cannabis industry on my personal blog, and through all my professional profiles, including Twitter and LinkedIn.
As soon as I pressed “share”, I waited with one eye open on my screen, expecting to be chastised and rejected by all those I’d spent years building professional relationships with.
So, What Happened?
Within days, my inboxes were flooding with connections of mine who first thanked me for my honesty and candor, and then told me that they, too, had been cannabis users.
Someone I had worked alongside in poverty, mental health and addictions admitted that he was a regular user as well and was glad he could finally tell someone in the sector about it. When he heard I was a cannabis writer, he expressed he wished he could do something like that, and we’ve since collaborated in cannabis writing projects.
Another former colleague from the volunteer sector told me she knew her sister had begun using cannabis and didn’t quite understand it. For her, my story helped clear up some stigmas against cannabis and she said it underscored the need for family members and friends of users to understand the needs and experiences of medical cannabis users.
Someone I’d worked in early in my non-profit work who had become a mother had confided in me about her cannabis use as a mother, igniting my interest to pursue more research on topics regarding women’s health and cannabis.
A former colleague in the department I worked within sent me a video of her using her little baby bong to blow smoke at me through the camera to give me a chuckle.
The moment of biggest impact came when I heard from someone who I had absolutely idolized in my career admitting to me that she, too, was a cannabis user after finding it was the most effective method of working with her anxiety. When I saw that my idol used cannabis, I became so much more comfortable with my own public admittance.
I found that cannabis was more common than I thought, but realized that it was the stigma surrounding it that had everyone keep cannabis as their dirty little secret, just as I once had. I hope to be a part of the forces that destigmatize cannabis.
Some Status Lost with Cannabis
I’d like to say that the reception to my cannabis career, where I am now a very open, outspoken and proud emergent female entrepreneur within the cannabis industry has always been positive and pleasant. Not everyone has looked favorably on my change to a cannabis-oriented career.
A couple months ago, I was contacted by a student who I had written countless letters of recommendation for while working within my previous professional life. We’d worked together to discuss her career path over a span of years, and she had always considered me a mentor.
Now that it had come time for her to proceed to medical school applications after her Masters of Public Health degree, she asked for my recommendation.
I reminded her of my new career path.
“I don’t think the university selection committee will look upon it too favourably,” was her response, “Thanks, but I’ll ask someone else!” I couldn’t blame her, she had been brought up in a very conservative home and career path, but it did give me cause to pause, have a little laugh, and forge ahead with more energy than ever before with my professional missions.
Yet, I Blaze On
I live my every day with authenticity, proudly green, while my company CannaWrite has taken off beyond my wildest imaginings. I am surrounded by inspiring people every day, and I hear stories of people that I get the privilege to communicate for the good of cannabis. Together, we push forward information about the role of cannabis as part of a healthy lifestyle.
It's been just over a year since I began my professional journey with cannabis, and if this first year has been this good, I can’t hardly wait to see what the future holds.