I remember the first time that I tried cannabis in the same way that one does when one loses their virginity. Losing my pot virginity was an equally monumental moment for me, since I had guarded them both so voraciously. While drinking was culturally accepted, smoking pot was a big no-no in my Indian social circles and family. On top of the societal pressure, I was also raised by a single mother, (my dad had died when I was 10) and felt like I had to be “on” at all times. At that time, pot gave me more questions than it did answers. I wondered as my friend offered it to me: “would I be able to recover? Would it take my life in a different direction than I wanted?”
I distinctly remember the day that I first tried pot. My friend had picked me up from school and I was in such a great mood that I didn't think I needed anything more than the natural high from the accomplishments of my day. I mentioned this to my friend who then remarked “the best time to try it is when you’re really in a good mood.” This was a statement that I would carry with me the rest of my life in many aspects of my life-I realized that even drinking when I was in a bad mood had negative outcomes for me. Mindset and intentionality are important when you decide to try cannabis and or any mood-altering substance.
I had a great first experience! I was fortunate to try it with a friend who cared about my well-being and wanted to ensure that I had a good time while enjoying the benefits of what the herb had to offer. This first good experience is a large part of why I created ANJA: so that I could pass on my firsthand experiential learning about cannabis in addition to the medical knowledge I had obtained in later years. The overwhelming joy and relaxation I had that first time was something I wanted to share with anyone who listened. The reason I didn’t drink was due to the intensity of my undergrad and medical school rigor; having a hangover and trying to go through the next day was simply not an option. Cannabis was different. I learned that the effects of cannabis were temporary; I could control how much I took and realized that there were minimal to zero effects the following day.
After medical school came my Residency in Emergency Medicine, which caused all of my vices to halt. I felt a lot of conflict as a physician to partake in a substance that was a Schedule 1 drug, meaning that it was classified to be as bad as heroin and other opioids. The logical, educated doctor in me knew that it wasn’t as bad as the other drugs (that I had personally witnessed cause addiction and substance abuse during my time in the ER). Even so, I had pharmaceutical reps telling me Oxycontin was safer than cannabis! My instinct told me they were drinking the oxycontin kool-aid, but unfortunately, the medical and governmental fields dictated the norms at the time. I tried to apply critical thinking but there was not a lot of research that I could cite to support my gut.
The next critical juncture I faced with cannabis was when I became a mother. Prior to motherhood, I didn’t really feel guilty about my vices. Once the kids were born, the issue was very black-and-white for them. I had to reface my choices and decision-making. Motherhood made me question: “is there something wrong with me for wanting to do it?” This was at the same time that my peers, other parents, and friends were smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol. I remember addressing this with my children, saying “I don’t smoke cigarettes” and telling them I’ll revisit the issue later.
Post-pregnancy, I was prescribed anti-inflammatory medications and narcotics- which had strong and unpleasant side effects for me. At the time, edibles had become more accessible- meaning that I could finally partake in cannabis without “smelling like a stoner.” This allowed me to be more active (mentally and physically) and successful as a parent compared to the muscle relaxers and narcotics that I was prescribed. When my daughter found out it was cannabis, she was initially devastated. My hopes were always that the science would be better understood by the time my children found out, and that cannabis would become more accepted by the mainstream- in similar regard to alcohol and tobacco.
My most recent critical juncture was when my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer. It was truly ironic that he was finally eligible for a medicinal card, yet chose to not use it [because of stigma?]. When he was still able to speak, he used to say “bake bake” to indicate he wanted to smoke. When he no longer was able to smoke, I gave him tincture to reduce his pain. His pain medicine really just knocked him out without resolving his problems. The tincture, on the other hand, reduced his restlessness and gave him a sense of peace. As someone who has seen the medical benefits of cannabis personally, it saddens me to realize there were many who would never qualify like my husband for a medical marijuana license.
I know the benefits for me personally and for my family, and I am grateful that at least medicinally we could access it. Taking off that stigma took off a lot of pressure for us.
My lifelong personal and professional experiences lead me to create ANJA. My purpose in the recreational cannabis industry has been influenced by my own experience with cannabis throughout my life as well as the experience of others who have benefitted from the destigmatization of cannabis as a harmful drug. I know it is not without risks or consequences, but I hope to reduce the stigma so it becomes accessible and scientifically understood. It has so much potential to help people- if we just let it. That has been my experience. My goal is to connect those who would like to have a similar first experience as I did with those who care to support them in their endeavor. If you are hoping to get acquainted with cannabis, get ANJA.
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