HALIFAXâ€”Cannabis products can help relieve some peopleâ€™s pain and aid sleep. But for Annie MacEachern, thereâ€™s also a deeper connection to the plant for women.
â€śThe cannabis plant that flowers and creates the buds and everything that we want from cannabis is the female plant,â€ť said MacEachern, 30, a cannabis advocate with a background in public relations based in Charlottetown.
MacEachern, who is also a medical cannabis patient and self-described â€ścrusader of cannabis,â€ť is bringing her self-taught knowledge of the plant and passion for female-driven business and collaboration to Halifaxâ€™s Makenew Curated Thrift Shop for a Women & Wellness event this August.
In the â€ścannabis 101â€ť workshop, which MacEachern is leading alongside a friend and fellow cannabis advocate, there will be â€śgoodiesâ€ť from other female business owners for a giveaway bag. And with shop owner Anna Gilkerson involved â€śthey all kind of haphazardly ended up being women.â€ť
â€śThese products have been incredibly popular, so itâ€™s a testament to say that the public is ready,â€ť Gilkerson said, adding that sheâ€™s excited to host a cannabis-inspired pop-up featuring those products and others alongside the workshop.
As someone whoâ€™s consumed cannabis for years, MacEachern said she loves seeing innovation and more esthetically pleasing styles emerge from Canadian companies in accessories like pipes and vaporizers.
â€śThe more that we can share the knowledge that we have as regular civilians, the more mainstream weâ€™re going to make it. And I think that seeing (marijuana) used â€¦ in ways that arenâ€™t associated with stoner culture really helps show the medicinal and healing side of the plant,â€ť MacEachern said.
MacEachern said sheâ€™s also worked with the Lift news platform to design and attend a Vancouver panel highlighting women in the grassroots of cannabis. She added this is vital because, looking at the majority of licensed producers and others in the corporate cannabis world, â€śthereâ€™s a huge lack of female presence.â€ť
When it comes to buying power, Canadian women account for 60 per cent of primary shoppers according to the Nielsen Company, and according to data from the 2015 Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol, and Drugs Survey (CTADS), 9.7 per cent of females and 14.9 per cent of males reported cannabis use in the previous year.
The results for 2015 are based on telephone interviews with 15,154 respondents across all 10 provinces, representing a weighted total of 29.7 million Canadian residents aged 15 years and older.
According to Statistics Canada, Canadians consumed as much as $6.2-billion worth of marijuana in 2015. Governments have said the new legal Canadian market may generate $400 million a year in revenue.
â€śWe are the primary purchasers of wellness products, so we know that the female market is going to be huge. Itâ€™s really important that there are women making the decisions about what products are going to be released, and what ingredients are going into those products, and what kind of branding is being used,â€ť MacEachern said.
â€śWe really have the opportunity to shape a new industry.â€ť
The workshop attendance will be by RSVP, and those interested can email MacEachern at firstname.lastname@example.org.
She also said there will be a Facebook event with more information created in the coming weeks, and while thereâ€™s no date yet for a second Halifax workshop, MacEachern said they will see how the first one goes and take it from there.
MacEachern will also talk about cannabinoids (the active chemical ingredients produced by the cannabis plant) like THC, Cannabidiol (CBD) and others as well as terpenes (fragrant oils present in all plants).
They will also touch on different methods of consumption, as well as beauty products Makenew carries that currently use hemp oil, and might one day use cannabis oil.
â€śCBD is regenerative, so it encourages your cells to regrow quickly. Itâ€™s also anti-inflammatory, so those are two great properties you want in skin care,â€ť MacEachern said.
While CBD has become a trendy buzzword for many companies, and has famous fans including actress Olivia Wilde, who told the New York Times she swears by a body lotion containing the ingredient, but thereâ€™s not much research yet into the claims.
Shereene Idriss, a New York dermatologist, told the Times there was a 2014 study that said CBD can help reduce oil production and thereby have anti-acne and anti-inflammatory attributes, and although it has merit it wasnâ€™t â€śa perfectly well-rounded study.â€ť
â€śI would need more, a randomized clinical trial, before I could with full-fledged belief recommend CBD oil as something more than just offering regular hydration,â€ť Idriss said.
As for MacEachern, she said her drive to get into the industry originally came from a need to better share the voice of the medical cannabis patient.
As Canada draws closer to the Oct. 17 legalization date and provinces and cities begin rolling out their plans for cannabis sale and bylaw enforcement, MacEachern said she knows the line between recreational and medical forms can be difficult to navigate for people on both sides â€” but â€śtherapeutic useâ€ť is a real middle ground.
â€śEven if you are using it recreationally, you can use it in moderation and you can use it in a way thatâ€™s going to not cause an intoxicating effect and … youâ€™ll only use the healing benefits of the plant,â€ť MacEachern said.
However, there are of course health risks for some people and itâ€™s important to be informed about how the plant could affect oneâ€™s specific medical issues. A federal government fact sheet says while some use cannabis for therapeutic purposes, â€śthere are short- and long-term physical and mental health effects that can be harmful,â€ť especially for young people and pregnant women.
Haley Ryan is a Halifax-based reporter covering women’s issues and advocacy. Follow her on Twitter: @hkryan17