It’s that time of year again.
No, not the holiday season, but the anniversary of a day that forever changed the trajectory of Jordan Smith’s life: November 14, 2019.
“From the time I was five I wanted to be a teacher,” expressed Jordan, who completed her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education at Salisbury University in 2017.
“At the age of 4, I took over my preschool class when the teacher was absent and they did the morning routine wrong,” she laughed. “I’ve just always been good with kids.”
Upon graduating, the Towson native took a job as a fourth-grade teacher at Woodbridge Elementary School in Catonsville. She spent two years gaining experience before being sidelined for health reasons. Jordan underwent a surgical procedure to treat occipital neuralgia – a distinct type of headache the National Institute of Health describes as a “shock-like chronic pain in the upper neck, back of the head, and behind the ears.”
“I had to get my tonsils and adenoids out, and they were debating whether I should get a second surgery on a nerve in my neck,” said the 25-year-old, recalling a 2019 summer spent in recovery.
Medical Cannabis alleviated most of Jordan’s pain. A cardholder since 2017, she had grown weary of prescription medication after years of trial and mostly error.
“Growing up, my brother was the stoner,” she giggled. “I literally never touched [Cannabis] until I got to college. But once I got my card, I was full-on for Cannabis. I was able to cut back on prescription meds, a lot of which were making me worse.”
By late August, Jordan secured a position as a special education teacher in her hometown, leading a staff of educational assistants to provide care to six behaviorally-challenged students. She insists she was upfront about her medical card and usage during non-working hours.
“I told the head of HR during my interview that I had my medical Cannabis card and asked if this would be an issue,” she said. “She told me that it was fine and that I had nothing to worry about.”
But when Jordan was bitten by a student and had to go to Patient First for a tetanus shot, as a requirement for worker’s compensation, she was asked to take a drug test – which registered positive for Cannabis. The test was relayed to her place of employment. When she returned to the school, she was asked by an administrator to visit the principal’s office.
“We opened the door to the office and I was surrounded by the principal who hired me, the admin who had just complimented me on how well I was doing, and the head of HR that told me I would be fine,” she said.
Nevertheless, Jordan was asked to sign a termination agreement.
“[They] escorted me back into the classroom and made me pack my belongings in front of my students and my staff,” she said. “They didn’t even give me a chance to say goodbye.”
Parents of students texted her, trying to find a reason for their teacher’s departure. As part of her agreement, Jordan couldn’t respond.
“It was one of the lowest points of my life,” she said. “I had been dead set on teaching. I didn’t know where to turn. I had just finished one surgery and perhaps needed another. I was still getting treatment for migraines. I was a pretty broken human being.”
Needing to maintain a roof over her head, Jordan reluctantly took a desk job as an administrative assistant for a family business in Columbia – a job she held for nearly two years. On the upside, Jordan had spent anywhere from 12 to 14 hours per day working as a schoolteacher. A 9-to-5 job would allow her to focus on her health, as well as medicate during the day.
“Working at the school, I went [without Cannabis] every day until the end of the night,” she said. “By that time, my pain would be insane.”
Jordan began to focus on ways to medicate and remain functional during the day.
“I began to realize there were so many options,” she said. “Tinctures, gummies, drinks – they all helped me get through my desk job. I started making my own edibles and studying about terpenes.”
As her passion and knowledge of the plant grew, so did Jordan’s confidence – presenting an opportunity to apply with a medical dispensary in Baltimore (ReLeaf Shop) this past spring. She began working nights and weekends as a patient care advisor. Her role quickly expanded to a full-time position, leaving behind her days as an administrator. Empowered behind the counter, Jordan has taken pride in serving as an educator once more.
“It’s a whole new world dealing with adults compared to children,” said Jordan, who was given the moniker of ‘Label Queen’ by her coworkers, actively seeking out busy-body tasks during downtime.
Jordan is considering chasing a master’s degree in Cannabis science. She has also begun making educational art for the industry, merging her past life with her present.
“I’m happier than I have been in a long time,” she said. “Two years ago I was hiding who I was. I was hiding my Cannabis use and I was afraid of the judgment I would receive. Now I’m able to work on my physical and mental health. I finally feel I’m at a place that wants to help me become my best self.”
A sense of shame – and failure – had taken a stronghold over Jordan when her long sought-after teaching career went up in flames. Now, she’s pridefully paving a new path and more importantly, following her heart.
“I spent a year or two wallowing in everything that happened,” she said. “I asked myself, ‘Why am I so focused on the negative?’ When I finally sat back and realized all that had happened, I saw what a blessing it was. I said, ‘Holy shit! This changed my life!’ It’s given me a new perspective.”
As for November 14, Jordan says it’s no longer a day that will live in infamy.
“This year, it’ll be a celebratory day,” she said. “I realized you don’t have to be stuck being miserable. You can work at something you love and enjoy and make a living from it. I had to understand why my journey took this turn. This is the year I move on from what happened two years ago. And there is so much more coming.”