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Believing in the power of myself was encouraged in my household from the beginning. That I was good, that I was smart, and that I was capable of excelling was always instilled in me. My parents were both very hard workers. My mom didn’t go to college, but she was a top real estate agent back in Dorchester. I remember going to her office and watching her be very, very confident in what she was doing, and very resourceful. My dad went to night school when I was younger.

It was really important to my mom that I go to college—and to an Ivy League school. I trusted that she saw the challenges and was trying to make a good path for me. I ended up going to Penn, where I studied anthropology, and then to law school from there. I’m very grateful that I did my freshman year before I had my son because I was just like, Oh, there’s no going back. I had already seen the promised land.

Of course, there were challenges and struggles there. I have a very strong personality, which I learned from my mom. She wanted me to study medicine, but I told her, “No, I don’t think I’m going to become a doctor, that’s not right for me.” Law, however, was something that I could see myself doing.

My parents had me when they were in their early 20s. I had my son when I was 19. When you have younger parents, you’re ingrained into adult life. Not in a bad way; I think that’s how I became assertive and understanding. I was a little adult.

I’ve always found that cannabis helped me stay on that path of positivity, creativity, and order.

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My first memory of cannabis was encountering it among my parents and their friends in a very casual way, not something that was around often. I’m a child of the ‘80s, so D.A.R.E. was in our face. I remember learning about the dangers of drugs, and weed was definitely a part of that. Cannabis was totally wrapped up in all of this propaganda, so I had a pretty negative opinion of it.

I didn’t smoke until I was 17. It was after a super stressful day. I had been fighting with my mother and I also had a cyst at the time—they run in my family. It was really painful. A few people were smoking and I was like “Hey, I’ll smoke. Let me try this out.” And it was great. I had a very interesting, creative time. Very visual. Talk about being able to dream and daydream, that was fantastic. I also noticed I wasn’t bothered by my cyst. It was love at first sight. I realized that this plant had a really bad rap and didn’t deserve it. By the time I was in senior year of high school, I was consuming every day.

I have a bit of a type-A personality, I have a lot of drive and ambition, and with that can come a lot of stress and anxiety. Cannabis helped me focus while I was working hard. There can be a very fine line between thinking and analyzing being a positive thing or a negative one. I’ve always found that cannabis helped me stay on that path of positivity, creativity, and order. It takes some of the things that might seem overwhelming or mundane and erases that feeling. It can be a fast friend in that way.

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I can’t say that cannabis cures illnesses, but cannabis has the ability to be therapeutic for a lot of problems.

I was diagnosed with an ovarian cyst after I had my son. It was hurting a lot and smoking cannabis wasn’t helping. My OB-GYN prescribed me high doses of acetaminophen, but at that point I had a child, so I was taking more agency over myself and my life. In my research, I found this is murdering everybody’s liver. I thought, What about cannabis? I know people in California are using it for all kinds of things, maybe I can use edibles or topicals?

That’s how I started looking into the science of cannabis. Making edibles, making topicals, suppositories, things that would help me—and they did. I didn’t have to have that cyst taken out. Twenty years later, I’m still hanging out with this cyst and managing it.

Five years ago or so, there was a report showing that acetaminophen is a leading cause in one out of every three liver failures in the U.S. I think I made the right decision by being cautious about what I put in my body. A lot of the products that I am developing with my company, Ardent, are based on my own experiences. I can’t say that cannabis cures illnesses, but cannabis has the ability to be therapeutic for a lot of problems and concerns people have with their health, and I want everyone to be able to access that.

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Ardent is a house of innovation. Our hardware and our devices transform people’s extra flower into any product that they could imagine. Even that extra little bud that’s sitting around, folks can take that, put it into the machine, activate it, and create everything from edibles to transdermal patches to suppositories to vitamin nutraceutical capsules. We like to be a springboard for people to be able to access the plant and make the therapy that works right for them. It’s very customizable: whatever material they place inside will be activated. It is an incredible cost saver for people because they can make so much with so little, and really stretch their stash. We’ve been called the Easy-Bake Oven for cannabis because you can actually bake and cook inside the device, too. The sky’s the limit when it comes to what they can make, and it’s much cheaper than a dispensary.

We found that it really was just one little degree that would make the difference between activating the cannabis properly or not.

Decarboxylation is the awakening or the activation of the cannabinoid—whether that’s THC or CBD, or any of the other cannabinoids. They’re blocked under an acid layer. Think about it like a key and a lock. They are the key and you’re trying to put them into the lock of your endocannabinoid system. If the THC or CBD are not activated, if they’re still stuck under that acid layer, that key’s not going to fit in. You need to actually remove that acid layer on the key for it to fit into the lock that is your receptor.

The trick is that as you’re removing the acid layer, it’s very easy to completely destroy the cannabinoids. Or it’s very easy to think you removed the acid layer when you haven’t. We found that it really was just one little degree that would make the difference between activating the cannabis properly or not. That was a real eye opener. I went and I found electrical engineers told them each the different pieces I needed to bring this together and really Frankensteined it. I had all the pieces arrive at my house and thought, Okay, I guess I need to learn how to solder now and did it and crossed my fingers and hoped like hell that it actually worked.

It didn’t at first. It’s funny, we have video from that first day and I have the most sour face on because it just didn’t work. But in a week, it did and we were able to bring that product to market.

