Cannabis Journeys: Emily Elmen

Recently Emily Elmen gave me a tour of her workplace, In Good Health, one of the largest cannabis dispensaries in Massachusetts. We ended the tour in the kitchen where cannabis was magically being transformed into chocolate, lozenges, cold-brew coffee, topicals, and much, much more. In the kitchen, and in a later phone interview, she described her cannabis journey from the time she took her first puff, to becoming Director of Infused Product Development at In Good Health.

What was your first experience with cannabis?

From middle school through high school I was one of those people who thought it [cannabis] was uncool. I didn’t know anything about the plant. I wasn’t in that circle of friends that consumed anything. But I also did want to try because of pure curiosity.

In 2003, I broke my ankle really badly in the first month of college at the University of Vermont. I was on a full-leg cast for two months and prescribed heavy Percocet for the pain. Percocet made me lose my appetite and a lot of weight. A friend and I tried pot while I was still healing and I fell in love with it. It made me really relaxed, euphoric and helped with the pain. It also restored my appetite. I got rid of the Percocet which also had been messing with my memory. To this day I can’t remember those months.

When did your activism with cannabis start?

In 2010, I met Cara Crabb-Burnham, founder of Northeastern Institute of Cannabis (NIC). She said ‘don’t you know weed should be legal?’ It had never crossed my mind. I immediately joined MassCann/NORML and eventually became a board member. There I met many people and developed my and MassCann/NORML's brand of legalization activism. I also studied at NIC. NIC taught me about the endocannabinoid system, growing, bud-tending, patient relations.

When did cannabis become your career?

When I made my first batch of brownies in 2006, I decided I wanted to do it on a big scale. I’d been making edibles and practicing infusion and altering techniques. It became my ten-year goal to be an edibles cook in a dispensary. In 2012, I started working as manager of the Hempest in Harvard Square. I didn’t know it at the time, but my boss, Jon Napoli, was, and still is, head grow consultant for In Good Health. Over my three years working for him, I would gift him edibles and he’d give me feedback. I didn’t know I was auditioning for this. Jon gave my resume to the CEO and the rest is history.

How do you use cannabis?

My day job is so active and I have to be on my toes, so I only consume at night when my tasks are done for the day. I can have two puffs and be good for the night. There are times I don’t want to because I get anxious. It depends on where I am, who I’m with, the way I’m taking it. I enjoy product that a friend of mine grows. Right now it's Peanut Butter Breath, but I typically get indica strains because I find them more relaxing.

How will recreational cannabis change your job?

Recreational is getting off to a rocky start. The Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) is just now granting licenses to cultivate so any recreational place that wants to open will initially have no bud to sell or to make oil with, and thus no edibles for months until their first harvest.

If retailers and distributors are having trouble producing product, they’ll probably be gobbled up quickly. Large producers will run out of cannabis; medical not as much because 35% of stock has to be set aside for patients. But we’re preparing for recreational sales every day: I’m researching production equipment, designing new kitchens, and working on recipes and packaging.

What are your new products?

This summer we’ll have a beverage, probably a juice or flavored water. We’re using nano-technology. It’ll be different from all other drinks on the gray market and dispensaries.

Nobody else in Massachusetts has nano-emulsified tinctures. Because cannabis has a bitter flavor, tinctures can taste unpleasant, but they lose their health benefit if we add a lot of sugar and flavorings. Nano-tinctures don't really lessen the bitter flavor of the cannabis oil, but many have said that they do provide very fast relief. This is because of their extremely high bioavailability, making for a fast onset of effects—usually within thirty seconds.

My staff will also double in size. I'm looking for people who are experienced with tactile tasks, pay attention to detail, have stamina, and a strong work ethic.

About the author: Christine Giraud, a writer in Boston, is fascinated with the cannabis industry, and has been covering the culture, politics and history around it. She also writes about general health issues for publications like and Paper Gown.

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