If there is one thing Sabina Lone (AKA @DrCannabina) has always loved to do, it's helping others. In fact, it's what inspired her to go to Med School. But after experiencing first-hand the realities of working as a doctor in the modern healthcare industry, Sabina realized it wasn't the right direction for her. So, she quit Med School and pursued her MBA in Healthcare Administration. Two years ago, Sabina also began focusing on cannabis. Today she is a cannabis patient and advocate. Known as Dr. Cannabina on Twitter & Instagram, Sabina is passionate about educating others on cannabis. In fact, she even presented on the Endocannabinoid system and how cannabis can be used as a medicine at a Women Grow Signature Networking Event (9/8/16) in Detroit, Michigan. A lover of learning and an avid explorer, Sabina aspires to travel the world and experience culture across the globe.
In the beginning, what inspired you to get involved with cannabis?
I’ve always loved helping people. I’ve also always loved learning. I am a total nerd at heart. Which is part of what propelled me to go to med school. My second year of med school I also started my MBA online for Healthcare Administration. I needed the loan money to help pay for school. By my third year, I realized I liked my MBA platform more than I did med school.
Whether it was studying for exams or doing the actual work, I had motivation for my MBA and not for med school. At that point, I had to ask myself why I was forcing myself to do something that I wasn’t truly passionate about. After seeing how doctors worked with the pharmaceutical industry in pushing pills, I realized med school was not the right path for me. I wanted to help people. So I decided to quit med school and pursue my MBA in Healthcare Administration. I’m actually finishing up my last class right now.
Within the last 2 years, I started focusing on cannabis. Even within my MBA, I’ve concentrated on cannabis as much as possible. Any chance I’ve had to select my own topics; I’ll pick something to do with cannabis. Whether it is the economic impact of legalizing recreational marijuana or how human resource management needs to implement better training for medical marijuana dispensaries. In that aspect, I study and research a lot on cannabis.
But I also use social media as well. I’m on Twitter and Instagram. My main goal is to educate and spread awareness of how cannabis can help people with medical ailments. I am a big believer and supporter of cannabis. I actually went through my own nerve damage and pain. Instead of taking Gabapentin (drug for neuropathic pain) I took cannabis. I also suffer from insomnia so I use cannabis. I struggle with anxiety and cannabis provides relief. Even for my ADHD I use cannabis. When I am doing my writing, I kid you not, I microdose with cannabis. Cannabis has helped me significantly throughout my life. On that side, I’m a patient and an advocate.
Culturally, I also love to explore and learn everything about cannabis. I’m a big believer in cultural competence. You can learn a lot about cannabis in the U.S. but it is not the same in other parts of the world. Go to Canada and you will experience something very different than what you would in the states. Visit Jamaica and you’ll find a totally different cannabis scene. Even within the United States, I find that cannabis culture can vary drastically. Take Colorado versus California for example. Experiencing cannabis in either of these states is not going to be what you would experience in other places.
My goal is to travel like Howard Schultz did for coffee when he started Starbucks but for cannabis. That is how I am building my brand. I’m learning little bits and pieces from everywhere I visit. I’m traveling to a get a bigger grasp on cannabis culture worldwide. I want to broaden my perspectives and help people.
You recently visited Jamaica, how was that experience?
I did! I went to Jamaica in September. I only went for five days but in those five days I was able to experience a lot! I actually was able to meet 2 really cool people. One person showed me their entire ganja grow. Everything was just chilling and growing there, it was cool. I also got to meet Ras Iyah V while I was there. Last year he did the Rastafari Rootzfest with High Times. This year they are going to be doing it on their own Rastafari Rootzfest December 9-11.
Any observations on cannabis culture in Jamaica?
As soon as we arrived in Jamaica, ganja was everywhere. Even when we were on the shuttle it was offered to us. But, of course, because we are tourists people tried to offer us “sh*t weed” at a really expensive price. It is one of those things where you’re really going to need to know a local to have access to anything of quality. Tourists are naturally going to experience higher prices. Because I knew that I was going to be meeting some locals there, I held off on buying anything. You can get ganja easily in Jamaica but it tends to not be as potent or fresh.
At one point when I was visiting a cannabis farm there, a cop showed up. The person (local) I was with said not to worry about it, the cop was his friend. So we went back and saw the whole grow. In fact, he had actually given me 3 long sticks of bud. I felt like I was Dr. Dina at the High Times Cup. It was like a bouquet of bud flowers. I couldn’t even finish it because I had to leave so I ended up giving a lot of it away. But while we were there, the original cop had left but another one showed up. The guy I was with told me once again not to worry. At that point, I literally had a bowl in my hand. So I immediately set the bowl down on the counter.
Then, a second cop showed up. And then a third cop showed up. I was like what in the world is going on – am I seriously about to get arrested for some cannabis in Jamaica? But I played it cool. I interacted with the cop. Eventually, all of the cops left and everything was OK. I noticed though that they were not leaving empty handed. The cops had obviously gotten bribed. So that was definitely an experience. It was scary a little bit but overall I was happy. But honestly, for the most part, no one really bothered us. It is their culture, their life. Jamaica is really an incredible place.
