We chat with Amanda Siebert about how marijuana can improve your life.
Cannabis writer and journalist Amanda Siebert spent almost a year researching and writing this practical and entertaining book that plainly explains the different types of cannabis and how it can improve our lives in ways we didn’t even know. She shared with us her personal experience with this life-enhancing plant and many other details about her forthcoming book The Little Book of Cannabis: How Marijuana Can Improve Your Life, available October 17, 2018. Q: What has been your personal experience with cannabis? A: I used it for the first time when I was a teenager, but I started using it more seriously when I was a young adult in my early 20s. At that time, while I was using it with my friends, I noticed that we would drink less and wouldn’t wake up in the morning with a hangover. It made socializing with my friends and classmates really fun and enjoyable. So it started more like a recreational thing for me. Then, as I got older, I started to suffer from some serious anxiety because of some trauma in my life. So lately, my relationship with cannabis has changed. I still consume it here and there with friends but it's definitely serving more of a medicinal purpose for me. I realize this is actually improving my life in ways that I didn't even know. Q: What inspired you to write this book? A: I was writing about cannabis when I was approached about this book idea. The inspiration was the patients that I had been writing about when I worked for the Georgia Straight. One of my favourite types of articles to write were the stories about how cannabis was improving somebody’s life, whether it was a health condition or not. And I noticed that there are so many different things that people are using it for and I didn’t have the time to cover all of them. I wanted to share this with people. Then, I was in conversation with my editor at Greystone Books and she suggested to take a couple topics and start small, with an intro-level book that would allow people to understand how cannabis can benefit them. The book is definitely written with the intent of reaching people who might not even consider using cannabis. I really wanted it to be understood by everybody: something that my grandmother could read and my mother would be interested in reading. It's an entry-level approach on how to use cannabis to improve your life. Q: So what can we expect to find in this intro-level book? A: The book features 10 subjects and they range from sleep to stress; things that pretty much have affected everybody. And there are more specific topics in conjunction with other cancer treatments and pain management. There’s even a chapter on how cannabis can improve your sex life. The last chapter, it speaks about how cannabis can facilitate an exit of some drugs, reduce your consumption of other pharmaceuticals, even alcohol. I’m trying to touch on things that are sort of universal as well as a few more specific illnesses and conditions. Q: How do you approach people who are still questioning cannabis? A: I think CBD, the second most common compound in cannabis, doesn’t provide that psychoactivity that people associate with cannabis. Older people are worried about feeling high, they don’t want to feel intoxicated. I might tell them that this might be a product that they could use to help them with anxiety, to sleep. It has applications with some people with pain; definitely a great place to start with people who are questioning cannabis and still a little bit afraid of it. We hear about CBD all the time in the news every day, so that’s something I would start with. Try a CBD oil. There are so many options of products they can choose from. They don’t necessarily have to smoke. Q: Did cannabis help you in the creative process of this book? A: Definitely! I wrote about it in the book. There were a couple of times where I had all this research, time crunch, anxiety, my brain was not producing, writer’s block or whatever, and cannabis would often come to play. I would sit down, consume a little bit and then ideas would maybe start to flow a little better or facts in my research would jump out of me. Definitely, things flowed a little better for me if I was having a rough day and I introduced a little bit of cannabis to that situation. Nine out of 10 times it would improve. Q: Does cannabis affect everyone differently? A: Yes, cannabis is not like alcohol, even though people really like to compare it to alcohol. A product that works for me for my anxiety or stress might not work for another person because of the differences in our bodies and in the plants, so i's very subjective. You hear a lot of indica vs. sativa types of cannabis. is supposed to make you feel sleepy; the other one, more energized. It’s debatable. Personally, if I consume a sativa, it gets my anxiety worse. Another person might consume the same and have a wonderful time. It’s definitely a very subjective experience. I really try to repeat in the book that it’s important for new consumers to start low and go slow. Take a little bit of a product and wait. See how you feel so you won’t end up overwhelmed by the amount you consumed. Q: Which are the cons of its consumption? A: I’m sure there are some people who might be adverse to cannabis and some who are allergic to it. It's important to start using it with moderation. The con might be in over consuming it. Cannabis is a beautiful plant that has all these medicinal properties, but overconsumption cannot necessarily be a good thing. For sure there are patients that might require more than what you or I might consume. Once you start to overconsume cannabis, it might have adverse effects on some people’s health. Q: So if it is so good for your health, why has it been illegal for so long? A: Great question! Cannabis has been illegal in Canada since 1923. It was made illegal because it was sort of ranking with opium at the time. There was no record of discussion of why cannabis should be made illegal. What really happened was that in the U.S. in 1930, cannabis was vilified by a gentleman named Harry J. Anslinger. He was involved in the stock market and had friends who were investing in cotton and prescription medication; all these different industries that were being threatened by it. He started to send false messages and created this war against cannabis. He came out with his movie Reefer Madness and sent everybody into a panic. It sort of started there. Even though it was vilified for over a 100 years, what I want to remind people is that we've been using it to improve our life, whether that is recreationally or spiritually, for at least 12,000 years. Q: So what is your opinion about the Canadian Cannabis Act? A: I think it needs a little bit of work but it's a step towards a more positive outlook on this plant. For sure there are a lot of penalties kind of tied into it that weren’t there before. It's flaw in the fact that “how can you legalize this substance and then keep all of these people and put in prison for using it and possessing it without letting them go? Cannabis amnesty is a really important thing that needs to eventually be brought into the Act so that we don’t have people sitting in jail for something that is now legal. That's my biggest issue with it. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.