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She has to wait 5 years to work in weed. Why, exactly?

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When she’s talking about cannabis, Anya Nicola’s voice is electric.

The Renfrew, Ont. mom of four has a long history with the plant, first as an herbal adjunct remedy, something her family practiced frequently growing up in Jamaica.

As a teenager, she used cannabis for recreational purposes. And later, it became even more meaningful—it was and continues to be a crucial tool in recovery.

While she has many of the qualities of a passionate cannabis entrepreneur or a star employee, Nicola hasn’t felt like she can find her place in the industry.

Cannabis pardons are inaccessible for many

“I’ll admit it,” Nicola shares on the phone, carefully. “I was selling dime bags just to pay my rent as a student here in Ontario.”

“And because of any trouble that I may have gotten into, there’s a possibility that I may never even be able to legally work in the cannabis industry.”

The trouble she’s referring to resulted in a criminal record, something she has looked into getting pardoned before applying for jobs. She was warned that the process could take up to five years, if she hires a consultant, the process might be expedited.

But it’s not cheap, nor guaranteed.

As a Black woman bringing up four kids on her own in a pandemic, the stakes feel too high for the level of risk required.

“We need to give back to the people that paved the way, even though it was an illegal industry at the time. This industry wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them.”

Trang Trinh, CEO of TREC Brands.

But she’s still holding out hope that the Canadian government and the industry work to reduce the barriers to those impacted by prohibition and policing practices that have unfairly impacted Black and Indigenous communities.

Failure to include racialized groups in legalization

Equity problems in the Canadian cannabis industry—race, gender, access to capital, to name a few—aren’t new.

As more states south of the border legalize and legislators debate the details of federal cannabis reform, equity, inclusion and repairing the damage of the war on drugs is top of mind for many legislators, advocates and members of the burgeoning industry.

Something that many are pointing out was not as much of a priority when Canada’s Cannabis Act was being created. But it’s not too late, say drug policy researchers and industry reps.

For folks like Nicola, the pardon process is lengthy and difficult. (Adobe Stock)

“While there have been some limited initiatives to facilitate greater industry diversity, there is a notable absence of government regulation and adoption of programs that would structurally address the underrepresentation of racialized groups that were disproportionately targeted and punished under prohibition,” reads a 2020 report by University of Toronto’s Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation.

It urged all three levels of government to create social equity programs to provide entry points to those who qualify and provide business mentorship and financial support.

Government initiatives needed for an equitable industry

The Cannabis Council of Canada and its membership of hundreds of licensed cannabis companies are also pushing for more government initiatives designed to create a more equitable sector.

The organization, headed by former Ontario Liberal MPP George Smitherman, included equity issues such as record expungement and investing in diversity programs.

Prior to the recent federal election, the council created a Cannabis Voter Checklist to educate MPs and candidates. Smitherman says part of the problem at this stage is that MPs aren’t aware enough of the inequities of the sector.

“Right now, in Ottawa, the cannabis relationship is entirely delegated to Health Canada, and we need more interested members of parliament,” he tells Leafly by phone.

“Highlighting to them the range of issues that includes unmet social progress concerns is really helpful because those issues really resonate with a lot of members of parliament of different political stripes.”

But he concedes that so far, the effort hasn’t resonated with MPs and candidates.

Non-profit cannabis organization left on read

The government also hasn’t yet responded to advocacy group Cannabis Amnesty, which has long petitioned to expunge criminal records.

Last September, the organization requested the creation of a Racial Equity Impact Assessment of the Cannabis Act as part of the planned three-year review of the Act.

The report examines its impacts on BIPOC communities in areas such as mental and physical health of consumers; policing practices; industry participation and its barriers.

“Answering these questions is critical to determining whether the Cannabis Act has decreased the disproportionate way in which cannabis laws have negatively impacted BIPOC communities, or whether it merely continues this unacceptable legacy of system racism,” they stated in the report.

Although they have yet to hear back, Cannabis Amnesty’s director of research, Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, said he still hopes to hear back in the coming weeks.

Companies driving social equity are few and far between

There are some, but not many, companies that have built equity and social justice into their business plan.

