My passion and intention in entering the Cannabis space are twofold: for the medical and the holistic benefits of the plant, and to help destigmatize marijuana. After my beloved sister was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and began undergoing the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy, convincing her to consume marijuana for the medical benefits was challenging. To make matters worse, obtaining it from a safe, reliable source with knowledge of the proper usage and dosage that would help with her symptoms was arduous and complex because it was not legally accessible in her home state. Concurrently, my dear father was coping with a leukemia diagnosis, and though marijuana was known to alleviate some of his symptoms, he was adamant about avoiding the use of an “illicit drug” because of his mindset from years of propaganda on the “War on Drugs.” Ultimately, their use of marijuana was effective as an appetite stimulant and for alleviating pain without the downside effects of the pharmaceutical alternatives that would further compromise their lifestyle. Additionally, as my younger sister is currently battling breast cancer and recently underwent a double mastectomy, cannabis-infused herbal teas and micro-dosing have helped her cope not only with the anxiety triggered by the “C” diagnosis but also as an anti-inflammatory and pain relief treatment. My family’s cancer diagnoses led to my desire to understand marijuana from a medical and holistic approach–and upon learning that the plant had cannabinoid molecules similar to that of the human body– I was compelled to dive deeper into the plant’s structure and health benefits. My values and curiosities are strongly reflected in the values that ANJA demonstrates. It is not by accident that ANJA has partnered with a botanist, a physician, and an Ivy League professor– all of who have extensive knowledge of cannabis and its benefits- before we have even opened our first store.
Marijuana’s history reflects that it wasn’t always illegal to possess. In 1906, states began labeling it as dangerous, which led to the prohibition of cannabis in the 1920s, the same period that saw alcohol banned. This was followed by the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 with more regulation, which was further fortified in 1970 with the Controlled Substances Act that banned cannabis outright by classifying it under federal law as a Schedule 1 offense. This classification indicates that marijuana is considered unsafe even under medical supervision because of its high “potential for abuse and addiction” and that it has no form of federally accepted medical use. However, there are studies and scientific evidence attesting to the medical benefits of marijuana for patients suffering from anxiety and illnesses such as cancer, seizures, MS, and AIDS. Further, removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances would mean that fewer court cases involving marijuana would go to trial; hence, fewer incarcerations and more taxpayer dollars saved (side note: those savings can be applied to the mental health crisis in this country!)
Lastly, as an advocate for education, destigmatizing marijuana is both a personal mission for me and for ANJA. During my youth in Bridgeport, CT, I witnessed the disproportionate arrests and sentencing for drug convictions that terrorized certain areas within my community. Statistics show that historically, an alarming number of minorities have been jailed for the non-violent offense of possessing minuscule quantities of marijuana. Though we have seen progress in some states, we have to continue pushing forward for federal changes to ensure that the plant is removed from the current Schedule 1 offense. ANJA is committed to changing the narrative surrounding cannabis. Through education, we will help break down the stigmas surrounding cannabis consumption so that the plant is no longer equated to severely detrimental drugs such as crack and heroin. Some of the steps ANJA will undertake are engaging with local leaders and communities to provide science-based educational forums and online educational resources. In doing so, this further emphasizes ANJA’s focus on promoting the latest cannabis research to ensure we are truly helping the people that we serve. As an MWBE-certified (minority and women-owned business enterprise) business, ANJA is deeply committed to social equity and will work with local communities to ensure we fulfill our mission.
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