I remember several milestones. I remember when we hit serving 4000 individuals and families and thinking that is 100 times what we used to serve last year. We now serve over 65,000 – but that was a strong indicator that the community needed our services. The first time I went to the post office to mail grant checks! It was a thrill, and to this day, may be my favorite thing to do. Publishing this year. Being a published researcher is something I only imagined.
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AUTHOR: Heather Allman
PUBLISHER: CANNABIS LAW REPORT
Anxiety Amid the Pandemic: How Cannabis and Realm of Caring Can Help with Heather Jackson, Co-Founder and Board President
Heather Jackson: Prior to 2012 I did not understand that there were medical benefits of cannabis, I was a byproduct of the 80’s ‘this is your brain on drugs’ the Just Say No campaign and had no idea of the published research in regards to cannabis, the patents, the mechanism of action of cannabis, or that we even had an endocannabinoid system.
My first thought when our hospice counselor mentioned it embarrassingly was, ‘we need all the brain cells we can get’.
CLR: Why do you love what you do?
Heather Jackson: I think it is extremely rare for passion and profession to align so perfectly. I love what I do because we help so many people, we provide hope and a potential natural solution to individuals and families, help educate medical professionals and help the industry serve consumers better and learn more about their products through our research studies with JHU and others. Selfishly, it is also how I make meaning of almost a decade of suffering for my son.
Heather Jackson: Cannabis chose me. This was not a conscious decision to dedicate my life to this plant and the people who use it.
After Zaki transitioned from hospice to health, I felt an obligation to a community out of options. My personal intention was to help as many people as possible as quickly as possible. To track a population using cannabis so that we could better understand health outcomes, quality of life and more so we could educate ourselves and others about best practices.
CLR: What are your most memorable milestones in Cannabis?
Heather Jackson: I remember several milestones. I remember when we hit serving 4000 individuals and families and thinking that is 100 times what we used to serve last year. We now serve over 65,000 – but that was a strong indicator that the community needed our services. The first time I went to the post office to mail grant checks! It was a thrill, and to this day, may be my favorite thing to do. Publishing this year. Being a published researcher is something I only imagined.
CLR: What three words would you use to describe yourself —or what “triple threat” are you?
Heather Jackson: I don’t know about a threat, but I can tell you I am a hard core researcher who believes in the power of science.
I am emotional but I don’t make emotional decisions and I am selfless, I will be a servant to my community to my own detriment. My values are pioneerism and progress as well as transformative communication. (My team answered this one:))
CLR: Mainly, there are two distinct kinds of cannabis intentions: (1) people-centric, or compassionate or (2) profit-centric, or capitalistic. How do you reconcile the two in order to maintain a balance at RoC?
Heather Jackson: I do not think that #1 negates #2. In other words, I would maintain that if you focus on #1, then #2 will come, and #2 coming allows us to help more people. This is the very premise of social enterprise, something I am slightly obsessed with.
CLR: What is your foremost current goal for Realm of Caring and how do you plan to accomplish this goal?
Heather Jackson: Besides the short term goal, or what I hope is short term, making it on the other side of a pandemic I am most excited about working with a team of data scientists to gain better understanding and insights from our data points: 332,627 inquiries into the call center, over 2 million minutes on the phone, and endless data in our registry. That is an amazing depth of data.
CLR: How does Realm of Caring align with your own personal values and life mission?
Heather Jackson: My top value is pioneerism and progress. What I mean by that is: Pioneering new ideas, including technology, for societal change and making possible our realization.
Realm of Caring and I share this value for without it, I know my son would not be here, and if the organization didn’t have it there would be thousands without options to improve their health and create community.
My life mission is to reimagine the way we think, talk, and respond to plant medicine and the people who use it.
To that end, I and we are committed to innovative scientific research, building global communities and advancing demanded conversations about these life-changing approaches to health.
CLR: What are the top 3 core values or goals or “boxes checked” when counseling others about Cannabis as medicine, on the phone or otherwise?
Heather Jackson: We talk about Cannabis as a therapeutic option. As we relay information, we do have values we strive to transmit.
• The first is listening with compassion – one can’t underestimate the healing power of empathic listening.