One example is Toronto-based TREC Brands. They donate 10% of profits to organizations like SickKids, University Health Network, and Cannabis Amnesty. TREC picks specific causes within their communities to donate to and actively encourages their consumer base to make nominations as well.

“We listen to our employees about what organizations they want to support, and also our consumer base,” Trang Trinh, CEO of TREC Brands tells Leafly. Diversity and inclusion are fundamentally important to Trinh—something she was heavily involved with at both Loblaws and Deloitte, where she previously worked.

“We need to give back to the people that paved the way, even though it was an illegal industry at the time. This industry wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them,” she says.

Delayed inclusion shouldn’t be ‘good enough’

For Anya Nicola, being able to learn online from her community has been exceptionally valuable.

To stay involved, she joined Afro Canada Bud Sistas, a community of more than 800 women who aim to normalize cannabis.

She says it makes her feel less alone, particularly as a person in recovery who needs support. “Who else is out there supporting us?” she says. “We’re all we’ve got. And unfortunately, no one is looking at us and making us a priority.”

It will take her five years before she can pursue her dream, due to the lengthy pardon process. So for now, she’s holding off on a career in cannabis.



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Canada

Cannabis recipe 101: Infused rice crispy treats

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Looking to try your hand at some delicious cannabis edibles? It’s quick and easy to whip up a batch of weed-infused rice crispy treats!

The beauty of this recipe is it uses simple ingredients that we usually have at home or can easily grab at the store. The trick to baking nice soft treats like these? Take your time and use fresh marshmallows!

Related

How to make edibles: Leafly’s guide to cooking with cannabis

Prep time: 5 min

Cook time: 5 min

Total time: 10 min

Total servings: 12

Serving size: 1 square (approximately 2 inches)

Bonus points if you make infused butter from your own homegrown plants. There is nothing better than being able to create spectacular weed edibles from your own harvest!

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) of weed-infused butter or coconut oil
  • 5 cups (1250 mL) of mini marshmallows
  • 6½ cups (832 g) of rice crispy cereal
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of vanilla (optional)

Pro tip: For thin squares, use a 9 x 13 pan. For thicker squares, select an 8 x 8 pan. 

How to make weed Rice Crispy Treats

If you have a pot cookie cutter on hand, we highly recommend it. (Kalynchuk/Leafly)

Step 1: Prep the pan

Spray your pan and the stirring utensil with cooking spray before you start cooking: Melted marshmallows are sticky. Spraying your tools and pans makes for easy cleanup. Melting the butter first helps coat the pan and prevents the marshmallows from sticking.

Step 2: Melt the cannabis butter

Over medium-low heat, melt the butter in a large pot. Then, add the marshmallows, and stir well to coat them entirely. Continue stirring until all of the marshmallows have melted. Remove from heat and add the vanilla if using.

Related

Edibles dosing: How strong is your weed edible?

Step 3: Add in crispy rice cereal

Add your cereal to the melted marshmallow/butter mixture, stirring well to ensure even coverage. Scrape the mixture into a prepared pan. Flatten with the spatula or lightly coat your hand with non-stick spray and gently press the treats flat.

Step 4: Let them sit

Set the pan aside to fully cool. As it cools the squares firm up a bit making it easier to cut.

The best way to keep your crispy rice squares fresh is to cut them into individual servings and wrap them with plastic wrap, or reuseable beeswax paper. Store them in a cupboard or pantry.

Nutritional information (per serving):

Calories 151
Fat 3 (g)
Saturated 1.8 (g)
Unsaturated 1 (g)
Cholesterol 7.5 (mg)
Sodium 174 (mg)
Sugar 13.5 (g)
Redawna Kalynchuk's Bio Image

Redawna Kalynchuk

Redawna Kalynchuk is a freelance writer, photographer and visual storyteller from Alberta. Her passion for cannabis comes from years of cannabis gardening and creating incredible infusions. Empowering you to grow, cook and share!

View Redawna Kalynchuk’s articles



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This Is The #1 Reason People Are Still Buying Black Market Weed, According To New Survey

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Legal marijuana is becoming more and more accessible. Still, in countries like the U.S. and Canada, where there are legal markets in place, black market marijuana sales remain consistent. According to a new survey, the largest determining factor is price.

