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We’re sharing stories about incredible women raising the bar in their corners of the cannabis industry, in Portland and beyond. Starting with a rugby-playing educator who spends her days separating fact from fiction when it comes to the cannabinoid on everyone’s minds.
Anna Symonds exploring our Electric Lettuce Lloyd District shop.
CBD is great. Even magical in some cases. But all CBD is not created equal.
Anna Symonds, Director of Education at East Fork Cultivars, spends her days teaching that to as many people as possible. As the Director of CBD Certified, a free educational CBD program for dispensary staff, Symonds has conducted customized CBD seminars at 100+ Oregon dispensaries—not including dozens of training sessions for industry professionals, producers and consumers at public events.
The bright-eyed, electric-blond haired cannabidiol expert has become a sort of symbol of fact and clarity in a murky arena teeming with misinformation. When she isn’t spreading the good word, writing articles for online cannabis resources and collaborating on CBD cultivation initiatives across the nation and beyond, she’s competing in the USA Rugby Women’s Premier League (top ten teams in the nation since 2009). Needless to say, we were thrilled to get her all to ourselves for an afternoon of talking self care, drag queens and what to know when shopping for CBD in and outside a dispensary.
CBD. Is. Everywhere. Where do you find inspiration to find new and different ways to engage with people?
AS: It's always a unique conversation; no two sessions are the same. I still feel butterflies before I start! Every group of people has different experience and anecdotes that determine their baseline of cannabis knowledge, and I always adapt to meet them where they’re at. This keeps things dynamic, but also allows the attendees to really grasp the information in a meaningful way.
What are some weird, lesser-known CBD anecdotes you've come upon in your research?
AS: I encountered a woman who was supposed to live her life in a wheelchair due to a nervous system condition, but walked on her own and treated her symptoms with CBD products. Probably the most memorable anecdote was a man who had developed alopecia from intense stress, resulting in dramatic hair loss. CBD helped alleviate his compounding stress so that his eyebrows and eyelashes grew back.
What’s your ideal work environment?
AS: At home, on my own. I like to feel cozy and comfortable. I am cold frequently, so my ideal desk space is snuggled in a warm blanket on the couch, with my laptop in my lap. That way I can recline—I have a chronic back injury. I don’t really mind driving, either. I get to be warm, listen to my music, and sort of collect my thoughts.
As an athlete, how has CBD affected your experiences on the rugby field?
AS: Rugby demands a lot from the body. So CBD is a big part of self care, not just for recovery and healing injuries between practices, but also regulating my state of mind in between. It helps me get the most out of recuperation time, physically and mentally.
Tis the season for tissues and tea. What are your home remedies for winter cold/flu care?
AS: I’m a big believer in supplementing my health instead of reacting to sickness. Food is medicine first, and I regularly take vitamin d, b, omega 3 supplements and algae oil as a vegan fish oil substitute. If I feel myself coming down with something, I’ll double my zinc and eat lots of leafy, dark greens. I have an autoimmune issue, so it took talking to my doctor about that and being willing to look at what’s happening in my body to be able to really improve the quality of my life.
What’ve you been watching?
AS: Like a lot of people, I don’t have a TV anymore because I really didn’t use mine - I watch things on my laptop when I do watch shows. I’m a RuPaul’s Drag Race superfan, I’ve watched every episode ever at least once. I love to read, and encourage myself to do that more when I’m tapped out on screen time. Right now I’m reading a phenomenal book called, “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are” by Frans de Waal.
Who’s your favorite Drag Race queen?
Ooh that’s so hard. I am a big Latrice fan, she made me cry during her lip syncs in her season. But that’s not to say I disagreed with her elimination in All-Stars 4, she just didn’t show out like last time. I love Jinx Monsoon and Bob the Drag Queen. Raja. Monet X Change. Going further back, Ongina and Nina Flowers. Nina should’ve won! I think we all agree.
I actually take a lot of inspiration from drag queens; the idea that we don’t have to minimize ourselves for other people. I am not just inspired by the expression, but by the unapologetic energy and celebration of who they are. Watching the All-Stars season right now definitely contributed to me feeling like wearing enormous hoops today.
[do] Questions everyone should ask when buying CBD:
AS: If you’re buying CBD at a dispensary, you can rest assured it’s been tested for purity and potency. But if you’re shopping anywhere else, (e.g. grocery stores,, farmer’s market, online, etc), it can be incredibly sketchy and it’s up to you to find out the quality of the source. All cannabis and hemp plants are ‘bio-accumulators.’ That means they absorb things like heavy metals from the soil—lead, mercury, pesticides, chemicals—which go into the plant and come along with compounds like CBD when extracted. Outside of dispensaries, there is no required testing right now. The cheapest industrial hemp is often sourced from China, where there aren’t the same environmental protection and human safety laws as in the US. So you have to ask for the test results. You have to ask where the plants were grown, who grew them and how. Is this made from the stalky, fibrous, usually male industrial hemp plant, which requires a lot of plant material to get a little CBD? Or are we talking craft hemp—real, female cannabis plants with resinous and much more potent flowers.
[don’t] The red flags that indicate a CBD product could be artificial, weak, or dangerous:
Off-the-charts quantities like 5000 mg of CBD in a little bottle. Those levels of potency indicate the product contains CBD isolate, not a full spectrum CBD product (most effective). There is data that suggests our bodies need much more isolate to equal the potency of a small amount of full spectrum CBD extract with all its secondary cannabinoids and compounds that amplify efficacy.
Next time you head to Electric Lettuce, spark a conversation with one of our CBD Certified grass guides to learn more. You just might run into Anna picking up some more Serra x Woodblock 2:1 Dark Chocolate Bars, Blueberry Sorbet flower, and Electric Lettuce rolling papers.
If you’re looking for an all-new cultivar from a certified organic CBD expert, ask about Mango Blossom: an exclusive CBD drop arriving from East Fork Cultivars this Friday. The multifaceted and terpene-heavy aroma cuts through the remnants of winter with piney, green notes, warm spice, and hints of chamomile. Spring forward with us.