• Empowering our clients with education based on research as well as our collective data so that they may make informed decisions.
• We guide, suggest and illuminate the journey of cannabinoid therapy.
CLR: Tell me about your general approach to health and wellness. Why this approach? What results do you see, or how do clients respond to cannabis care?
Heather Jackson: At the Realm of Caring, we take a holistic approach to the individual, which means understanding that we are composed of a mind, body and soul. You can’t continue to have a toxic lifestyle and achieve wellness by adopting cannabinoid therapy alone. Cannabis is one tool in a varied toolbox to health.
We have also noticed that individuals being assisted with proper education, and have access to a supportive, knowledgeable team to help answer their questions have better outcomes. In our experience, over 80% of the time clients with these resources feel better and continue therapy.
CLR: Talk to me about anxiety and Cannabis, especially during COVID-19.
Heather Jackson: CBD is reported to be an antidepressant and anxiolytic. During this pandemic we are seeing a tremendous increase in anxiety cases and we feel that cannabinoid therapy is a non-addictive, safe, non-toxic way to improve mood, quiet a nervous gut and get a good night’s sleep which seems to help everything!
In our recently published research, we saw anxiety and depression both impressively having a clinically significant reduction in cannabinoid users over controls. It was two of the strongest signals we saw.
CLR: How did you earn a credible Cannabis reputation in the beginning, 2013? How do authenticity and trust factor into your current courses of action?
Heather Jackson: I started this foundation with radical transparency – to save my son’s life. Authenticity has come through Research, something badly needed for a stigmatized plant. We have the largest research registry in the nation and the second largest in the world next to Canada, we will soon pass that, and Health Canada administers theirs.
We serve more individuals than the entire country of Israel’s cannabis program. Our second pillar is Education. Freely sharing what we learn is critical. Trust is built over time. Being there day after day year after year, builds trust. Being true to your word and delivering on your commitments is crucial.
CLR: Generally speaking, what are the biggest challenges for RoC? What are some of the biggest challenges you face in Cannabis? What needs immediate attention?
Heather Jackson: Legality, as long as cannabis is a schedule I substance, we will find ourselves limited in our capacity to conduct viable research. We still operate with outdated and antiquated laws and regulations including an inconsistency between local and federal law.
Descheduling is really what should happen.
Another ongoing challenge for the Realm of Caring is funding. We are a traditional nonprofit and need aligned industry partners, philanthropic donors and the community to invest in our impact if we are truly going to make a big difference.
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CLR: Give me an early mistake you made in Cannabis, what you learned from it, and how you grew?
Heather Jackson: The most embarrassing, expensive, and frustrating was hiring a database company to help us collect our data. This was early on, and our excel spreadsheets and capabilities were definitely not enough. They took our money and our data, and did not provide us with a final product to collect continued data.
But this led to one of our greatest accomplishments to date, our research registry with JHU. Character and trust are everything to me and us. So now we only work with the best and establish a high level of trust, and vet thoroughly. Not everyone is out here operating at the same higher vibration.
CLR: What is the most exciting thing in Cannabis right now, or shows the most potential?
Heather Jackson: Acceptance! Cannabis is no longer feared and we are seeing this therapy move to the forefront as an option instead of as a last one. We are seeing people having improved sleep, less anxiety, less hospital visits and are overall experiencing improved well-being and quality of life which is why we do what we do.
In 2012 when we “came out” it was not accepted, people did not understand it and held a very strong bias.
CLR: This is an industry that has grown primarily off demand. What medical Cannabis patient demand do you currently see trending, and what behaviors or shifts?
Heather Jackson: As research continues to provide us with legitimate results on how cannabis is positively impacting the lives of many, the demand will only increase. This misunderstood form of therapy is moving towards a more accepted form of therapy, we know this because we are having more people come to us saying “my doctor recommended I contact you to consult about cannabinoid therapy”.
That mindset shift helps to encourage the demand for medicinal use. We are seeing a growing aging population and chronic pain has now surpassed neurological disorders which used to be the largest population we served.
CLR: Which aspect of your daily job holds the most appeal for you, and why — or, what do you do in your business that you feel makes the most impact, and why?
