Emma Chasen talks about medical cannabis in the same level-headed (yet enthusiastic) way that my chemist parents explained the reaction between vinegar and baking soda to me growing up. Her ability to cut through the sensational aspects of cannabis use (both negative and positive) make her a powerful and clarifying voice within the ever-expanding industry — an industry that, in as little as three years, she’s already been able to influence, first as a budtender and now as an educator and consultant.
Chasen recently spoke with Refinery29 about her unique path into the cannabis industry, why CBD is a “gateway” compound, and why science just might be the thing that wins over cannabis naysayers.
What inspired you to start working in the cannabis industry?
“I have been fascinated with plant medicine and folk medicine from a very young age… But I didn’t come to cannabis until college. My life thus far had been pretty puritanical — I was really focused on getting into Brown, so I was very intense, for lack of a better word, and kind of swore off all substances — alcohol, weed, everything — but then I got to Brown and I saw how many brilliant people were using cannabis for a variety of different things. [One friend] in particular was studying neuroscience and was really fascinated by the way that cannabis and other psychotropic substances influenced neural pathways. She was super brilliant and a huge cannabis consumer herself, so she was the one who got me to be like, ‘Okay, it’s not that bad.’ She got me to shed that stigma. I also happened to be taking a freshmen seminar at the time called ‘Botanical Roots of Modern Medicine’ that just blew my mind. It was the first time that I really thought that I could study plant medicine… Luckily, I was able to devise my own curriculum in the biology program that really focused on ethnobotany and medicinal plant research. I always wanted to study cannabis formally, but never could due to legality issues. I saw cannabis as this all-star medicinal plant, so when I graduated from Brown I worked in oncology research and I really thought that could be my point of impact, where I could bring cannabis into a more scientific space and unfortunately that wasn’t the case.