David-George Oldham: How Are We Not in Awe of Cannabis?
MMJ Advocate: David-George Oldham, Ottawa, Canada
I’m a 24 years-young man living outside of what’s known to most as Ottawa, Ontario and have been living here for about 6 years now. After moving here, I became sick and started exhibiting symptoms of severe migraines and suffering from a lot of chronic muscle and joint pain. I started using cannabis somewhat recreationally and when I started feeling the benefits of it, and after a few conversations with my doctors, I acquired a cannabis license under the MMAR. Once I moved forward and became a licensed medical marijuana patient, my quality of life started to improve.
Unfortunately, I encountered a great deal of harassment for it at my former place of business and was soon unjustly terminated for being a cannabis patient, even though I was always moving forward in good faith at all times. My case has since been picked up by the Canadian Human Rights Commission and we’re slowly moving towards the tribunal; it’s not a trial, per say, it’s just the commission’s version of a formal hearing, but we are still working on bringing that case to justice.
Amidst all of that, I’ve strived to work and provide for all my dependents, my family, and myself, but found it hard to find work after being unjustly dismissed by my previous employer. So, having some kind of expertise in the cannabis culture, its industry, and its development, and having an entrepreneurial mind and background in customer service, I thought of a way that I could integrate my skills and develop a career in the professional cannabis space.
I put everything I needed together and applied for a government grant that I was eligible for, due to my unfortunate employment situation and was approved for the grant to be a self-employed cannabis consultant. So I opened ARC and began delving further into what’s known as the Cannabis Medical Marijuana Program Regulations, the MMPR Act, and sought to be a liaison for patients and guide them through essentially what I went through: The plights of being a patient, understanding strain efficacies, good purchasing habits, standards to hold processors to, the various types of cannabis intake methods, and which products to use specifically as opposed to wasting a few thousand dollars as I’ve done on various pieces of equipment. I’ve already been through the good and bad and knew I could be a consultant for others on all fronts.
…and sought to be a liaison for patients and guide them through essentially what I went through: The plights of being a patient, understanding strain efficacies, good purchasing habits, standards to hold processors to, the various types of cannabis intake methods, and which products to use…
I like to think that I have a real, personal approach to my dealings because of where I come from and what I’ve been through and I definitely think that keeps me in line and keeps me in touch with my clients. I’d like to see more of that in the industry because I definitely don’t see it in the MMPR, the licensed producers, in some of their habits, methods, standards, ethics, values and so on.
Can you tell us about your current work in the space?
I’m exploring relationships with Canadian doctors and clinics so that I have safe, reliable places to refer my clients to. I’m certainly not a doctor and I don’t pretend to be; I’m simply a patient with a lot of first-hand experience and I think that makes me a very credible resource. I find doctors and clinics to refer the people who come to me saying, “I’ve heard your story and would like your help.” I’ve had a lot of referrals from friends and extended family, from the internet, and from social media.
It’s been good, but I’m seeing a lot of people here in Canada financially taking advantage of this broken system. There are often doctors who are charging exorbitant fees to help people who are really just trying to, in good faith, improve their quality of life. It’s been a really tough balancing act, but I’m always up for a challenge. That’s why I’m focused on building relationships with reliable medical professionals.
Unfortunately, because I’m developing under the legal frameworks that exist, I’ve put a bit of a “brick” in my plan. Although I certainly have the experience for growing cannabis, making extracts, and managing a retail location, it’s just not legally permissible right now. You’ll see it in Vancouver because there’s a different culture, different attitude, and a community who is really taking a stand for justice and for doing the right thing. Hopefully, we will see that be true throughout the entire country very soon; I think it’s coming. That’s what’s going on right now with the battle of MMAR versus MMPR.
When was your interest first piqued by the cannabis plant?
I think it would have been 2011 or 2012. It was just shortly after I had started taking cannabis daily as a medication for my migraines. The best way I can describe those to you is this: Imagine that you wake up in the morning and somebody immediately shines a light into your face and you feel blinded and it’s extremely bright. That’s what it was like for me every time I had a migraine; I was extremely sensitive to light.
