Connecting the Dots with Nikki Lawley: the state’s role in cannabis education

cannabis education

More states are legalizing marijuana all the time, but cannabis education varies drastically across the county. Some states have done a great job trying to teach newcomers about the plant, while others leave folks to their own devices.

What is interesting is in New York. For instance, they have a full-on medical campaign happening right now. This is extremely helpful but would’ve been great about five years ago, so it seems like the states are the last to be on board. 

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When a state legalizes, one of the first things they should address is how to get the information to the people. As I mentioned, several companies offer education in New York State. One that is directly tied to New York State is the Cannabis Workforce Initiative, which is doing a great job educating consumers and businesses. I just completed their train-the-trainer course, which will help get the word out more effectively than one person trying to train the entire state. 

Other groups offer similar programs; some focus on jobs, and some focus on business or consumer education. For medical education, we are beginning to see courses pop up to educate healthcare providers, which is so needed. There is so much false information and clickbait out there that people don’t really understand what is true and what is not. 

Some of the other organizations in New York State include New York State Cannabis Connects, which focuses on jobs with the Department of Labor. BLOOM Roc is focused on social equity applicants starting their own companies. There are many options online as well. They are usually not as savvy on each state’s regulations. I think we can all agree that more education and standardization needs to be addressed for each state.

I advise consumers to learn as much as they can from credible resources. How do you find these resources? You follow groups and organizations that are focused on your state and what your program looks like. Each state is its own country—all the rules and regulations, from cultivation, processing, labeling, jobs, medical programs, and adult-use sales, are different. There is no standard across the states.

It is critical to understand this as a consumer because what is available in one state most likely will not be available in another. This is so often misunderstood. As a medical patient myself, this is a problem because I cannot cross state lines with my medicine, so understanding what states offer reciprocity is so important.

In my opinion, the most important thing for people to understand is why they’re consuming cannabis. Is it for a specific medical problem? Is it for relaxation, is it for socialization, or just going out with people and having a good time? Using cannabis with intention is what I try and educate people on the most. There are so many different consumption methods and ways to utilize cannabis for your health and wellness, and I often feel this is the least talked about. So many people don’t know how to do cannabis, meaning they don’t understand the various ways of consuming it. They don’t understand the bioavailability and especially the older population doesn’t have a clue where to start.

Regulators need to have someone dedicated to education as they roll out legalization, especially with all the shadow bans happening on social media. It is incredibly hard to share knowledge freely on these platforms, which is a shame because they’re so easy to use. New York State allegedly has a political liaison at Meta who acts with them to ensure their education is shared and not shadow-banned. As consumers, we don’t have that luxury; even sharing our stories of how plant medicine helps us is taboo on all social media platforms, even those that used to be canna-friendly. 

There are so many roadblocks to sharing knowledge with the public. I feel incredibly silenced by social media. I do not sell anything, I do not market anything—I truly just try to share education and where to find alternate resources, and yet my posts continue to be blocked from public view.

New York is trying really hard to get it right, but they are far from perfect. States with medical-only programs focus more on education. The state only sometimes recognizes this, and New York is really trying to provide handouts, communications, and accurate information for the public on their website. Some other organizations that are doing a good job educating more on a national level rather than a state level are Americans For Safe Access, Leafwell, Cannigma, and many others (GreenState included!).

Education is fundamental and needed in the cannabis industry. No one has all the answers, and no one can be a perfect guide from start to finish. I recommend networking, attending trade shows, and recognizing the players in your area. Start with state and local resources, and get on Facebook and LinkedIn groups that may help connect you with the right person to help connect the dots.

This article was submitted by a guest contributor. The author is solely responsible for its content.

nikki lawley

Nikki Lawley is a patient advocate, speaker, and founder of Nikki and the Plant. She personally discovered cannabis as medicine after suffering a life-changing injury while working as a pediatric nurse. Nikki resides in Buffalo, NY.