Alex Brant-Zawadzki: A man on a Mission for Hemp…and its Cousin!
Alex Brant-Zawadzki, Advocate & Medical Cannabis Patient
How many people do you know who have written their Master’s Thesis on hemp? Well now you know of one. Alex Brant-Zawadzki is a proponent of both industrial hemp and its cousin, medical cannabis. With both personal and professional motivation to support legalization and education, he is living a life immersed in the industry and loving it.
Can you tell us about your current work in the space?
Right now, I’m trying to start one of the premier industrial hemp consultancies in California. I’m the Founder and Principal at California Hemp Works and Growth (CHWaG). In the past few years, I’ve worked with everyone from Vote Hemp to Global Hemp Group to Rock Hemp to the Hempsters documentaries. Essentially I am doing whatever I can to further hemp’s cause in the United States.
When was your interest first piqued by the cannabis plant?
When I was interning at Time Magazine’s DC bureau in the summer of 2001, we received a query from the London bureau regarding marijuana policy. “Pot, huh? Give it to the intern,” said my boss, bureau chief Mike Duffy. I called around to places like the Lindesmith Center, NORML and the like and was fascinated. I learned enough to realize that I needed to know more. The industry and legislation changes daily, so there’s always the need to know more. I’m immersed in this world, and it’s exactly where I want to be.
…the industry and legislation changes almost daily, so there’s always the need to know more. I’m immersed in this world, and it’s exactly where I want to be.
What were you doing before becoming a part of this industry?
I was studying towards a Masters in Public Affairs at the University of San Francisco’s McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good. I was also involved in a company I co-founded, Spend Consciously, which created the BuyPartisan app, a consumer spending aid that helps people make purchases in accordance with their values. You could say I’m all about conscious choices.
I ultimately knew my goal was to work in the hemp industry, so I wrote my Master’s Thesis on hemp, essentially to both defend that choice and to, ideally, stimulate the development of the hemp industry. I wanted to lay out for anyone to see that it’s de-facto legal to grow hemp for commercial cultivation. You just need to work out a research component. There’s so much information and outright knowledge and appreciation for hemp elsewhere in the world compared to here in the U.S.
Today, most people in the industry have their pet projects or personal interests—bioenergy, construction materials, CBD oils, food products—and they can talk to you for hours about that particular application of hemp, but their knowledge of other aspects is purely anecdotal. I look forward to seeing that change. We need to educate people on the nigh-unbelievable potential for this fantastic commodity.
What’s the most touching story you’ve heard from someone you’ve encountered in your work?
I couldn’t even begin to think about picking one. There are so many. But the impact of hemp and medical cannabis in my own life has been profound, and not just career-wise. I’ve had anxiety and depression issues my entire life, literally for as far back as I can remember. Almost fifteen years ago, I also developed some bizarre gastrointestinal ailment. One doctor diagnosed it as “cyclic vomiting syndrome” but my favorite was “intestinal migraines”.
I’ve been on anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, anti-convulsants, anti-biotics…you name it. Then, of course, I started down the slippery slope of needing other meds to counteract the side-effects of all those meds. I’m getting to be pretty anti-standard medications. To make it all worse, my meds were prescribed on dubious or uncertain diagnoses. “Well, we think this is what’s wrong, and we think this might help.”
At one point, I was unable to eat for weeks…doctors telling me they had no idea what was wrong, but if I didn’t get better I’d probably die. Once I was able to convince one of them to prescribe me medical cannabis, I was eating within hours and back to college within weeks.
Once I was able to convince one of them to prescribe me medical cannabis, I was eating within hours and back at college within weeks.
I’ve been a card-carrying patient here in California for over a decade now, and a medical patient for over fifteen years. Cannabis has allowed me to function when I couldn’t function; eat when I couldn’t eat; sleep when I couldn’t sleep; and live when I didn’t think I could.
What do you wish people would know about the cannabis plant?
I wish more people knew that hemp was illegal to grow in America. I wish more people knew that hemp and marijuana are not the same thing. I wish more people knew that legalizing hemp is not some plot to legalize marijuana. And I wish that people would stop demonizing cannabis in general. There’s nothing to fear from either plant, people!
I wish more people knew that legalizing hemp is not some plot to legalize marijuana. And I wish that people would stop demonizing cannabis, in general. There’s nothing to fear from either plant, people!
What words do you live by? Is it a quote? A mantra?
“Now it is in my power that within this soul there be no wickedness, appetite, nor any agitation at all. Instead, seeing things for their true value, I will make use of each according to its real worth.” – A quote by Marcus Aurelius. I think that this mindset shows up in my work in the industry. I want to do the right things and go about them in the right ways.
What part would you like to play in moving this industry in a positive direction?
I want to be able to answer people’s questions, allay their concerns, and connect them with the people who are looking to work with them.
What trait does one need to do great work in this space?
People need a genuine appreciation of the plant beyond mere profits.
What is your message to the CannaEffect community?
Now is the prime time to get involved in the new American hemp industry – precisely because it doesn’t even exist yet. And from the medical standpoint, don’t be ashamed of doing whatever it takes to find relief.