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CBD teacher keeps people abreast of research

Working for East Fork Cultivars of Takelma, Anna Symonds, a 38-year old professional rugby star, visits many dispensaries, conferences and public platforms to tell the story of the positive healing and recreational uses of CBD.

Especially telling was her recent visit to Lakeview — Lake County was the reddest Oregon county in the last presidential election — where she trained budtenders in two dispensaries on the latest details and discoveries about cannabis, especially CBD, then gave a well attended talk at the public library.

There, Symonds learned, were two ladies from each of the two major churches, desiring to learn about the benefits of cannabis while she gave a broad outline of what it does for health, emphasizing that, because it’s been outlawed forever, science is just learning what it can do — and you, the consumer, are now free to experiment and find out what it does for you, both in health and mood control.

Her popular lectures are going online, but she finds that driving around Oregon and Northern California and educating people in the profession and the public in person is far more effective, especially given her enthusiastic, informed and charismatic delivery. Four out of five of her presentations — they’re free — are at dispensaries and last an hour or two.

“What I’m presenting to the public is: Here’s how YOU can find what’s right and effective for you — tincture, capsule, topical, edible, vape, preroll? There are just so many choices now and such a hunger for information — and Oregon is so far ahead of everyone, including California. What I tell people is we don’t have an answer about what platform and what dosage. They have to find their own, by starting low and seeing what it does for you, then, increasing dosage if desired.

As always these days, the focus is most intense on the health aspects of the plant, especially CBD, though it’s become more widely understood that mood-altering THC assists in its healing work.

“People say they want 1) relief from pain, 2) help with sleeping, and 3) anxiety and mood improvement,” says Symonds. After that, what she hears most is the need for help with autoimmune problems, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, migraines, head injury, and Alzheimer’s.

“She’s incredibly articulate as she travels around talking about the latest science around CBD. She is very comfortable with her knowledge,” said Sage Pearsel, general manager of Rogue Valley Cannabis in Ashland. “Her presentation was dynamic and fun. She allowed a lot of questions and gave us all CBD care packages with East Fork products.”

Since federal legalization of hemp last fall, scientific research on CBD has grown apace, and Symonds continues to add it to her “CBD Certified” workshops. On completion, she hands out window stickers and pins for budtenders to wear, certifying they are up-to-date on the latest science.

“The science is evolving so fast,” says Pearsal, “that we are getting ready to ask her back again to bring us up to date.”

East Fork Cultivars pays Symonds to get the latest information out to budtenders and devotees of the plant, but she doesn’t use it to sell their product, she says, adding, “We try to bridge the gap (between the industry and the public in need of healing), because the medical industry treats it as a side topic. They need to give attention to the new technologies and make sure people are safe and that product is free of contamination.”

Some doctors have started coming to her talks and sharing their experiences with the plant. It’s important to note that Symonds emphasizes cannabis is NOT a drug. It’s only been considered thus because the federal government, she notes, classified it as a Schedule I drug in 1970 for political reasons, to stigmatize and jail people of color, hippies and anti-war protestors.

“If we’d never detoured into cannabis prohibition, just think where we’d be now with research on its healthful properties. It still hurts people today, because they can’t get access to it in some areas, and that’s a gross injustice, and it’s part of why I’m driving around giving these talks.”

Symonds, a New Hampshire native and daughter of a musician who went to Woodstock and appears in a PBS documentary about the legendary concert, says she first got stoned at age 13, before she ever had a drink.

“Alcohol takes from the body, and cannabis gives back to it,” she says. “It’s soothing and helps me recover from the bruises and pain of rugby.” She’s a player with Oregon Sports Union Rugby “Jesters,” which plays other teams around the West and, Symonds adds, she and the top women players lean toward toking old-fashioned joints.

Anna Symonds speaks about CBD as part of a panel discussion at a cannabis conference. Courtesy photo