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There was a time when I thought I was going to lose my law license after I got arrested for cannabis.

Things are moving so fast in the cannabis industry. We’re watching an entire business universe and laws sprout and be shaped right in front of our eyes. That’s not something that usually happens. If I was back to being a law student, I would be just giggling at the shock of it. It’s like a living law school exam. You couldn’t have described a more ideal career and path for me when I was younger than the one that I’m on now, and that feels really good to say. Especially since there was a time when I thought I was going to lose my law license after I got arrested for cannabis.

I was a young lawyer. I had purchased a house. I’m thinking that things are going okay for me, that I’m on a track to making something of myself and that my teenage pregnancy wasn’t going to derail my life. One day, I’m driving to work and I get pulled over for a right on red. I didn’t think much of it, because cannabis had been decriminalized in Massachusetts. I expected at most a ticket.

Instead, when the police officer saw the cannabis, he ordered me out of the car, started searching my car without consent, put handcuffs on me, and threw me in the back of the squad car. At this point, I am freaking out. It’s summertime so I’m in my little blouse and my skirt and my heels in the back of the police car, thinking, “My career is over.”

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I was also just trying to process it all. Why does he want to put me in jail? What’s going on? Why am I not getting a ticket? I’m watching my car get impounded in front of me wondering what I’m going to do. I said, “You’re supposed to give me a ticket, why are you doing this?” I’m crying and he’s just doing the booking report.

I say, “Where are you taking me?” He responds, “Stoughton District Court.” I’ve represented clients there before, so I know that I’m going to go in front of a judge and immediately everybody’s going to know that I was arrested. I’m going to lose my job and everything that I had worked for. I have a kid at home. I just really dug deep and I thought, Okay, what’s happening here? They’re violating my civil rights. So I just said that to them. I figured maybe that would get a reaction.

In my mind all I thought was, This lady wants me to go to jail. Why?

They look up and I go, “You’re violating my civil rights because you have me handcuffed here and you’re arresting me, and this is not an arrestable offense.” There was a woman there, I remember so clearly, and she wasn’t in a police uniform. She said to the police officer very loudly, “No, you had probable cause to think it was over an ounce.” In my mind all I thought was, This lady wants me to go to jail. Why?

I didn’t say I was a lawyer because people use that kind of thing against you. Maybe they would make it worse for me. But when she said that about the probable cause, my legal brain kicked in and said, “That may have been true at the side of the road, he might have had probable cause when he was eyeing it. But we’re in the police station right now and you have every single tool available to you, like a scale, to weigh this and determine whether or not I’m violating this law.”

When I said that it got silent. They both got up and left the room and I’m just sitting there with my hands cuffed behind my back. He comes back 15 minutes later and says it was 14 grams, and I said, “I know.” He took the cuffs off and told me, “Okay, you can go now.”

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My car is in the impound, I don’t have a wallet, I don’t have anything. Honestly, I went home and cried the rest of the day. I was just so relieved and so thankful. But I also pushed the experience down to the furthest parts of my being until I started working on the campaign for legalization in Massachusetts.

I remember standing onstage at a town hall next to a state senator who was a prohibitionist at the time. Of course he’s pro-cannabis now. I was there as a spokesperson for a legalization ballot initiative that I co-authored. We were standing there and I said, “We need to legalize cannabis because people are still getting arrested for it in Massachusetts, and it’s mostly Black and brown people.” This is the first thing I’ve said during the entire thing and he very rudely interrupts me and says, “Not that’s not true. People aren’t getting arrested.”

I say, “Yes, people are getting arrested,” but I’m not thinking about me, and that’s trauma. I had compartmentalized it. And then I realized, Wait a minute, this is actually my experience. Maybe that’s relevant. I’m sitting in front of an all white audience in Framingham and I’m thinking, Maybe these people really think that people aren’t getting arrested for this.

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I pulled the campaign manager aside and I told him the story. Nobody knew that I got arrested. I had never told anybody. Of course, it became a major point of the campaign. Like, “Okay, if this is happening in the suburbs to a lawyer on her way to work, what the heck do you think is happening to the kids in the city?”

I don’t love to use the word “destiny” because I think it makes it seem like certain people are anointed and that isn’t the case. I do believe that we all have a path of our highest vibration, our highest contribution. That path is individual to us, and I am absolutely on that path. Of course, it involves ups and downs. I know hard times will come, and yes, they can be deflating, but I also know that it’s all part of that journey.

Right now we are at an inflection point when it comes to equity, and people do have a huge voice in making that happen.

In this industry, sometimes all there is fear and ambiguity, so you have to use that as fuel. Right now we are at an inflection point when it comes to equity, and people do have a huge voice in making that happen. For me, advocacy isn’t really difficult. It’s literally just calling out what I am seeing happening and making a call for people to care about it and try to change it with me.

The Senate in Massachusetts just passed an omnibus cannabis bill that would put a ton of money into equity businesses and incentivize cities and towns to actually bring equity businesses to bear. There’s a strong, viable contingent of Black- and brown-owned businesses that are opening up right in front of our eyes here in Massachusetts. Seeing the seeds really sprout in all of those different segments of the garden—I love it.

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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Shanel Lindsay photographed by Tracy Nguyen in Los Angeles. If you like this Conversation, please feel free to share it with friends or enemies. Subscribe to our newsletter here.