During my visit, I was able to go on a Bob Marley tour. And throughout the whole tour, we were allowed to smoke. Not on the bus ride over, of course, but everywhere else. On the tour, I was able to see Bob Marley’s house, his mom’s house, and even where he is buried. I also went to Mt. Zion Rock, Bob Marley’s meditation rock. This is where he would smoke and meditate. They actually let you sit on the rock and light your J. So it was a really cool experience. I lit a J and sat on Bob Marley’s rock. It was kind of a spiritual experience for me. I actually got chills (good chills) during that moment. The whole Rastafarian environment and culture – they are so loving, giving, and carefree.
I believe Jamaica is going to have a lot of innovation. They are looking for people to come in and teach them new things. They have a long way to go but so much opportunity.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I love spreading the knowledge. I also love attending the events because that is where you experience so much of the culture. People have these preconceived notions of what a cannabis event is. I can tell you that even High Times have professionals at the event. Whether it is a testing lab, Grannies for Grass, or even someone pushing a new cannabis product they have developed. You don’t see those things until you go to the events.
Some people think that cannabis events are just for smoking. But in reality, they are so much more. If you go about it the right way these events are great networking opportunities as well. Going to an event is something that I love to do because I always learn something new. No matter what event it is, there is something to take away. From small local events to cannabis conferences held nationwide I find myself learning in more ways than one.
What was it like coming out of the “cannabis closet” to your family?
I am Pakistani and Muslim. In my culture and my religion, cannabis is a huge no-no. To be able to tell my mom was a really big thing for me. I knew that eventually, I had to tell her. She didn’t like it and still doesn’t like it. My mom believes that I am still going to just get a regular job in healthcare administration. And yes, of course, if I have to I will. But I told her – this is what I want to do. I believe in cannabis.
I want to do something with cannabis research, medicine, and helping people. My mom believes that cannabis is not professional. She thinks everyone is just lying around smoking weed listening to music while half naked. Her stereotype and stigma with cannabis is deeply ingrained. I’m not even sure I can push that away in this lifetime for her. She is now OK with cannabis helping people with medical conditions like cancer or epilepsy but that’s it. That is the only thing she thinks cannabis is OK for. But I am still happy that I told her.
Name one thing you would like to accomplish when it comes to cannabis?
One day, I would love to fully integrate cannabis into healthcare. While we are not quite there yet, I knew we will be. Which is why I am trying to learn as much as possible now. The more I know the easier it will be to jump in and help. Cannabis will increasingly be integrated into healthcare. We can see that happening now and I suspect it will increase a lot within the next 3-5 years. The question now is how and who. You could get a hospital administrator to run a wing but if they know nothing about cannabis, then your wing is not going to be run correctly. So the end goal is to work with cannabis in either a nursing home or hospital. It would be amazing.
I’ve worked in a nursing home I can tell you right now it would help these people. Cannabis would help them with their pain, their appetite stimulation, sleep, and even Alzheimer’s Disease. We know now there is substantial evidence cannabis can help Alzheimer’s. Some studies show cannabis can even reverse it. Cannabis would help dramatically. So many of the elderly are suffering. They are in pain. We know just how much cannabis can help with pain. Just being able to take someone off of 2-3 medications and simply give them cannabis could help prolong their lives. Because so often these people are actually dying from the medications they are taking for their pain. Let people be. Why should people have to suffer more than they need to at the end of their life? At the very least, people should have the option to choose cannabis.
What excites you as a woman in the cannabis world?
Well, I’m not sure at this point if anything excites me as a woman in the cannabis industry. I would say it is harder to be a woman in the cannabis industry. It’s exciting though to see how many other women such as Whoopi Goldberg and Dr. Dina stepping up and supporting cannabis. It’s also good to see that more females are not only in the industry but are also controlling it. What I look forward to are the leadership qualities and empathetic side women possess and bringing that to this industry.
Now that is not to say that men cannot be those things as well. But in general, I find that women are more caring and empathetic towards others. Which is huge when you are running something like a medical marijuana dispensary for instance. The cannabis industry needs to focus on helping people. Developing the mindset of patients over profits. Women offer a different perspective. Especially when it comes to the creative side of things. The cannabis industry needs women.
Do you find more women are pursuing leadership roles within cannabis?
Absolutely! I’ve seen more and more groups with women grow in cannabis. Women Grow was probably one of the first I came across but there is really a wide variety now. From Minority Cannabis Business Association to Latinos for Cannabis, there are so many opportunities for women to get involved. Even when it comes to building brands and products in cannabis, we are seeing so many more women at the forefront. You have Whoopi & Maya, Femme Nuri, and Kush Kards just to name a few. You have so many strong women coming up and building businesses. You also have the other dynamic of the industry going on with 420 models and medicated nurses. While I know it is not the most praised upon side in cannabis, its there. So there are many dynamics at play right now as the industry develops.
If you could offer an aspiring entrepreneur one piece of advice, what would it be?
Be careful whom you trust. That is probably my biggest piece of advice. While I know everyone probably says that, it is true. The cannabis industry is cut throat. I see a lot of back fighting and behind the scenes dirty play. To be honest, the cannabis industry can be shady at times. So my word of advice would be careful of whom you work with and make sure that you trust the company you keep. Every industry has this to a degree but in cannabis, it is amplified. I cannot tell you how many times things have happened. But you have to keep going forward and never give up. If you are really passionate about cannabis and what you are doing in this industry, do not give up. Keep pushing and eventually, you will meet the right person or people to help you. Surround yourself with good people who are going to support and push you to be the best you can be.