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Cannabis and Mental Health: High Risk, High Reward

In an ironic twist of fate, mental health issues are common throughout every sector of the Cannabis industry.

Whether we like it or not, the truth about Cannabis as a brain medicine is that we don’t really know the full extent of its effects.  

We don’t know how beneficial or detrimental it might be over the course of a lifetime. We don’t yet know what factors increase or detract from the efficacy of the plant and its derivatives. And we don’t truly know what causes one individual medicating with Cannabis to feel relief and another to feel no benefit at all – or even feel worse.

One of the least understood areas of the plant’s effects surround mental health.  

From government sponsored propaganda misinforming people that Cannabis kills brain cells, to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services owned patent 6,630,507 on cannabinoids as protectants from brain damage and degeneration, it’s easy to understand why there’s a lot of confusion around using Cannabis to promote mental health.

The reality of the situation is that we won’t gain the thorough, technical understanding of these factors until we see Cannabis rescheduled to a different classification or de-scheduled all together, which would allow legitimately qualified research and development companies greater access to the plant. 

While the majority of the industry and its consumers continue to self-educate without the benefit of significant scientific research, trial and error, community agreement, and word-of-mouth recommendations remain the method with which we prescribe Cannabis to ourselves and others.

Anecdotally, we have an overwhelming amount of evidence that Cannabis can help alleviate symptoms caused by depression, anxiety, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, cancer, Crohn’s, glaucoma, schizophrenia, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, muscle spasms, nausea, and pain. With time and further legalization, scientists will be able to study and truly quantify some of the bigger unknowns, like proper dosage and which strain(s) to prescribe for which ailment.

Mental Health in the Industry

In an ironic twist of fate, mental health issues are common throughout every sector of the Cannabis industry. In large part, this is thanks to a nominal percentage of businesses offering any benefits to their workers at all, much less those of the mental health variety. Many answer only to the margins and the bottom line is the most important aspect, despite any branding or marketing conveying otherwise. 

In addition, there is a laundry list of factors at play that challenge the mental health of both owners and workers alike all across the industry. These factors include, but are not limited to: financial risk or difficulty due to association with a federally illegal industry, desire of ownership, to scale and resulting pressures levied on workers as a result, as well as physical safety.

The high stress nature of owning or working at a startup business in any industry is well documented, but it’s pretty difficult to truly comprehend what hurdles fledgling Cannabis businesses must clear in order to survive. The side effects of this is an industry that’s rather cut throat, difficult to navigate, and difficult to succeed in – as it pushes those who work in it to their max.

Turnover is frequent and loyalty is low as well qualified individuals are often poached by rivaling businesses.  

Laws change regularly, often challenging business owners to come up with four to six figures to become compliant with them. Other times a business owner will invest that amount to become compliant, only for that rule to be repealed or amended shortly thereafter.

Finding Health in Chaos

While it’s easy to get excited about a career in Cannabis and jump in full force, don’t forget balance and diversity are key to health and happiness.  

Take time for yourself, trust your gut, and put your foot down for your personal health when you need to. There is more to life than being a professional and without your health, you’ll have no career in any industry. 

There are many individuals who have left stable, mainstream careers to pursue a passion for the plant and have been able to make it stick. Many others were hustlers, growers, trimmers, and backyard open blasters for years before legalization, and are now making an oddly similar – yet opposite – transition.  

Everyone brings something different to the table. And in the short term and likely in the long run, each company will need people with both types of experience to succeed. While younger companies will demand more from fewer, generally speaking older and more established businesses will have more allowance for individuals to focus on a single job. The flip side to this is that younger companies will almost always have more opportunity for ownership than established ones.

As this freshly legalizing industry is forming, to get ahead, remember that essentially every single Cannabis business in existence is a startup. Startups have lots of holes that need to be filled and if one can identify areas where growing companies need help, it can be a relatively easy process to making oneself invaluable to that company. This industry was built on communication and trust, and owners who aren’t part of the Green Rush still rely heavily on their gut instinct to make business decisions. Proving loyalty and value should be at the top of the list for anyone looking to secure steady, profitable work in the Cannabis industry.

Finding the sweet spot between your work-life balance, income stability, and career growth potential in this industry isn’t easy – but if you truly love the plant – than all the hurdles you clear to get there will be unquestionably worth it.

About Nate Williams

Nate is a Bay Area born and raised Cannabis enthusiast and journalist working in the field since 2015. He worked as the Oregon Leaf Director until relocating to Sacramento at the beginning of 2020 to help launch California Leaf, where he currently serves as the magazine’s Sales Director. He enjoys organic sun-grown derived hash rosin, photography, and road cycling.

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