By Beth Waterfall

It often takes witnessing the positive outcomes other patients experience before feeling confident to take the plunge into cannabis use for oneself. Add in decades of misinformation and the resulting stigma still associated with cannabis use, and crossing that bridge becomes even more daunting for many as they wonder: Why risk it? How does one even get it? What will my doctors and family think?

As legalization for both medical and adult-use marijuana spreads like a weed across the U.S., so does the confusion and reluctance to use it. And with recent mainstream news stories exposing safety concerns regarding vaporizers or “vape pens,” the nascent cannabis industry faces yet another hurdle to helping patients and adult consumers overcome their reluctance to trust cannabis or cannabis-related businesses.

Provincetown author Anna May Meade clears some confusion for cannabis consumers in her first book, “Cannabis: A Big Sisters’ Guide.” In addition to helpful tutorials, the book’s “Words to the Wise” segments include safety warnings about vape pens and other hazards.  “Like many products, people need to learn how to use cannabis safely,” Meade said.

“My sister Mary has metastatic breast cancer, and after 30 years of sobriety she wanted more natural pain medications,” Meade explained, “She asked her millennial son, ‘what about marijuana?’ and after one hit she felt better – but totally confused. She wanted to know why she felt better, and why and how it was working.”

Mary’s experience motivated Meade to come out of the “green closet” to her family as a cannabis consumer. She also understood that others outside her family needed to understand cannabis and feel comfortable sharing their experiences.

“50% of Americans take a sleep aid at night, and cannabis can be a great alternative,” explained Meade. “Cannabis can also be effective for pain management, and I want to help others understand natural alternatives to pharmaceuticals, especially opioids.”

Highly transferrable skills

Meade’s professional background before writing the “Big Sisters’ Guide” is working as a chemical health and safety engineer. She taught chemical safety for 20 years and contributed to six textbooks on various safety topics.

“I really learned how to speak to a common understanding, not overly technical or scientific,” Meade said. “So I applied my chemical health and safety training background and understanding of the different ways people learn; the average person needs pictures and real-life examples that they can relate to.”

Knowing the efficacy of visual learning helped shape Meade’s book to include more than 120 pictures in 96 pages. It also includes several charts to provide readers with in-depth knowledge without the in-depth science talk.

“The book is full of pictures and stories to help the reader relate their experience or concerns with others,” Meade explained. “It explains what the plant is, how your body uses the plant, and then practical information like how to roll a joint and how to get your medical marijuana card.”

To research for the book, Meade read everything she could find on cannabis and attended cannabis education programs, including those coordinated by Cannabis Cape Cod, which promotes cannabis industry development on the Cape, and for which Meade now serves as executive director. She also met with cannabis nurses and dispensary employees who also expressed the need to provide simple and approachable information for new consumers.

“I wrote this with the cannabis nurse and budtender in mind to help them help others,” Meade said.

Meade also approached several women who she’d met through her research, and asked to profile their stories in the Guide. “I included my sister Mary’s voice, and also wanted to highlight people in the industry who had transformed their lives medically with this plant. I wanted readers to find themselves reflected in the book.”

Spreading the word of wellness

To help spread the word, Meade has showcased her book at events in bookstores and retail shops from Provincetown to Boston. “The book has been very well received,” Meade beamed. “We did an educational program at Pure Vita in Eastham last month, and just about everyone walked out of the store with a book and CBD products.”

Meade will continue to showcase the book at various book signing events throughout the Cape and across the Northeast this fall and winter, often with Mary by her side.

As for Meade’s next project: “I’m sure there will be more books!” she said. “Mary is a foodie and culinary professional, and we’ve always talked about creating a line of products. There are so many possibilities with cannabis.”

“Cannabis: A Big Sisters’ Guide” is available at local bookstores, retail stores, and online at Amazon.com and WhatThe.buzz.