Surviving to thriving, cannabis has impacted Ashleigh Brown's life in more ways than one. Nine years ago, she reached a breaking point. Ashleigh was having up to 150-180 seizures a day. The next few years were full of dead ends, tests, scans, and hospital stays. Ashleigh was exhausted and devastated. Battling seizures alongside the responsibilities of motherhood had taken its toll. In 2016, a friend introduced her to cannabis CBD Oil. While Ashleigh had heard of CBD's potential for seizure control, she was skeptical. In the past, she had experimented with cannabis recreationally but did not find it helped her seizures. Fortunately, her friend was gentle and persuasive. In just a few short days, Ashleigh's life changed drastically. For the first time in seven years, she had gone over 24 hours without a seizure. It was a moment that would change the course of her life forever. Today Ashleigh credits cannabis for giving her purpose and passion in her life. Noticing a need for other women to shed the stigma and find support, she founded SheCann: Legal Medical Cannabis Empowering Canadian Women. In less than a year, the group has grown to over 1,500 members. The community serves as a space for current and prospective patients together to share strain suggestions, recipes, dosing ideas, and unconditional support.
What inspired you to enter the cannabis industry?
My own health journey, and the losses and lessons along the way, was the single most motivating factor for me. When my youngest daughter was 3 months old, I started having 150-180 seizures a month. The next 9 years were full of dead ends, tests, scans, and hospital stays.
In 2016, having finally been told that brain surgery was not an option, I hit a wall in the world of traditional medicine. I had an excellent team of doctors, but the news that they had run out of options to offer me sent me into a deep depression.
It was at this point that my best friend introduced me to Cannabis CBD oil. I had heard about it and its potential for seizure control, but I was pretty skeptical: I had experimented with recreational cannabis and it hadn’t helped my seizures. Fortunately, my friend was gentle and persuasive.
I took the oil for 3 days, and it was the first time I had gone more than 24 hours without a seizure in over 7 years. I obtained my prescription shortly after that with the help of a Cannabis clinic.
Tell us more about launching SheCann
‘Getting legal’ in Canada is a bewildering, empowering experience. Medical cannabis is really the first prescription that a patient is given with very little formal instruction or advice. Dosing, methods of ingestion, titration and side effects are all aspects of a personal treatment plan that patients have to determine for themselves.
Many of us turn to the Internet: to forums and social media spaces in the hopes of finding others who are having the same experiences and challenges. In the absence of research or accepted medical evidence, our stories are the most powerful tool we have. Unfortunately, many of the social media communities were hostile, negative, and really overwhelming for many new patients, including myself. I noticed that there were a handful of like minded women in these groups who were looking for the same thing I was: a safe, non judgemental space.
We decided that it was time to start our own community, one that would bring current and prospective patients together to share strain suggestions, recipes, dosing ideas, and unconditional support. In less than a year, SheCann has grown to nearly 1500 members, under the watchful eye of our amazing lead admin and CEO Jaeme, and a team of compassionate moderators who are patients first and always.
What are some of the way SheCann is empowering Canadian women
The consistent levels of participation and feedback from our members really sets the tone for women. There is no empowerment without engagement. Many people come to us and they are desperate: they may have been stigmatized by their doctors for asking about medical cannabis, or they may be wondering how to approach their care providers to ask about a prescription.
Our mandate is to be there every step of the way: by helping connect them with a no-cost clinic or doctor, giving them guidance on choosing a Licensed Producer, and helping them sort out the best place to start with strains and methods of ingestion.
Oftentimes, as women, we are struggling to be caregivers for our children, spouses and family members; we are trying to provide financial and emotional stability, and as a result we have shame about being a burden to others as a result of our illnesses. The community is a safe space to talk about these things. No one is sold to, or judged, or treated with anything less than the dignity that is our basic human right. SheCann is a space to shed the stigma and soak up the support.
How has cannabis influenced your life?
Cannabis has given me back so many parts of my life. Prior to getting my prescription, I was severely cognitively impaired and my recovery from a seizure would take hours if not days. Making the bed in the morning was a daunting task. It would take 37 minutes to get it done, because I couldn’t recognize the pillow, or the blankets.
Today, I can make a bed in under 3 minutes (when I feel like it!); but more importantly, I am also able to be an active and engaged mother to my kids again, as well as a reliable friend and partner.
The biggest influence cannabis has had on my life is that it has given me a purpose and a passion. I have recently accepted a position with Strainprint Technologies as their Community Manager and Patient Liaison. I am able to work for the first time in 10 years, in a role that allows me to engage with patients and offer resources, education and support on a much broader scale. Working for a patient-focused company also means that they respect and encourage my role as SheCann founder and advisor. It has been a long road back but I am dedicated to paving similar roads for others.
What have been your biggest hurdles operating in the cannabis industry so far?
This industry is such a blank canvas when it comes to opportunity and finding a niche for yourself. I haven’t encountered much resistance to the patient perspective. My biggest hurdles have been internal struggles. I am a people pleaser, and I believe every person matters. The problem is that then EVERY person matters…even the toxic ones.
How have you been able to overcome these challenges?
It is a work in progress! I have learned that being magnanimous isn’t always a good response to someone else’s demands. There are times where it’s appropriate to walk away from people or situations that are having a negative impact on you or your long term goals for your business or passion project.
I am fortunate to have some incredible mentors and friends in the industry, and they have sat with me through some of those long days.
I have also learned that my intuition is usually the first perspective I should listen to. I am learning to believe in my own capabilities as a woman in the working world again, after so many years of looking to others for approval and guidance.
Name the top 3 skills every cannabis entrepreneur needs
Perspective, stamina, and humility.
What is the best advice you've received recently?
A great mentor and incredible woman shared this advice with me recently, it is a phrase that I believe can be applied to all relationships, but especially those in an emerging industry like the cannabis space. “Why cut what you can untie?” Arrangements or partnerships may no longer fit with your goals or intentions, but leaving them gracefully is a gift to everyone. You just never know when paths will cross again.
What are your favorite resources/tools for your business and why?
In short: the best resources are my good humans. Whether I need advice or information on emerging laws, advocacy, science or strategy, the incredible mentors and friends I have met as a result of SheCann are the most valuable tool I have in helping others. I always say that it’s important to ‘follow the good humans’; usually your passion is leading you all in the same direction.
Any tips for maintaining a work/life balance?
Admittedly, I am a pretty intense person, so I invest all my time and energy into the space where I feel I can help and support others. This makes the work/life balance a slippery goal to grab hold of! I can say that I am learning that small breaks throughout my work days, to practice yoga, or journal, even for 5 minutes, are more powerful and accessible to me than taking a weekend off or even a whole day. The social media sphere is 24/7, so these micro breaks allow me to regroup, come back into myself for a few minutes, and move on.
If you could offer an aspiring cannabis entrepreneur one piece of advice, what would it be?
Just do the ‘next right thing’. If you have a vision, and a desire to give of yourself in a purposeful way, that next right thing will show itself. This industry is still unfolding, and I am always happy when that ‘next right thing’ exceeds anything I could have planned or imagined.