Connection and collaboration. Whether that be a client phone call and their participation in the registry or helping a doctor to understand the mechanism of action for one of their patients, or working on a project with a university and industry partner I know that we can go far alone.
We must come together to move the needle at the pace that is necessary and that the community needs.
CLR: How has your typical daily routine changed since COVID-19?
Heather Jackson: We are all working from home, as most still are, and this is wearing on us. One of the great things about the RoC is the culture. We have a button in the hall that plays the song, “We will rock you” (RoC you!) When we have success, we will go push it.
We could connect over coffee or book club, or a lap that we took hourly around the building. Now we are connecting over the airways through zoom breath-work classes, all staff meetings that we call New Day meetings and check-ins to see how each other is.
We have had a major reduction in staff due primarily to COVID, which makes everyone passionately busy. I would remiss to paint a perfect picture here, it has been tough, but I have the most creative and resilient team I know.
And there is always work from work Wednesday. We wear masks and elbow bump – at least we can look in each other’s eyes.
CLR: How do your past personal experiences and successes help you today in the modern professional cannabis space?
Heather Jackson: I worked managing restaurants for the first decade of my career. This prepared me in customer satisfaction and incredible systems management that has come in handy for what we do now. After that it was all nonprofit and in a disruptive way, which definitely prepared me for the cannabis space.
CLR: Briefly tell me How do we collectively work together to normalize and de-stigmatize Cannabis? Give me a specific example or two.
Heather Jackson: For one, we talk about it. As humans we are wired for story. It is how we connect. There was not a single state that we went in to to pass legislation (we aided in 22) where we were not met with great resistance, and sometimes anger and hatred. Until we told our story. When we take the time to have open and honest conversations about anything, it becomes more normalized.
Take a look at how far we have come as a culture with mental health. We still have a long way to go, but once people started to finally talk about it, recognizing that many individuals suffer with mental health issues, it allowed more to come forth and admit “I am feeling anxious” or “I battle with depression” and actually seek help for it.
CLR: What are a couple of concrete examples of how you as a nonprofit make cannabis accessible to everyone?
Heather Jackson: We make cannabis accessible by definition of making cannabis easily understood. Someone could come to us with no knowledge of the plant and leave with an understanding of how it may benefit them for their particular condition.
We spend countless hours navigating through research so that we may make the knowledge more accessible to more individuals. We deliver this information on multiple learning platforms so we can reach different styles of learning. We have a grant program to move families to a medical state.
We have aided in close to 3 million in product giveaways and cash to those who would not be able to afford it. We pass laws to help access in their own zip code. We have not arrived. But we are heading in the right direction.
CLR: What keeps you awake at night?
Heather Jackson: Almost always, it is those who do not have the access that they need. It is heartbreaking that we still have medical refugees and people who can access a plant.
Additionally, right now I want to reconnect with our community so badly. We are in a space and time that is making this very difficult, we cannot meet up, we cannot have events, their needs are different, the media is vying for their attention.
We want to make sure that we know the needs of our community, medical professionals and the industry so we can serve.
CLR: What helps you sleep at night?
I go to bed with absolutely not a single bit of potential left in the day, and my cheeks hurt from smiling so much.
I feel very satisfied with the great work and impact we have had and have on people who need our programs and services. Our community. There is nothing like it. I am so in love with the community we serve, the open minded medical professionals we are connected to (over 2000 of them), and the industry partners who I know will always make the best decision for their customer.
Operating with a high level of excellence allows me to slumber well, and a little CBD sure doesn’t hurt either….
CLR: What steps do you take to achieve RoC’s top tier, relatable, verified information for Cannabis users?
Heather Jackson: We review available research and we fund and conduct our own research. We have one on one conversations with individuals and pay attention to their story.
Stories are simply data with a soul. ( I love that Brene Brown quote). We are relatable because every staff member has their own personal connection to the plant.
Each one of us at RoC is an educator and a researcher with heart. Every connection with a client requires time and effort to ensure they are receiving substantial, meaningful and validated information.
CLR: What is the best advice you can offer to other individuals in the space?
Heather Jackson: First spend some time taking a values inventory. Making intentional decisions that align with your values will allow you to live a purposeful and meaningful life.
