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NEVA, New England

NEVA, New England Veterans Alliance. influence them to vote on behalf of ours. The value of social media and public radio is discussed, as well as the value of educating both lawmakers and others in our lives about cannabis. Says libertarian candidate Chris Lyons, “Be persistently, consistently knowledgeable and civil.” My favorite workshop (though I may be a bit biased) is a women’s panel made up of female growers, veterans, nurses, biologists, consultants and business owners. Many of the powerful and passionate women speakers from previous panels return to form the group, with a few new faces as well. They discuss strategies for success as a woman in the industry, as well as the specific challenges that women face. Empowerment, unity, and creating a support system of like-minded female entrepreneurs are highlighted, as well as methods to combat the sexism that pervades virtually every business arena in this country. Says Ellen Brown, a veteran, grower, educator, activist and consultant, in regard to negotiating with confidence: “Know your worth, and add tax.” Another interesting topic that comes up during the women’s panel is concern about how new recreational laws will affect the medical cannabis industry, and how to protect the patients and ensure that they are not left behind. Maine is held up by multiple speakers both in this panel and others as the state with perhaps the strongest medical program in the country, and it is suggested by speakers from other East Coast states that they look to Maine for guidance as their own programs continue to take shape and expand. Veterans are also a huge focus of this conference, and their rights to cannabis are discussed in multiple panels. On Sunday the New England Veterans Alliance takes the stage, and they discuss their experiences with combat and deployment, as well as what a miracle cannabis has been for them in terms of treating their pain and PTSD. The barriers that veterans face when it comes to their ability to legally use and afford cannabis without risking their medical insurance are highlighted by multiple speakers, all of whom urge the cannabis community to action. Says Ellen Brown, also a speaker on the veteran’s panel: “[Veterans] stood up for your rights. Now stand up for their rights, and their right to choose their own medicine.” NEVA has a booth at the conference, and I have the opportunity to sit down and talk with them over the course of the weekend. They are a dedicated group of individuals working to connect veterans with each other, and with resources, access and education about cannabis as an alternative to the often damaging pharmaceutical drugs generally used to treat their conditions. Says Derek Cloutier, NEVA President and co-Founder, “One of the things that we want to focus on is outreach-going to the veteran when they need assistance or help, and then providing them with education to better understand what they are going through and what we can possibly help them with, or what cannabis can help them with. Another thing is social interaction, and activities and events…Our big plan is eventually to have a wellness center basically built around all of this, where cannabis is accepted and you can socially medicate with each other, and then go into a therapy session and talk to somebody, and have a therapist on hand, have a doctor on hand J42

The NEVA Crew showing off some Flowers. through and what we can possibly help them with, or what cannabis can help them with. Another thing is social interaction, and activities and events…Our big plan is eventually to have a wellness center basically built around all of this, where cannabis is accepted and you can socially medicate with each other, and then go into a therapy session and talk to somebody, and have a therapist on hand, have a doctor on hand that understands the concept of it.” Derek further explains that NEVA is determined to show by example that veteran cannabis users are not your typical stoner stereotypes. They are productive members of society just like anybody else, simply using a medicine that helps them to function and re-integrate into society in a meaningful way. For more information on NEVA, visit their website at NEVAUSA.org, or email them at info@nevausa.org. The conference concludes Sunday afternoon with a private screening of the creatively shot documentary “Trim”, which examines the political climate of cannabis legalization through the lens of women in the industry. The topic of what it is like to be a woman in the cannabis industry is blended well with the politics, and the feminine energy being explored is effectively communicated through the cinematography. The movie begins immediately following the women’s panel, tying the theme together nicely. As I stand to leave, I notice that most of the vendors have broken down, and all that remains is the stately cannabis display case, quietly boasting its wares until the last chair is folded and the last cannabis lover exits the doors. I think of the pride and the dedication that has gone into the production of each and every one of these decadent buds; the months, weeks, days and hours of hard work- tending, trimming, drying and curing. I hope that every entrant in the Cup is proud of the care and the love that they have poured into their plants, and of the harvests that their efforts have yielded. I have learned a lot about cannabis this weekend, and about the industry and where it is headed. But the one fact that stands out to me more than any other is this: Every endeavor in the cannabis industry is truly a labor of love. Cannabis is medicine, and it is medicine grown with the intent to help and to heal. That energy is a force to be reckoned with, and it is only building steam. This movement, which is truly a movement by the people and for the people, cannot not be stopped, because it unfolds with the same tender care and deliberate love that goes into every step of growing these magical and versatile plants. In a follow-up interview after the Conference, I asked Joshua Gates, founder of the East Coast Cannabis Conference, if there would be another Conference and Cup next year. He replied, “Yes! Everyone was really impressed with the event. We are honored and proud of the work we have done as a community. This event represents the hard work of our farmers and organizers. We intend to keep going and working hard to represent those making their way in the cannabis industry. There’s so much that we can do with this particular style of event. This year’s East Coast Cannabis Conference and High 95 Cup was a trial run for something even greater. Our crew did a great job and we intend to come back stronger this next year.” Cannabis as a medicine and as a viable alternative to pharmaceuticals is not going to be swept back under the rug. The research is being done, and the research does not lie: cannabis is a safe treatment for so much of what ails us. As surely as cannabis will be here next year, so shall the East Coast Cannabis Conference, celebrating another year of hard work, determination, and, above all else: heart. Chocolate Edible Sampler Board from Elevate. J43

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