Jennifer Macfarlane, otherwise known as Seshata Sensi, is a writer and researcher in the cannabis industry. Originally from the UK, Jen moved to Amsterdam in 2004. Spending over 10 years in the Netherlands, her experience includes working at the Cannabis College along with various coffee shops. Traveling in Spain, France, Morocco, Italy, and The United States – Jen has developed expertise on global and regional issues facing the cannabis trade. She plans on taking trips to Asia, Africa, and South America in the coming year. When she isn't researching or exploring, Jen is a writer for Sensi Seeds, Green Flower Media, and PROHBTD. In fact, she is even a travel writer for Dope Magazine! Specializing in several key aspects of the cannabis industry, including cannabinoid science, cultivation, activism, geopolitics and the “War on Drugs”, Jen is an expert in her field.
Starting out, what motivated you to get involved with cannabis?
I first became interested in cannabis when I was around fifteen. It was something that my friends were doing. I found out I liked it recreationally. After that, I started using it regularly. Eventually, I was at University where I got the chance to go on an exchange to Amsterdam. I stayed for a year. By the end of the year, I knew that I wanted to stay. I ended up volunteering and then working at the Cannabis College in Amsterdam. I really started learning a lot more about the medicinal aspects of cannabis along with the legalities. Over time, I became quite knowledgeable about the plant. I was invited to start contributing articles to one of the free magazines they had in the coffee shops there.
At the time I thought, "Ok, this would be a nice little thing to do in my spare time.” I never really anticipated it would turn into what it is today – my career. For me, this is more than just a personal interest. I want to educate people about an issue that I feel is really important. We’ve suddenly entered into this situation where these skills like writing are greatly needed. The cannabis industry is starting to open up in a way that I never truly expected. Ten years ago I was thinking we were going to be waiting twenty or thirty years for any of this to happen. Now we’re here, we’re in it. It's amazing. Things are moving forward so quickly.
What is it like working full-time as a cannabis writer and researcher?
I’ve always been interested in writing as a hobby. At school, writing was my favorite subject. Even as a child I was convinced I was going to be a writer when I grew up. But I didn't think it would be this branch of writing. I see myself as a writer first and foremost. Cannabis activism is very important to me but it’s not the only issue I care about. I hope to use my experience I gain in this area of activism to go on to other areas of activism such as environmental, human rights, and international relations. However, I am thankful for where I am today. From Soft Secrets, the very first magazine I wrote for, to my clients like Sensi Seeds, Green Flower Media, PROHBTD, and Dope Magazine, it's been an amazing journey. Today, it's just a question of actually finding the time to meet everyone's needs. But it’s better to be too busy than not busy enough!
Do you have any tips for working remotely?
I find that you need to be as organized as possible. Seriously, you can't leave a stone unturned. Before having this as an actual job I was always a casual traveler. I would just drop a few things in an overnight bag. I’d go and get a flight to Amsterdam from England and it would be nothing. It didn’t really require that much thought or preparation. But I realize now that with international long haul trips to obscure destinations, you really need to have all your bases covered. You need to have everything printed out like three times. It's so important to also have spare cash on hand for emergencies.
Really, you just have to be prepared. You need to know what you're doing every step of the way and who you will be going with. Being organized helps with not getting overwhelmed. And that also extends into my writing as well. Managing the structure of the articles along with everything that I have to write – a little organization goes a long way. It really allows me to have some sort of framework and a structure in place to work within. But it's absolutely a constant struggle, especially as a stoner. Naturally, I'm not the world's most organized person.
What does a day in the life of Jennifer consist of today?
Right now I’m doing a lot of traveling. Because I’m Dope Magazine’s travel writer, every month I'm going to a new destination to explore the local cannabis scene. Whether it's an emerging medical market or a traditional cultural scene like in India and Morocco, my job is to look into the laws, attitudes, and culture. To try and build a local picture of what is happening in the cannabis scene there. A lot of my days right now consist of planning trips and going on trips along with getting back from trips while writing about trips. It’s fun but it can be really exhausting too
Do you have any advice for female travelers?
In general, just be careful as a female traveler. And this applies to anywhere you are traveling. Whether visiting countries in Europe, North America, Asia, South America or Africa – it is wise to not put yourself in risky situations. This applies to men and women. But, unfortunately, women do have to keep in mind certain things when traveling. For example, in some countries, women are expected to dress more conservatively. It's just good to be aware of your surroundings. Especially when you're not as familiar with the culture.
What is your craziest/most exciting cannabis travel experience?
The trips to Morocco are always fun! It's staggering to drive through these mountains, turn the corner and suddenly see valleys of weed stretching as far as the eyes can see. The hillsides are so beautiful. It is such a magical moment to experience. That is one of the reasons I love Morocco. If you’re staying out in the rural regions on a farm, it's basic living conditions. In some farms, there is very limited and inconsistent electricity, or even no electricity at all, although this is increasingly rare these days. It's an eye-opening experience to immerse yourself in another culture like that. To actually live like the locals do. To join the women and make bread the traditional way in a stove oven outside. To live as they live – that is one of the most valuable lessons of all. So for me, it's not something crazy – it's amazing! It is hard to describe but it truly makes me feel alive.
What are the top 3 cannabis destinations you've visited & why?
India is amazing. It is interesting because cannabis in India is really dependent on the region. So, I'm going to say India for two places to visit because they are so different. Firstly, everyone knows about the party dynamic in Goa. The weed-growing culture isn't as obvious there but you can go out and find it almost anywhere. It's a lot of fun! Visiting northern India is incredible, that's where you really start to see just acres and acres of cannabis fields, such as in the Parvati Valley. There is no other sight quite like it. While obviously Spain and Amsterdam are great for the more "modern" type of weed tourism, India is beautiful. I would also say the Canary Islands are a great place to visit. It's a group of volcanic islands and people have been growing cannabis there for decades. Cannabis is a big part of the culture. It's very laid back and the climate is gorgeous.
What excites you as a woman in the cannabis industry?
I’m really excited about the fact that the cannabis industry is giving people like me a chance to really shape a unique career. I’m often asked what I am doing as a woman in the cannabis world. Women are still taught to believe they should be passive, in all walks of life. They are afraid to speak up because of what people may think. But I believe this is really starting to change. Cannabis is forming a paradigm shift worldwide. So many cannabis companies today are being founded by female entrepreneurs. It is wonderful to see how so many people are shaping careers in a level playing field.
However, there is also sexism in the cannabis industry for sure. Even in places like Amsterdam, I noticed all kinds of sexism. For example, the men grew the weed while the women trimmed and made edibles. That was the tradition there. The cannabis industry started back in the 70s in Amsterdam. Although it was the start of the hippie era of peace and love, it was still a bit more conservative than today. To look at the cannabis industry now in countries that are just developing an industry in the last 10 years or so, we've seen a major progression in the number of women involved. Cannabis is giving us the perfect platform to do this. It really inspires me to see so many women around the world being active and respected in the cannabis community.
If you could give an aspiring cannabis entrepreneur one piece of advice, what would it be?
Always be ready to adapt. That is the single most important piece of advice I could ever give. I think it is something that applies to just about everything in life. As an entrepreneur, you can never be rigid in your outlook. Having the ability to accept when you need to change and rectify your position is vital. You should never be at a point where you are ignoring the signs that something may be going wrong. I've seen so many people crash and burn because they are unwilling to adapt. Don't let that happen to you. Always be willing to change direction. In order to evolve, change is necessary. Be prepared but always make sure your structure is flexible. That is one thing that has guided my career from day one.