When I started progressing in the cannabis culture as a medical patient, I journeyed to a vapor lounge in Kingston, Ontario, where I recall sharing a volcano vaporizer bag session with a very nice woman who was suffering from an advanced form of Parkinson’s and was shaking very violently. As she started medicating with cannabis, her demeanor didn’t change, she was a very pleasant, very friendly woman, but what did change was her speech. At the start of our conversation, her shaking greatly impeded her speech, “W..here… are you co…ming from, youn..g man?” Then, as time went on and she continued to medicate, her voice became clearer and clearer and she ultimately just stopped shaking completely! I couldn’t believe it. That’s when my opinion really started to change and I really started to understand the power of medicinal cannabis. Recreational use is irrelevant to me now. I’ve had too many first-hand experiences in seeing cannabis literally saving lives medicinally, that’s the real power.
As she started medicating with cannabis, her demeanor didn’t change, she was a very pleasant, very friendly woman, but what did change was her speech. At the start of our conversation, her shaking greatly impeded her speech, “W..here… are you co…ming from, youn..g man?” Then as time went on and she continued to medicate, her voice became clearer and clearer and she ultimately just stopped shaking completely! I couldn’t believe it.
What were you doing before becoming a part of this industry?
I was able to find decent employment at a young age and I think I’ve always been polite and courteous – That’s really what customer service is. I was working for my previous employer for five years and was considering going to school to study political science to become a politician and take some history to fall back in case that didn’t work out, in the case that I could then be a history teacher. I feel like I could have been that ‘cool’ history teacher in high school, maybe I still will be. Who knows? So, I was working and playing in a few bands; I dabbled in music, but nothing notable came from that… I like to think I was just a regular joe, a cool guy. Everybody’s got their own thing. I’m just a normal guy.
What’s the most touching story you’ve heard from someone you’ve encountered in your work?
That would be Liam McKnight, hands downs, after reading his story in 2014 in The Huffington Post. That’s when I became aware of his condition with Dravet, a severe form of epilepsy and how he was treating it with cannabis, very much like the woman I’d met with Parkinson’s. It echoed my belief that cannabis was in fact a medication and that this was really something that was meant to benefit humanity. His story was one of those in-your-face “Look at this six-year-old child having upward of 70 seizures a day and now let’s give him this extract made from a plant that grows in the ground and watch how it all stops.”
His story was one of those in-your-face “Look at this six-year-old child having upward of 70 seizures a day and now let’s give him this extract made from a plant that grows in the ground and watch how it all stops.”
I just don’t understand how you can’t just be in AWE! I’m a man of faith and that just answers the question for me. I know for some people it might not be fully, but it’s just so profound to see that. There’s got to be something more to this. I know we might not know everything fully, but I really don’t think it’s evil or anything of the sort. It can benefit us econominally, both in the sense of trade and providing employment for people; and it can improve our health, obviously! For me, I’ve treated varying issues with it like chronic pain, migraines, and depression. Of course, I’ve also done talk therapy, regular exercise, proper diet, etcetera, but cannabis has certainly been a catalyst in allowing me to seek those other forms of treatment since it eases my social anxiety. I’m now able to move forward in pursuing other things that can benefit me aside from just cannabis.
How would you describe the cannabis consumer community?
In my area, I’d say it’s really closed off and waiting to burst at the seams. For whatever reason, people are still sitting on the sidelines and waiting for things to happen, when from my position, I see that things are only going to happen if people get involved. So, I’m trying to encourage people to do that because I would say things are a little too closed off as it currently stands. We have a few head shops here that sell bongs and whatnot, along with other paraphernalia that I absolutely don’t condone and synthetic cannabidiols, which I see to be very dangerous. When I see that these are legally sold at the head shop, it boggles my mind. I say to myself, “Okay, hold on. This is very far from benefiting the community and we definitely have some work to do.” I don’t like being associated with businesses and products like that; that has nothing to do with cannabis and I’m a cannabis consultant. I’d like to see that cleared up and I’d like to see more of an open, positive community towards cannabis in Ottawa.
