By Beth Waterfall

As the cannabis industry heats up in Massachusetts, a theme that resurfaces among industry participants and the “canna-curious” is the clear and immediate need for reliable and effective education for consumers, patients and professionals. For more than 10 years Cape Cod native and Air Force veteran Ellen Brown has applied her military training and experience rising through the ranks in Northern California and Massachusetts marijuana dispensaries to educate others about the cannabis plant.

Brown is also a prominent activist and highly sought-after speaker. She has spoken all over the world from the Boston Freedom Rally to Seattle Hemp Fest to the High Times Jamaica Cannabis Cup. “My life’s work is de-stigmatizing this plant and the good people who work with it through education,” says Brown. Today she is owner, president and principal educator at Sinsemilla Seminars, a Cape Cod-based cannabis education provider. Her seminars cover a wide range of topics for a variety of students: commercial cultivation for prospective cultivation facility operators and farmers; infusion and extraction methods for cooking and crafting lotions, tinctures and other self-care products; caregiving for patients; and home cultivation. (Adults in Massachusetts may legally grow up to 6 plants per adult with a maximum of 12 plants per household.)

Her goal for each class is to empower her students to understand the plant and be their own best advocates. “This plant holds a forgotten place in our history,” explains Brown. “Our ancestors used a variety of applications of cannabis for millennia, but in this modern age of immediate access to information and rapid expansion of the medical and adult-use industries, the general public’s confusion and corresponding appetite for cannabis information have only increased.” As of early September, hopeful adult-use cannabis business licensees have completed Cannabiz applications for operations in Brewster, Nantucket, Plymouth, Wareham, Somerset and other towns across the South Coast. But residents and elected officials across the region maintain their fears about what this new legal industry will do to their communities.

To help clear confusion, Brown recommends learning about the plant’s history and biology as well as the different types of business licenses available through the Cannabis Control Commission. She also urges people to learn about the myriad uses of the hemp plant, including biodegradable plastics and bioremediation, which also present opportunities for new businesses and job creation on the Cape. “I learned the hard way how lack of education about this plant can ruin businesses and prevent safe access to cannabis products,” says Brown. In 2015 she lost her job as a dispensary manager in Redding, CA due to rampant misinformation about the products her dispensary Natures Nexus sold. “I want to stay active as an educator to make sure that doesn’t happen to me or other communities again.” Education is the key – and it’s in-demand in the cannabis industry.

Brown’s seminars are attracting students representing all ages and demographics looking to take care of themselves or find a way into the “Green Rush.” By attending Brown’s seminars, students walk away with basic skills that open doors to jobs in cannabis cultivation and processing, as well as patient and public-facing roles as patient advisors or business operations roles. “People looking to enter the cannabis industry can differentiate their skill sets by taking the time to learn about everything from the human Endocannabinoid System (ECS) to the history of prohibition and best practices for organic and energy-efficient cultivation,” Brown explains. “You need to be able to talk the talk by proactively understanding why and how we got here and where we can go.” Regardless of the average adult’s motivations to better understand the plant, Brown insists that more people need to be educated about cannabis. “It’s important to understand it now and to advocate for safe access to it because someday we and our loved ones may benefit from it.”

As towns continue to determine the future and presence of a local cannabis industry on Cape Cod and the surrounding region, Brown can be seen advocating for safe and convenient access to cannabis. Brown is also a vocal advocate for veterans and women working in the nascent industry. “Whether you want to manage a commercial grow or start a mom-and-pop shop purveying craft products, you need to understand this plant to set yourself and your business up for success,” says Brown. “Take the initiative now to commit to learning about the plant which will in turn make you a better employee or business owner.” Students ages 21+ can attend one of Brown’s upcoming seminars to be held at Cape Space on Iyannough Road in Hyannis. Upcoming classes include Cooking with Cannabis on October 14, Indoor Home Cultivation on November 17, and Topicals & Salves on December 1. Learn more at www.sinsemillaseminars.com.