Canada is a cannabis-loving society. But while a comfortable majority of us have no problem with recreational and medical cannabis, the stigma associated with its use has hardly been eradicated. Quite frankly, most Canadians are not truly educated on its wide-ranging benefits.

“There’s definitely still a stigma. The media still portrays the idea of the stoner type, typically a male who’s just looking to get high,” says Sabrina Ramkellawan, Vice President of Clinical Affairs at Solace Health Network. “A lot of people don’t know that the goal on the medical side is to help with symptom control without the high.” In fact, many women are using cannabis specifically for their health issues.

“The medical community hasn’t done a great job of researching or focusing on women’s health issues, which is why a number of women are not achieving symptom relief to manage their conditions,” says Ramkellawan. “We see many women turning to cannabis for help with migraines, menstrual cramps, anxiety, sleep problems, and even sexual dysfunction.” One of the big drivers for women using medical cannabis is the goal of decreasing the use of prescription drugs and their unwanted side effects.

Behind the green curtain

More and more, cannabis is being used by people from a variety of lifestyles, including parents, entrepreneurs, and professionals.

Leslie Best, a mother of three, uses cannabidiol (CBD) to treat anxiety and stress, and to manage her pain from interstitial cystitis. She chooses products that are high in CBD rather than tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the hopes of feeling better without the high, and she’s very happy with the results. “I tried pharmaceuticals for my anxiety, but they just made it impossible to parent,” Best says. “With CBD, there’s none of that. I can be there for my kids, I can go to the gym, I can run — all without the high and the ups and downs.”

She feared judgment from family members as well as other parents in her social circle — would they stop letting their kids sleepover at her house? Eventually, she decided the solution was not secrecy, but education. “At first, I was apprehensive about sharing this great news with everyone but then I sort of ‘came out green’ and started really advocating for it.”

Education is the key

Sabrina Ramkellawan oversees a team of professional cannabis educators at Solace Health Network. Their mission is to become the leader in providing medical cannabis services, including case management, education, and advancing cannabis research. She is passionate about providing education on the variety of women’s issues that cannabis may alleviate and believes education is key when helping women find the right strains for their needs.

“There’s a large population of women who are starting to look at cannabis because they are tired of taking prescription medications,” Ramkellawan says. “They’re often on more drugs to combat side effects, and they end up on this cascade of prescription drugs. Women are making a shift towards more wellness and natural holistic approaches, which is great to see.”

A new horizon for wellness

Ramkellawan emphasizes that medical cannabis should be used with clinical guidance. While customization is a popular benefit, she’s critically aware of the importance of ensuring health care professionals are equipped with the right knowledge to make recommendations.

“There are so many licensed producers in Canada and each carries different strains, so patients just don’t know where to start,” she says. Her team provides customized treatment plans and education to help navigate strain and dose selection. They go beyond looking at cannabis by providing tips and guidance on other holistic approaches to improve and empower people to manage their health.

Ramkellawan is enthusiastic about several wellness events Solace Health Network is hosting this year, including sessions focused on yoga, kickboxing, nutrition, and sexual wellness.

With full legalization on the horizon, women need to know that medical cannabis is very different from that used for recreation. Both Best and Ramakellawan are on a mission to empower other women, and their doctors, to take better control of their health with cannabis.