What do you wish people would know about the cannabis plant?
I wish more people were informed about cannabis’ many benefits, medically and agriculturally. I have a client, the first I’ve ever heard of, who just wants to grow cannabis; he finds it therapeutically benefits him just to grow it. He doesn’t use cannabis himself, but I could see his reasoning. It’s a beautiful plant and it’s nice to be around. I’ve worked on farms with upwards of 140 cannabis plants and that first time you walk out and you see every single one of them… it’s incredibly moving. I always wondered if this feeling would fade, but it never does – Whether I’m around five plants or 500, it always puts a smile on my face. There’s a feeling for it. I wish more people could experience it!
It’s a beautiful plant and it’s nice to be around. I’ve worked on farms with upwards of 140 cannabis plants and that first time you walk out and you see every single one of them… it’s incredibly moving. I always wondered if this feeling would fade, but it never does – Whether I’m around five plants or 500, it always puts a smile on my face. There’s a feeling for it. I wish more people could experience it!
What words do you live by? Is it a quote? A mantra?
I have a quote from my father tattooed on my left arm that says, “It’s not a stupid man that makes a mistake, but rather a stupid man that doesn’t learn by it.” (And women just don’t make mistakes because they’re perfect!) If anything, that would be it. My father has been an enormous influence on my life and I would be extremely proud of myself if I would be even half the man that he is. I think it’s important to not beat yourself up and I think making mistakes is just how you learn. I like to quote: It’s very self-explanatory. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve made errors, and I’d like to think that I’m human, and that I’m making amends because I’m making a better community.
I came from a dark past, but I’ve really improved. Before the age of 18, I had ran away to Montreal as a youth and dabbled in some sub-culture and I kind of worry about kids sometimes. The 4/20 protest is coming up shortly and for me, is definitely a medical movement. I’ve struggled to deal with the fact that I’m getting older and I think kids are starting to look up to me and I don’t just want to be like Marc Emery, The Prince of Pot. I don’t want that; I think everybody needs to be part of this movement. It’s not just about cannabis, it’s about all of the benefits that cannabis brings with it, like being a better neighbor and being more friendly. Have you ever been stoned? You just talk. You have nice conversations, you’re friendly, and you walk down the street saying things like, ‘Oh, that’s a great dog. How’s your day going?’ Things like that. That’s what I’d just like to promote; Kindness.
Have you ever been stoned? You just talk. You have nice conversations, you’re friendly, and you walk down the street saying things like, ‘Oh, that’s a great dog. How’s your day going?’ Things like that. That’s what I’d just like to promote; Kindness.
What part would you like to play in moving this industry in a positive direction?
I used to have an attitude of ‘shame on you’ towards the licensed producers and I would like to think that I’ve changed my attitude to more of ‘we can do better’ and we can really ALL do better. I would like to see the MMPR allow some of the benefits that the MMAR possess and to integrate it to develop a system that Canadians actually need to have reasonable access to cannabis. I can see a lot of positive things coming from that and it wouldn’t just affect one industry, it’d make it better for everyone!
What trait does one need to do great work in this space?
I think you need to be compassionate. We’ve all heard how compassion centers have been the leading force for cannabis in Canada for the last 15 years and I think that word just sums up what you need to have to work in this space. You just have to care and have to have a heart. You have to be open-minded enough to be able to forgive often, love as much as you can, and be able to learn from your mistakes. I think compassion, in a word, is what you need.
What is your message to the CannaEffect community?
Please join and help out ARC! We’d appreciate your support in developing the cannabis community that Ottawa deserves. I’d like people to know who I am, know the amazing clients that I work with, and how they keep me going in everything that I do! With the kinds of people I’ve met through ARC, I feel like I’ve won the lottery! It’s unbelievable and I’d love for everyone to hear their stories as well.