Compassion is one of the strongest forces on the planet. The desire to end or reduce someone’s suffering is a driving force for many. When that passion is put into action, you’ll find these people giving selflessly of their time, intelligence and integrity to ensure another day is a little less painful, a little less frustrating, a little less isolated.
Ashleigh Brown is the epitome of this force of nature. She is one of the founding members and central moderators of SheCann, a (free) membership-based Facebook group dealing with legal medicinal cannabis and shedding light on the often confusing intricacies therein.
Since forming the Facebook group in the spring of this year, SheCann has built an impressive membership. Not only are their numbers rising all the time, but the level of engagement among members is remarkable, and conversations, suggestions and anecdotes between people on the front lines of the industry and those just starting their medical cannabis education are always exciting and eyeopening.
The recent Canadian Cannabis Awards in Toronto placed SheCann third in the Social Media/Facebook category, just behind Aurora and Tweed. For a volunteer-run startup, that’s pretty impressive company.
Natural Health Services met Ashleigh Brown in Winnipeg in November at the grand opening of our Winnipeg clinic.
But first, for your reading pleasure, is a short interview shedding a little more light on this wonderful group, and this wonderful human!
Kait: Can you tell us where you are located?
Ashleigh: I live in Winnipeg, MB. I have deep Prairie roots; I was born here and have lived here my entire life!
How long have you been a medical cannabis patient?
It has been about 15 months. I received my medical cannabis prescription in August 2016.
What was your process to becoming one? Were you hesitant?
I was really fortunate to have the tremendous support of my best friend, who had gotten her recommendation for medical cannabis a few months earlier. When she suggested I try it to control my daily seizures, my first reaction was a bit dismissive. I had used it recreationally, and it hadn’t helped. She told me to ‘forget everything I thought I knew about marijuana.’ It was the best advice anyone could have given me, and it is the same advice I now give to others every day!
My family doctor acknowledged that he had patients using medical cannabis with success, but he wasn’t comfortable prescribing it. He did, however, suggest a clinic, and provided me with the documentation I needed to see a doctor there and obtain my medical document.
What conditions are you treating?
I began having seizures in 2009 when my youngest daughter was three months old. There was no family history of seizures and doctors were at a loss as to why they had started. They did their best to treat them, but medication didn’t give me the control I needed and surgery was not an option. I was also suffering from chronic daily migraine with aura.
How helpful has medical cannabis been in your daily life?
At my worst point, I was having 150-180 seizures per month. I had the cognitive functioning of a 70-year-old with senile dementia, and it would take me 37 minutes to make my bed. Using medical cannabis has changed all of that. I still have seizures, but they no longer number in the hundreds. I have around 12-15 per month now. I am able to care for my daughters, attend their school events, and volunteer in my community. I just completed a compassionate care course to prepare for volunteering in the palliative care field. I feel as if I can contribute to my family, my friends, and society again.
Do you have a couple of favourite strains and/or licensed producers?
I use CBD oil daily as a preventive medication, and I really like CannTrust’s CBD oil. It is reasonably priced, and it has a pharmaceutically standardized amount of CBD, so it is easy to dose correctly. Whistler Medical has such a wide range of cannabis oils and flower. They are great people, and their level of information on terpenes and cannabinoids really helps to make it easier to choose strains that work for my migraines and seizures. I love Chocolope as a mood booster, and their high-CBG oil has been a great addition to my migraine arsenal.
Have you encountered much resistance from friends, family, your family doctor regarding this treatment plan?
My friends and family have been both curious and supportive. I personally have learned so much about medical cannabis in the last year, but there is so much we have yet to learn, as patients and as a society. I want to share my story in whatever ways will help others to understand what medical cannabis is, and what it is not. That starts at home.
You were one of the founders of SheCann, can you name three (or more) unique things about this Facebook group?
SheCann is really a special Canadian Facebook community. It defies the stereotypes of most social media groups. There is no negativity or hostility. We welcome vulnerability, curiosity, and compassion. We are patient focused, but we also welcome and encourage members of the medical cannabis industry to join us, including licensed producers, and clinics like Natural Health Services.
We work closely with groups like CFAMM (Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana) on the issues that matter to us as patients. Our members are committed to advocating for themselves and others, and as legalization approaches, we want to speak up on issues that affect our access to medication.
The ‘Don’t Tax Medicine’ campaign by CFAMM has been something that has united us and deepened our commitment to each other. We are stronger together. It is amazing and so empowering to learn more about our medicine by sharing our experiences. There are no stupid questions, and there are no invalid perspectives.
SheCann is growing fast… I believe it has about 650 very active members after five months. Will you put a cap on membership? Are you worried it may get too big? Do you have plans to branch out?
We are growing fast! The team and I have worked really hard to ensure that the current members feel safe and supported and that there is value in what they find at SheCann. They tell their friends, and their doctors, and their families, and that’s the best possible way for us to grow. I cannot foresee a time when we would cap membership.
That said, we are all patients ourselves, and so we do have to find ways to manage our own lives while still offering the level of support and wealth of resources our members have come to expect from SheCann. In the future, I would love to offer a national patient education program to Canadians. I envision SheCann empowering patients in cities and towns across Canada, as well as online.
Off topic, do you have any favourite Christmas traditions you’d like to share with us?
I think that my favourite part of the Christmas season is putting out our special decorations. My daughters are growing up quickly, but they always light up when they see the wooden advent calendar or the toy rocking horse. Those pieces become more treasured with every year that passes.
Will you visit us when you are in Calgary and be interviewed for the Cannabis Show?
Be careful what you wish for! I am a super fan of the Cannabis Show! I think it is a great source of information and education, but it is also hilarious, and that makes it memorable. I would be honoured to do an interview when I visit Calgary.
Ashleigh, we thank you for spending time with us and for everything you do!
— Written by Kait Shane, Natural Health Services. Follow Kait on Twitter @Medikait.
For further insight into all things cannabis, don’t forget to check out The Cannabis Show (new episodes every Wednesday) and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The Cannabis Show is also available as an audio podcast, subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, TuneIn, and Overcast.