Throughout her life, Shanel Lindsey struggled with factors associated with her personal use of medical marijuana. These struggles led her to found a medical cannabis start-up called Ardent, which is booming with popularity in Boston. The sale of marijuana is a hot topic, with new legislation legalizing the drug in the state of Massachusetts in 2016. Lindsey wears many hats for Ardent, from the science behind the company to the business aspects.
“I was a one-woman team,” she said.
Lindsey is both the founder of Ardent and an attorney who contributed to writing the legalization bill of cannabis for the state of Massachusetts. She has personally been using medical cannabis for the past 16 years, following the birth of her son. Using medical cannabis personally hits home for Lindsey. She became frustrated with the fact that it was extremely hard to dose in the correct amount. She also struggled with the fact that it would make her house smell. It became her inner drive to find a solution to her problem, so parallel to her legal career she founded Ardent and worked on making medical marijuana a better product.
She went to a lab in Framingham where she tested her homemade medicine, cannabis, in the lab. Quickly learning that activating marijuana requires precision, she realized that she could develop a machine that would activate the marijuana to its fullest extent. Lindsey came up with the idea, and then brought a team together when she established Ardent. She had to hire a thermal and electronic engineer to design a device to transform the cannabis from units to an actual product. This product is known as the NOVA decarboxylator.
The NOVA decarboxylator is a precision heating device with laboratory grade heating. Heating is required to activate cannabis, which is why people either smoke it or bake it into pot brownies. But these alternatives waste about 50 percent of the cannabis. Ardent’s product, the NOVA decarboxylator, is a game-changer due to its user-friendly setup. All a patient has to do is insert the cannabis and press a button, and they will need only 20 percent of what they used before. Not only will people receive stronger effects from this method, but it is a big cost-saving tool. Additionally, NOVA removes the smell that comes with typical activation methods. This invention makes this form of medicine both simple and affordable.
Regarding the safety of cannabis, compared to other pharmaceuticals on the market Lindsey argued that her product is much safer. She claims that while pharmaceutical use has skyrocketed, the level of sickness has stayed the same. Lindsey said that traditional pharmaceuticals are killing people through misuse. For pain relief, people are being given opioids, which can lead to overdoses and death.
However, cannabis prescribed for pain relief is a much safer alternative. Cannabis can treat people without many of the terrible side effects that come from other pharmaceutical drugs. It helps people with painful diseases such as cancer, and alleviates the side effects from chemotherapy
Lindsey’s first investor was her mom, who helped to bring the company and its product to life. Lindsey expressed many times how it is important for women to take the lead in the industry, in addition to people who have been disproportionately targeted under prohibition, such as people of color, women, and minorities. She also shared her excitement about the industry in Massachusetts, since it has been an inclusive community for those who haven’t been given opportunities to get ahead in the past. Her goal, as well as Ardent’s, is to bring an understanding of science and data to people, in order to educate them about cannabis.
“Our goal from day one has been to give control back to medicinal cannabis patients, and to remove the stigma attached to cannabis,” Lindsey said. “We want people to see that there are effective, all-natural alternatives to pharmaceuticals, and I believe NOVA is a gigantic step forward in offering that to the public.”
Though she initially became motivated from her personal struggles, Lindsey was also frequently exposed to the stigma around cannabis as a lawyer. Lindsey expressed how she is a black woman and knows people of color are jailed disproportionately because of cannabis, which deals with both issues regarding social justice and the stigma of cannabis.
Lindsey was sparked to innovation by both these issues, making her mission to bring equity to the market and to let people have an opportunity to use cannabis effectively for medicine.
“When we set out to write the Massachusetts adult-use cannabis laws, we wanted to create a system that the rest of the country, maybe even the world, could look to when implementing their own cannabis regulations,” Lindsey said. “We want our cannabis markets to be inclusive and open to everyone, and our hope is that the rest of the world will follow our example. We’ve still got a lot of work to do, but we’re heading in the right direction.”