The survey, conducted between 2019-2020 and published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, polled 12,000 cannabis users in Canada and the U.S. and found that price outranked convenience, which is the second main reason people continue to opt for illegal weed.

The reasons behind why consumers still shop the illicit market was dependent on the year and the country.

marijuana legalization
Photo by FatCamera/Getty Images

RELATED: Nearly 500K People Work In Legal Marijuana Industry — How Many Work In The Illicit Market?

According to the study:

In both years, the most commonly reported barriers to legal purchasing were price (Canada: 35%–36%; United States: 27%) and inconvenience (Canada: 17%–20%; U.S.: 16%–18%). In 2020 versus 2019, several factors were less commonly reported as barriers in Canada, including inconvenience and location of legal sources. Certain barriers increased in the United States, including slow delivery and requiring a credit card.

In the United States, black market cannabis sales are one of the principal wild cards in establishing a functioning legal cannabis market. States like California, which were the first to establish legal markets, have allowed the two markets to coexist, something that cannabis workers have called “extremely unfair.”

Alex Brough is the co-founder of Keneh Ventures, a private equity fund that invests in businesses ancillary to the legal marijuana trade. In an interview with Times Union, he compared a legal dispensary owner who ‘does everything above-book’ to a bootlegger selling cheap, untested weed.

“You don’t know any better, you’re not an industry expert, and you go to California, and you go to get an [eighth-ounce] of chronic at this place for $60, and at this place across the street, they’re selling it for $30,” he explained. “If you’re at all budget-minded, you’re going for the $30.”

RELATED: Illicit Vs. Legal: What Are The Real Benefits Of Buying Weed From A Licensed Dispensary?

States in the U.S. that are establishing new cannabis markets can use previous states as guideposts, allowing for more controlled transitions and accurate predictions of how their legal market would work. Still, cannabis black market sales have existed for decades, with businesses having built relationships with shoppers. Creating a new legal market will take time to build and to earn the trust of new shoppers.



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“Cannabis helped with my abortion” and people deserve safe and legal access to both

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Content warning: abortion. Leafly took care to exclude triggering information, while still detailing emotions and autonomy but does not discuss the abortion procedure or its justification in this article. 


The last few weeks have been difficult for pretty much everyone with a uterus, regardless of their family planning needs. Right now we are surrounded by unsolicited opinions and discussions about a topic that, for many, isn’t just philosophical but a reality. 

“I was 42 when I had my abortion, and for me, it was a defining moment. A clear dividing line between one life, with all its hopes and imagined futures, and the life I was choosing for myself and my family.”

– Darlene*

Abortion is an extremely sensitive topic and personal decision, regardless of faith, gender identity, or age. The public discussion left me wondering, is there a space for a weed writer to talk about something as serious as abortion and cover it in a meaningful way through a cannabis lens? 

Absolutely.

You see, cannabis isn’t a just vice product like tobacco or a purely medical product like pharmaceuticals. Cannabis lives in a space between those two places where plants meet medicine (and have for thousands of years).

Cannabis has been a comfort to a number of women, non-binary, and trans people going through the abortion process.

Whether recreational, therapeutic, or doctor-prescribed, cannabis has helped numerous people Leafly spoke to in a number of ways—psychologically, physically, and spiritually.

Turning to cannabis in turbulent times

“I was 42 when I had my abortion, and for me, it was a defining moment,” shares Darlene*, “a clear dividing line between one life, with all its hopes and imagined futures, and the life I was choosing for myself and my family.”

It was 2020, at the height of the pandemic, so Darlene chose to do an at-home abortion, wanting to avoid the hospital. She shares that her choice to use cannabis on the day of her abortion was thought out and intentional. Since she had been using cannabis for years, she knew the ways it could support her emotionally and physically on the day of the procedure. 

“I like cannabis in my everyday life because it helps me reflect, ponder and find wonder in the ordinary. I chose cannabis for my abortion for those reasons: I felt like I was closing the door on my youth and opening a new one to the future, and I wanted to approach the experience with  the gravity and reverence it deserved.”

