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Shanel Lindsay: Advocate for change in the cannabis industry

By Kate A. Miner EVERCANNABIS correspondent

Shanel Lindsay is an attorney in Boston, as well as the founder and CEO of Ardent, a biotech and medical cannabis device company.

Ardent’s company philosophy is that “cannabis can become an inexpensive and effective source for plant-derived drugs and treatments, leading to improved health for all.” To that end, the company develops and promotes better ways to stabilize, utilize and deliver benefits.

Lindsay was building her law career in Boston, but had health issues. As a single mother and an attorney, she didn’t want to take pain medication, so she started growing a small amount of marijuana at home and making edibles from it.

Marijuana had been decriminalized in Massachusetts, but one day on her way to work, Lindsay was stopped for a minor traffic infraction. She happened to have a small amount of weed with her, less than half the legal limit. Without stating a reason, police asked her to get out of the car, handcuffed her, and took her to the police station. Her car was impounded and soon she was sitting on a concrete slab, petrified her law career was over.

When she asked why she was arrested, she was told, “We had probable cause.” She became incensed, and immediately realized, as a woman of color, they were violating her civil rights. She knew if she didn’t turn things around fast, everything she had worked for would be in jeopardy. She confronted officers as an attorney. She knew her rights, expressed them, and was released.

Lindsay’s life changed that day. She knew that her education and position saved her from being prosecuted, but she still had to pay to get her car out of impound, she was late to work, and for weeks police hung around her neighborhood, occasionally knocking on her door.

Knowing the police were watching, she stopped growing pot and bought cannabis from an outside source. It was expensive, low quality and inconsistent. She realized that weed may have been decriminalized, but not for everyone.

In 2014, when medical marijuana was legalized in Massachusetts, Lindsay started her own law practice. In 2015 she started Ardent, and Equitable Opportunities Now, or EON, a non-profit that fights to preserve equity provisions in cannabis laws to create equal opportunities for businesses and those seeking cannabis licenses.

“We are dedicated to ensuring just representation for people of color within the cannabis industry,” Lindsay explained. “Our goal is to ensure equitable employment opportunities for Black and brown communities targeted by the war on drugs. We believe that to best address the lasting effects of Prohibition, we must facilitate access, and we support paths to economic empowerment for people with past marijuana convictions.”

A recent victory took place when the largest marijuana business association in Massachusetts – the Commonwealth Dispensary Association – dropped its lawsuit against the Cannabis Control Commission’s new delivery license regulations, which are exclusively limited to Economic Empowerment and Social Equity Program participants for the first three years. They represent the last opportunity for meaningful diverse ownership in the billion-dollar sector.

EON sees this as the beginning of efforts to hold industry players accountable for efforts to manipulate and stop equity initiatives through lawsuits.

“We are using our voice to fight for equity in the industry and stand up for small businesses and the counterculture,” she said. “We recently had a big win in delivery licenses, but now the next step is ensuring that the community and small businesses owners are empowered and take advantage of the opportunities. It’s on us to hold those accountable and ensure laws are implemented the way they were written.”

Lindsay promotes cannabis as an alternative to pharmaceuticals, but feels that patients and consumers have limited options. Restrictions such as geography, strain availability and cost can prohibit those seeking alternative methods. Solutions can be inconsistent, unreliable and, in some states, illegal.

Her first issue was how to tackle the process of converting cannabis into something reliable. The key is decarboxylation, the activation needed to create THC, CBD and CBG. This was easily mastered in controlled lab conditions, but she wanted to make it possible anywhere.

This effort led to creation of a device called the NOVA, which decarboxylates and infuses with no smell, using a minimal amount of product.

At the core of the NOVA is dual sensors and a “thermal blanket” that enables precise heating. The NOVA produces such a refined product there is little to no “weedy” taste. You can sprinkle it on your food or use more liberally for a more potent product.

After success with the NOVA, Lindsay launched Ardent FX, an appliance that infuses, decarboxylates and bakes. Nicknamed the Easy Bake Ardent, it makes customized edibles, topicals, suppositories and more, for a fraction of retail prices. The device fits on kitchen counters or can be used anywhere with a wall outlet.

“It’s all about removing the stigma,” Lindsay said. “I wanted to address the struggle of someone trying to treat themselves. I want to help educate people with a focus on total wellness.”

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