The 2018 legalization of recreational marijuana in California should in theory have made procuring and knowing how to use it a simpler business. However for all the curiosity about this widely available substance, there appears to be as much trepidation and lack of information. That, at least, was the conclusion reached by three local women — friends for over a decade whose families vacation together — who have launched a new venture that aims to educate people about the use of cannabis for wellbeing.
Teresa Provenzano, Lauren Schiller and Kim Keller come from different professional backgrounds, but they share an interest in community-building and wellness.
“With the legalization of cannabis in California, each of us began having more conversations with friends, mostly 35 and older — as well as our parents — about the potential benefits of cannabis for pain, insomnia, menopause, anxiety, recreation and more,” said Provenzano, who works for several nonprofits locally, including the Berkeley Chess School and In Dulci Jubilo, and has done event-planning for Berkeleyside.
“We heard, and even felt some hesitation ourselves, about visiting dispensaries without knowing what to ask for — and for that matter, to even know what we wanted,” added Keller, who works in book publishing. “Some folks we talked with also had questions about the difference between the ‘pot’ and marijuana they were familiar with from the past versus the choices available today. And they were looking for alternatives to traditional pain medication but weren’t sure where to start.”
Schiller, a marketing strategist and the creator and host of Inflection Point, a broadcast and podcast on KALW and PRX about how women rise up, felt it was “really important to find and share accurate and actionable information about this new world of cannabis.”
Certainly the market for cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychotropic component of cannabis, is booming, with uses ranging from ointments to treat pain and acne, pills to suppress nausea and sleeping aids for pets. Chefs and bartenders are also using it to concoct gourmet edibles and craft cocktails. Sales of CBD are predicted to reach $22 billion by 2022, according to the Brightfield Group, as reported in a recent op-ed by psychiatrist Richard Friedman in the New York Times who urged some skepticism about CBD given the paucity of data about its efficacy.
CBD is being produced without any regulation, resulting in products that vary widely in quality, Marcel Bonn-Miller, an adjunct assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, told HealthDay earlier this year. “It really is the Wild West,” he said. “Joe Bob who starts up a CBD company could say whatever the hell he wants on a label and sell it to people.”
Hoping to shed light on these types of concerns, the three Berkeley friends have spent the past few months conceiving of Green Point, an educational event series that will field scientists, doctors, botanists, chemists, distillers, authors, producers, yogis and professors to provide information and keep up with a fast-growing industry.
“We’re hoping these events will help demystify cannabis and help people make more informed decisions,” said Schiller, who has been a moderator at Berkeleyside’s Uncharted Ideas Festival.
Berkeleyside is co-hosting the group’s kick-off event, “Cannabis for Pain Management” on Thursday, Jan. 17, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at The Back Room in downtown Berkeley. The evening will begin with Dr. Laurie Vollen of Naturally Healing MD sharing the latest research about cannabis for pain — and what works — followed by representatives from cannabis brands Care by Design and Mary’s Medicinals who will share information about their products. There will be time for questions from attendees.
“Let’s separate the facts from the fiction and the science from the hype about cannabis,” said Schiller.