– Darlene*

For Annabelle*, cannabis was invaluable emotional support when she found out she was pregnant. It was during a particularly stressful time in her life and she hadn’t realized that she missed her period. When Annabelle and her partner went to Planned Parenthood, they found out that she was, indeed, pregnant.

“They did a pelvic exam which triggered old medical trauma. I smoked immediately afterward to try to return to my body,” shares Annabelle, who has been using cannabis for years to manage anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

She explains the entire abortion process as emotionally turbulent. Also doing an at-home abortion, Annabelle says she used cannabis the entire day and “couldn’t have imagined getting through without it.”

How cannabis can assist with abortion

“I was in bed for a week just like smoking weed, taking oil, and using suppositories. It was just kind of all hands on deck.”

Maia shares cannabis was invaluable during her abortion.

There are numerous ways to incorporate cannabis for therapeutic reasons before, during, or after an abortion without getting high. Cannabis products like creams, patches, suppositories, high CBD vapes, and flower make plant medicine more accessible for those looking for low-to-no THC content.  

For Maia, pregnancy was especially unexpected.

After years of endometriosis, they had assumed it wasn’t possible. The first thing they did after finding out she was pregnant was smoke a joint “to quell the anxiety and kind of just process a little bit what was happening.”

“I was in bed for a week just like smoking weed, taking oil, and using suppositories. It was just kind of all hands on deck,” shares Maia. “The physical symptoms were awful, I couldn’t imagine feeling that way for nine months. Cannabis was instrumental, especially that week.”

For Darlene, cannabis was instrumental in aiding the emotional and spiritual aspects of her at-home abortion. But she felt that cannabis alone wasn’t enough for her pain management.

“Ultimately, the cannabis did help centre me in the experience, although I do wish I’d paired it with stronger painkillers. I was given Tylenol 3s for the procedure, but I knew from previous surgeries that I don’t like how they feel, so chose regular Tylenol and cannabis instead. In retrospect, I wish I’d just asked about alternate painkillers.”

Reclaiming autonomy through cannabis

Unless you have been pregnant, it is impossible to understand the way it feels to share your body and grow another; let alone comprehend the complexities of being pregnant when you don’t want to be.

For the people Leafly spoke with, cannabis didn’t just help with their mental and physical health; it was also a way to take back their bodies.

“There was a bit of rebellion in my decision to use cannabis at that moment. I had given it [cannabis] up when I was pregnant with my much-wanted and much-loved child,” writes Darlene.

“Continuing to use it through this unwanted (and high-risk) pregnancy was a way of affirming my bodily autonomy. A way of saying this is what I need and that’s what matters now.”

As a non-binary person, Maia shared that their pregnancy spurred emotions akin to the ones they experienced with being labeled as female. It just didn’t feel right.

“It was wrong. I now describe that feeling as dysphoria, since coming out as non-binary. It was just something that felt like it didn’t belong in my body.”

Maia shares that the decision to have an abortion actually helped affirm them as non-binary. Cannabis wasn’t only a physical comfort for Maia, it helped with the hormones and other symptoms that were unwelcome in their body.

Reproductive rights are not guaranteed in Canada

In the past few weeks, I have seen women boasting with pride that Canada has reproductive rights for all in comparison to news in the United States, but that just isn’t true.

Abortion isn’t legal in Canada, simply decriminalized. Some experts say that conservatives are watching the US overturn Roe vs Wade closely (and may follow suit if successful). 

Not to mention, the reproductive rights of Indigenous women in Canada are far from progressive. There is an extensive history of coercion and forced sterilization of Indigenous women in both the US and Canada.

In times like these, it is important to remember that legal and safe access to abortion (and cannabis) is not a guarantee anywhere, even in Canada. And no matter what country someone is living in, the right to access safe abortion is the right to proper healthcare.

*names have been changed by request

Ashley Keenan's Bio Image

Ashley Keenan

Ashley Keenan is the Canada editor at Leafly, as well as a freelance journalist, consultant, and patient advocate in the cannabis industry.

View Ashley Keenan’s articles



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