Cultivating cannabis education: An interview with Dr. Jamila Owens-Todd
Cannabis is one of the fastest-growing industries globally, but the cannabis industry often suffers from lingering stigma, rhetoric, and a lack of educational resources.
Jamila Owens-Todd, Naturopathic Doctor, Adjunct Professor, & Chief Science Officer has dedicated her life to understanding the science of healing while helping others to live their best lives.
She began her career as a chemist, working in private industry, government, and in pharmaceutical sciences, focusing on Research and Development.
Having already established herself as a respected chemist, she pursued her passion for health to the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, earning her postgraduate degree in Naturopathic Medicine.
In the time since, Dr. Owens-Todd has become one of the most recognized and respected faces in the cannabis industry. One of the leading advocates and educators on holistic medicine, she is a thought leader who focuses a large amount of her time on reinvesting in the community through education and outreach.
“The latin word for Doctor is docere, which means to teach,” she explained. “My entire career has stemmed on sharing information and knowledge so that people can be armed with the tools to empower them. Teaching is empowering.”
Dr. Owens-Todd brings that passion for education and empowerment to a litany of positions and organizations serving as an Adjunct Professor for St. Louis University’s Cannabis Science and Operations Program in Cannabis Pharmacology, as was on the Advisory Board for the Missouri Cannabis Trade Association (MOCANN), and as a board member of JAINE.
Her newest venture comes as she partners with Cannvocate to create a learning experience targeted at the staff and employees of cannabis operations.
Driven by a collective desire to share, quality, holistic information, Dr. Owens-Todd and Cannvocate have created a course that offers employers and staff an opportunity to dig deeper into the science behind cannabis medicine, furthering Dr. Owens-Todd’s mission to continue destigmatizing cannabis and natural medicine through education while building a stronger knowledge base for industry participants, in turn helping to educate cannabis consumers in the state.
In the first course, Dr. Owens-Todd introduces participants to the Chemistry of Terpenes.
A detailed dive into plant terpenes, the course unfurls the intricate nature of the molecules that give cannabis its flavor, benefits, and therapeutic actions.
What do you see as the biggest obstacles to cannabis education?
There is information overload, which can be overwhelming for many. There are also people’s experiences that have proven to be helpful to them. In holistic healing, everyone has their own health journey, therefore following one person’s plan, may not prove to be beneficial to you. I see people grow frustrated when their experiences differ from what someone told them. It is important to listen to your body and follow what feels right for you.
Where can the industry improve in educating employees and consumers?
I am finding more and more outlets to education, which I love. I feel that the industry is moving in the direction of education, or I am just overly optimistic. I work in industries, outside of Missouri, and I see some states requiring annual education and I feel that this creates success.
How has the course been received so far?
So far, it has been very well received. My first sign up was from a team in Maryland. I was happy to know that they were eager to learn more, especially with them being operators in the industry.
As a Naturopathic Doctor, what does cannabis mean to you?
Cannabis is a plant, one of many, that opens up access to healthcare and increases health options and outcomes. People have a choice in their medicine and lifting cannabis prohibition will help people take their health into their own hands.
How do you, personally, define quality in cannabis?
I have worked with high-quality herb companies for decades and the metrics are interestingly different in cannabis. Most quality herb farmers are introducing regenerative farming techniques and implementing sustainable practices. Cannabis cultivators are often reduced to maximizing percent THC, which can minimize the aspiration for additional quality practices. I would love to see a marriage of those concepts in this industry.
Do you believe THC% is an effective indicator of potency?
Why are terpenes and cannabinoids so important to cannabis?
Whole plant medicine. Isolates and individual molecules are important in research. In actual human consumption, we benefit from a plant, in its entirety.
What should consumers and patients understand about the interactions between terpenes and cannabinoids and the body or endocannabinoid system?
Our bodies are conspiring to heal us, every day. We have systems in place that are involved in that healing. The endocannabinoid system(ECS) is one of them and is activated whether you consume cannabis or cacao.
What should consumers be looking for when purchasing cannabis or cannabis products?
Find what works for you. If there is an opportunity to smell the flower, take advantage. Find what resonates with you. If you allow it, the flower can choose you. Know what your body needs and the form that feels best. Your purchase is very much individual. It may take a few tries to get it right, but the experimentation will be worth it.
With the launch of adult use sales in Missouri, what should operators and their employees be educating consumers about that they may be overlooking?
I would love for operators to educate about the process. Explain the methods applied for cultivation. Discuss the motivation behind creating a product and the process of manufacturing. Discuss why you have chosen the type of distillate or genetics. This may seem tedious to some, but it provides consumers with a deeper look into the soul of your company. With so many brands to choose from, what makes me look beyond the packaging.
What are your plans for the future?
Future plans for myself are to continue my own studies and to work in more community outlets. Future plans with Cannvocate are to keep creating.