Cannabis & Trauma: It's Personal
Healing Trauma With Cannabis: The Journey, According to Two Survivors & Cannabis Activists
Livvie Vasquez and Ashley Manta are survivors, entrepreneurs, and advocates for using cannabis as a way to heal from trauma. I had the opportunity to ask them about their unique experiences in the cannabis industry and what others can learn from them.
Livvie Vasquez, founder of Livvie Smalls Events, is a chef and cannabis advocate who combines her knowledge in both subjects to create a blended experience of intimate fine dining and cannabis education. Ashley Manta is the founder of Cannasexual, a lifestyle and event brand that produces pleasure-focused events and educational workshops using cannabis. Both are survivors and use their platforms to help others heal.
1. A Lawsuit Making Hertory
“We didn’t have a bar or someplace with security or safety to consume [cannabis]...we had to do it in our co-worker's car or house.”
Vasquez, a survivor of workplace assault and harassment, recently won a lawsuit against her past employer, MindRite dispensary. Vasquez started her career at MindRite with resounding success, getting promoted two times in an eighteen-month period. But she noticed how the seemingly relaxed business environment was allowing male colleagues to get away with behavior that is unacceptable in other workplaces. She told me how the laws around the cannabis industry led to her and her colleagues being sampling cannabis in unsafe and unsupervised environments. She said, “we didn’t have a bar or someplace with security or safety to consume [cannabis]...we had to do it in our co-worker's car or house.”
On one of these occasions, after getting nominated for a Dope Award, Vasquez believes she was assaulted. This and other incidents of assault and harassment that followed led Vasquez close to her breaking point.
“My hair started falling out. I was having so much anxiety about going to work that I was vomiting all day and night for my shifts...I was completely triggered and I did not feel safe.”
Finally, Vasquez couldn’t take it anymore and went to her female boss, telling her what had happened. Instead of being met with empathy and action, she was demoted. Despite being low on funds and the unemployment office telling her there was nothing they could do to help her, despite not knowing where she was going next, Vasquez decided she had to quit her job.
The day Vasquez quit that job, she started her own business. Two days after that, the first news articles about Harvey Weinstein appeared and the Times Up Movement started gaining attention. Vasques took this as a sign that her story with MindRite would not end with her defeat. After contacting Times Up and getting in touch with a lawyer, Vasquez spent the next two years fighting for her case to go to court. She says that it was not only important for her to see this through, but it was important for there to be a case on record of workplace assault and harassment in the cannabis industry being won.
“I needed it to be a case that’s out there so other women feel empowered to fight their lawsuits in the cannabis industry.”
2. Finding Your Dosage
“All anecdotal research is storytelling.”
Finding the type of cannabis dosage and type isn’t as simple as matching diagnosis to a medicine. Vasquez says, “You could be absorbing things differently because of your age...your digestion...your trauma making different issues in your body.” And not to mention this has to be done in conjunction with talk therapy and other methods of healing that have nothing to do with cannabis consumption.
So what can people with trauma do if they want to use cannabis as part of their healing journey? Both Manta and Vasquez agree that it is going to take a lot of personal exploration.
Manta’s own trauma symptoms include panic attacks and flashbacks, along with disassociation and difficulty eating. She says it “took a while to...find the right thing for me,” It took her making a list of what cannabis she consumed and when, along with the experience she had while using it to find the combination of topical, transdermal, and oral forms of cannabis that works best for her body. She says, “Keep a journal...I have a spreadsheet...I encourage folks to really be an explorer and be someone who is curious and interested in finding what works for your body and trying to find what works for you.”
Vasquez agrees, saying that treating the process like an elimination diet is a good way to think about it. “This industry is anecdotal, so it's based on anecdotal research. All anecdotal research is storytelling.”
3. What to choose: CBD versus THC
I came into this interview without any true knowledge about the different healing benefits that CBD has versus THC when it comes to trauma. I asked both women if they could give me more insight into how they differentiate the two.
Manta uses a combination of CBD and THC in her own practice and likes it “because it’s available on a large scale to a lot of people because you can ship it across state lines.” She recommends finding a product that works for you with a high ratio of CBD to THC so that “you get some of the calm and...anti-inflammation aspects of the CBD...and some of the euphoria and the sensation enhancement from THC.
Vasquez also recommends a balance of both but referred me back to her earlier point about how each person’s experience is completely individual. She says, “you have to think about the entirety of it... It has to be a combination of CBD, but maybe you need a little THC for distraction...CBD helps lower blood pressure and blood sugar. Those things can get ramped up when you're feeling a panic attack starting. But THC distracts you from focusing on the thing that's giving you a panic attack.”
4. Healing Is a Journey
“Knowledge is power.”
You might be thinking, this sounds like a lot of work. Can’t I just buy some stuff off of the person who lives downstairs and call it a day? The answer is, from both of the women, and state laws, no.
Manta says that “knowledge is power. It’s really important to read lab results so that you know, that the products they are receiving are free of pesticides and heavy metals and problematic ingredients and that you know exactly how much you see and exactly how much CBD is and what you're using.”
However, both women also acknowledge that there is a privilege in that statement. Vasquez says, “we have cannabis privilege...where you can walk into a store and just talk about a strain.” But whenever possible, especially when trying to find a dosage and absorption method that works for you, it’s important to know what you’re consuming. Manta reminds us that
“Healing is not a destination...I found that the biggest part of my healing journey has been creating a robust toolkit of ways of taking care of myself when I am having harder days. Cannabis is all part of that toolkit.”
If you would like to learn more about the work that Ashley Manta and Livvie Vasquez are doing, you can follow the links below to visit their websites and social media channels.