Founder Series: Cornell to Cannabis
Jul 18, 2022
Author: Ashley Robins
Role: ANJA Marketing and Policy Lead
Did you know that cannabis in South Africa is called “dagga,” or that research has found that cannabis was used frequently both medicinally and recreationally in ancient Jewish rituals?
I certainly didn’t until recently.
Cannabis has had a deep interplay with my personal roots, but it was not until recently that I was able to appreciate and explore this. My name is Ashley Robins, and I am the child of two South-African Jewish immigrants who came to the United States in 1986– during the height of the War on Drugs. I grew up with the classic “this is your brain on drugs” commercials, and vividly remember crying as a tween when I saw my older sister smoking weed for the first time. Until college, my entire impression of cannabis was that it was akin to heroin, that it was a gateway drug, and that it would ruin my chances of success and happiness if I ever used it. This was blatantly false, of course, but it was what I had heard consistently during my childhood upbringing in Tennessee. I do not regret staying away from cannabis until I was of legal age to use it (and fully support and encourage all consumers to wait until they are of legal age to consume), but to say that I was misled about cannabis during my youth is an understatement.
I attended my undergrad in Iowa, where cannabis was (and still is) illegal and can yield a 6-month jail sentence for possession for a first-time offender. The first time I tried cannabis was after an accounting exam; anyone who has ever suffered through an accounting course can understand the pain and anxiety associated with such exams. Imagine my shock when, for the first time in over a decade, I did not feel anxious or overwhelmed, nor did I feel any of the side effects that the “This Is Your Brain on Drugs” commercials showed. With just one joint, my entire perception of cannabis and cannabis users was overhauled.
I quickly fell in love with cannabis because it helped me with my anxiety, my socialization, and my academics. Without the constant anxiety that my prescription SNRI alone could not tackle, I was able to improve my grades and complete a triple major in economics, business, and political science; I was able to socialize and make lifelong friends without the threat of a hangover and a beer belly; and I was able to fall in love with exercise and cooking, losing over 75 pounds as a result. My life became noticeably better after I began to incorporate cannabis into it. The more I became exposed to cannabis, the more I wondered why this simple plant that approximately 44% of the US college population has consumed has such severe and draconian legal implications attached to it.
My love for cannabis led me to Cornell University, where I was able to take courses in the Hemp Science Master’s program alongside my own Behavioral Economics Master's program. Throughout my time at Cornell, I had the privilege of taking classes ranging from Wine Marketing to Hemp Processing, and of talking to professionals and researchers at the forefront of the field. I learned that my experience with cannabis was not limited to me, but that many of my peers had also found cannabis benefitted them and their lifestyles. Cannabis, when enjoyed in moderation like any other substance, has so much potential and application going forward. As the industry continues to develop and grow, I’m thrilled to read about the research and the science that will emerge regarding the benefits and the risks associated with this wonderful plant.
I chose to work in this industry because I believe I can make the world a better place by destigmatizing cannabis and cannabis users, advocating for social justice reform and the release of non-violent cannabis users from prison, and supporting increased research and education for cannabis science. I chose to work with the ANJA team because they share these similar values; as a minority-and-women-owned business, all of the founders have a strong understanding of the challenges, stigmas, and benefits presented by the cannabis industry. I am proud to be a part of ANJA because of the values it holds and the shared community that it creates. I took a chance working with a startup, and I did it because I cannot imagine a better place to contribute my time and effort.
Cannabis is not a catch-all miracle drug and should be used appropriately and in moderation. It is of the highest priority to me, and to ANJA, that you have full information regarding all things cannabis. I look forward to hearing about your experience! As the industry grows, we look forward to growing with you. You Have Questions, We Have ANJA.
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