Cannabis, Mental Health & the Stigma

By: Olivia Alexander

As a cannabis user, I experienced my fair share of stigma over the years. Nonetheless, I always brushed it off and kept going. Even when people thought I was crazy for posting myself smoking or enjoying cannabis online, I kept going. I even built a very large following on Instagram and Snapchat for my consumption. Then, I became the CEO of a cannabis company and things changed.

First, I felt the stigma from other businesses. The bank shut down our bank accounts including my parents’ personal accounts. Our website was shut down for nearly half the year in 2018. But the truth was this was par for the course. My days are filled with getting knocked around by the reality of owning a cannabis business. Then my work staff increased and I had a number of people reporting to me, in a way I had never experienced before. I developed my own personal struggle with my need to self medicate daily. It’s a hard thing to admit that some days you can’t cope with daily life without cannabis.

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Certain days, I am strong and I know I am an adult. That my behavior doesn’t need defending. Other days, I worry that I am going to be judged. I worry that my employees will not understand why they can’t use cannabis at work, but I am allowed to. I was told by numerous people who I loved and respected that the media would not take me seriously if I didn’t clean up my image. I was told that the CEO’s of alcohol companies don’t constantly have images of them drinking. I was told in the age of legal weed, the non-cannabis consuming CEO was worshipped. So, what did that make me? Was I less of a boss because I consumed cannabis. Was I weak because worse, I needed it?

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At first, I tried to quit using THC during the day. I always start my morning with 20mg of our Bare tincture. One of the things I have dealt with since my teenage years was a certain level of intensity in non-cannabis mornings. Sounds would trigger me like nails on a chalkboard. Sometimes having something hit me first thing in the morning would trigger me to be in anger and stress all day. So I have to have my CBD with breakfast. Sometimes I will carry a vape for early afternoon. Since I was caught up in my head about smoking weed during the day, I quit. Over the course of those months, I let the stigma get the best of me. I only smoked or consumed THC at home at night. I slowly got worse every day. My mood shifted and I started to slowly sink into a depression. Little things would make me cry and I was even starting to question the commitment to my baby Kush Queen. After four months passed by, my fiance and business partner finally stepped in with the obvious. Why wasn’t I just using my medicine? Why was I suffering when I knew how to feel better?

The truth is despite being successful I live with bipolar disorder. Since I was a child I have displayed symptoms, but wasn’t diagnosed formally until I was 22. I searched from 18- 22 for “what was wrong with me”. The struggle of the right diagnosis is often the hardest part. From 22-27 I took pharmaceuticals. For years, I didn’t use alcohol or cannabis with my medication. Then I accidentally got pregnant and had to have an abortion because of my meds. Which led me to decide for myself, that I would rather self medicate with cannabinoids over pharmaceuticals. The side effects were simply just too much to bear. CBD was a huge aid in helping me reclaim my life and be my best self as I got off my meds, but the truth of my mental illness is rooted deep in mania. It’s hard to explain, but sometimes I can’t stop. The off button doesn’t exist and it takes you to a place in your mind you don’t want to be. Then all that wild energy is gone and you’re alone in the darkest darkness. That darkness had brought me to self-harm and suicidal thoughts since I was a teenager.  Without THC, I can’t come back sometimes. Mental health professionals are overwhelmingly against cannabis use. Rarely, have I found some who support CBD, but most do not believe in cannabis.

I understand that just because THC is what works for me now, doesn’t mean it is right for everyone or every issue. From my own experiences with schizophrenia, I have witnessed the negative effects of THC and do not recommend it. However, with some of my friends, I have seen how cannabis can aid with their side effects from prescription medications. For me, I need THC during the day sometimes, and sometimes I need to physically smoke it for it to work fast enough. Good diet and exercise are important for my mental health too. I see this now. It is likely that someone else out there is sharing a similar story to yours and Cannabis may be healing them too. You are not alone. Do your own research to find which Cannabis products will work best for you. Maybe that is CBD, maybe that is THC, maybe it is both.

I am lucky to have my experiences. They are why I created our products. Some days I use our Soaked shower gel in the mornings. Some nights I need a hot bath with Relax to take the edge off. Sometimes I pop a CBD gummy right before a meeting. And some days I will smoke a joint after lunch. Why? Because I need it. I realize that even as a successful cannabis entrepreneur I am still met with the stigma, but I don’t let its existence control my choices anymore. What I have learned is that we all are entitled to our own choices. If the CEO of a cannabis company doesn’t want or need cannabis, that’s their choice. Just like its mine, to smoke a Kush Hemp pre-roll from my desk. I know it makes me better. I know it makes me more able to deal with the bumps in my day.

Our world is simply not black and white. We all have to find the right choice for ourselves. My hope for the world is that we can replace stigma with social acceptance of whatever people want to choose for themselves.