Reduce your ego, and try to never be the smartest person at the table. I have always said that if I look around the table and am the smartest there, we have a problem. Operate with heart, it will lead you in the right direction.
CLR: What future mark do you strive to make in the growing national medical Cannabis space that you feel is the very most important, and why?
Heather Jackson: We are approaching a decade of service in this space. Our most valuable commodity is time. Try keeping your kid alive for a decade, and disagree with me. And the most important thing we can do with our time is give attention to what is most important.
Attention is our most precious asset. We give our attention to a marginalized and vulnerable population that is being overlooked and sometimes given up on. Attention is the mark RoC will make.
Our current goals are to enroll for our Observational Research Registry indefinitely, becoming the largest database in the world, as we continue to publish in peer-reviewed journals on these data. This is important in the medical cannabis space as cannabinoid therapy is not something taught in medical school.
Healthcare providers reach out to us as a renowned resource to fill in the gaps by providing data-driven answers.
We recognize the need for more education based on the growing clinical and observational research to help further cement cannabis’ place as a therapy and so individuals can enhance their quality of life.
CLR: What are your biggest hopes for the future of Cannabis? Tell me about your personal vision for the U.S. Cannabis program in the year to come? —in 3 years? Thoughts on de/rescheduling? Decriminalization? Legalization?
Heather Jackson: The only acceptable path forward to me is descheduling of cannabis altogether. But this will likely not happen in the next 3 years, and we need to continue to make headway.
More than half of our states have marijuana decriminalization laws, over a fifth of our states have legalized marijuana use, and nearly 70% of states have adopted a medical marijuana program. We are on the right track and there are current bills being prepared for a House vote as we speak.
In three years I hope to see at least a medical marijuana program in every state, so that those in need have access. Ultimately the long game is descheduling.
CLR: And how do we get from here to there?
Heather Jackson: We continue the good fight!
We continue to educate, normalize, and find ways to help individuals get the most from cannabinoid therapy to enhance their quality of life. This creates the demand.
This demand must be listened to. We cannot be ignored. Also, I would like to mention that you eat an elephant one bite at a time. You start with what you will pass.
You push and you push and you push, but you compromise and you get a bill that will pass. And then you move the ball forward from there.
CLR: How can we spread the word about your extensive RoC resources and programs, free and accessible to everyone?
Heather Jackson: Getting started with cannabinoid therapy can be such a daunting task, that is what we are here to help with. We have one on one support, administration guidelines, education webinars, a research library and our own research we are completing alongside John Hopkins University. This is currently the largest observational research registry for cannabinoid therapy in the United States.
If anyone wants to pay forward their experiences to help others, they can easily participate in quarterly surveys. Visit us on our website, share our social media posts, or call and connect with us!
The more people that know about the RoC, the more people we are able to help. Help us help millions. www.realmofcaring.org 719-347-5400 [email protected] and of course we are on all the social media platforms @realmofcaring
Appendix 1: PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS FROM RoC CLIENTS
- Draw a week’s worth of oil into syringes for convenience.
- Color coordinate syringes if using more than one oil (CBD, THC, THC-A).
- If you prefer capsules for administration and want to fill your own, check your local health food store for empty capsules.
- Give the product time to be effective; it may take six months or more to see results.
- Keep notes! Dosing changes, seizure activity, labs, batch numbers, illness, observations, etc.
- Watch for signs of toxicity; if the client is on other medications, request labs regularly.
- You may need to experiment with dosing cannabinoids before or after other medications to see what works best for the individual.
Appendix 2: STILL HAVE QUESTIONS FOR the REALM OF CARING?
“Great! We were hoping you would ask.
The Realm of Caring Foundation has a dedicated Care Team to answer all of your questions about safe access to products, dosing and administration, and more.
You are also encouraged to join RoC’s CEO and Co-Founder, Heather Jackson, as she presents her Orientation Series!
For those working in the health and medical fields, the Healthcare Practitioner
Education is also available monthly. Both seminars are available online as well as in person.”
Appendix 3: SOURCE CITATION FOR QUOTES
Any and all use of published answers should be rightly attributed to: Heather Jackson, Co-Founder of Realm of Caring