Ben Kaplan: I know you've been a friend of the cannabis community since the first time I started writing about weed, even before legalization. When did cannabis first enter your life?
Sasha Exeter: Yes, I've actually been using cannabis for quite some time and I am so proud to say that. It was introduced to me for medicinal purposes by my G.P. years ago, I would say back in 2009. I was suffering from debilitating chronic pain due to my health issues. I wasn't seeing any benefits or improvement from the medications I was being prescribed for the pain so my doctor ended up suggesting cannabis to me and said I would be a perfect candidate for medicinal marijuana. He was pretty forward thinking at the time.
BK: As a public person, does cannabis frighten you? Are there stigmas attached with cannabis that maybe we wouldn't see with beer or wine?
SE: You know what's funny, until the announcement was made that it was going to become legal here, I was not comfortable sharing with strangers that I was a cannabis user. Around close family and friends, sure but other than that, I never spoke about it openly because I felt that it still carried a stigma. I mean, alcohol is a drug as well, but for some reason people never think about it like that. It's been so interesting watching how far things have come and how widely accepted cannabis is now. I know people's grandparents who are users now and seeing relief for so many different ailments and diseases, which is amazing to see.
BK: Can I ask, point blank, do you smoke weed?
SE: You can ask me anything and yes, I do smoke it. Not so much in papers or blunts though. I find it too harsh on the lungs, but I love the Dosist Controller pen and have a few different variants I have in my rotation. As a parent, using Dosist gives me the confidence in precise dosing when I consume during the day for pain or anxiety. As my condition affects me around the clock, I am able to consume throughout the day without ever having to worry about overconsuming while working or while being with my daughter. It’s a whole different story Maxwell is off with her dad and I have solo time though. There are so many amazing tasting and hitting edibles on the market right now.
BK: It's much easier, I presume, to say you use CBD. Do you use CBD, and if so, what kind, how, and for what?
SE: Yes, but to be honest I am really into edibles and drinkable products that are THC-based or have a THC:CBD ratio. CBD is great for me during the day though. It helps with my anxiety and keeps me calm or at least calmer during the day time. I use a lot of oil from Calyx Wellness and I like to enjoy their CBD bath bombs in the evenings. For my pain-related issues and sleep disturbances, I need something that is stronger and get a lot of relief from THC products, edible and drinkables specifically from local brands like Olli, Wana and XMG.
BK: You recently paused everything to concentrate on your mental health and wrote the words: “I'm not OK.” How hard was it for you to hit the stop button?
SE: Yes. The pause was for both my mental AND physical health. It's crazy to think how much our mental health affects our physical health and vice versa. They are definitely connected and I was struggling for a very long time. It felt like I was drowning, in a place with no water and it was absolutely terrifying. I knew I needed to take a break, but as a freelancer I wasn't sure how it was going to be possible. My body and the universe kept nudging me and it got to the point where I literally had a panic attack in the middle of the street and collapsed. I thought I was having a heart attack, but it was the anxiety that had crept to a level I just could not control anymore and that was the point I said, "Ok Sasha, it is time. Time to press pause." Was it difficult to do? Absolutely. You know, as a freelancer when you don't work, you don't get paid.
BK: Can we talk about your voice? How have you grown into using your power?
SE: I’ve always had a voice and have already tried to use it in the right ways. As I have gotten older, I have grown more confident in doing so, especially for other people and causes, but I am learning to speak up more when it comes to my boundaries and pushing back. That part doesn't come naturally, but I think that will come with time.
BK: What role does being a mom play into that?
SE: Being a mom has totally played into my growth, the work I've put into building a brand and using my voice. Basically it influences everything! I've worked harder than ever before because I want to lead by example, inspire her and hopefully leave a legacy behind for her.
BK: I have to touch on this, speaking to you as a black woman: race is a very big issue in the cannabis community, just like the world at large, and it's important. What role do you see privilege playing in cannabis culture?
SE: The industry, and the world for that matter, has come a long way, but still has much longer to go. Even though cannabis is legal here, there is something that white people are still able to take for granted; and that is their consumption of cannabis will not result in a disproportionate response by law enforcement that could lead to their death. People of colour, especially Black men, unfortunately do not have that luxury and understand there are serious risks associated with possessing cannabis as a visible minority.
BK: Things are getting better but they’re still so royally fucked up.
SE: Listen, the cannabis industry is primarily owned and operated by white people, so it would be great to see more from them by way of encouraging investment and ownership into minority cannabis businesses, supporting cannabis conviction expungements for POC and also speaking up for the vastly disparate arrests and sentencing for cannabis offenses placed on people of colour.
BK: This is our Health & Wellness issue and I want to hear your advice for our readers: when the shit hits the fan, how do you keep your head?
SE: Keeping my shit together has been tough the last year and a half. It has been for everyone. I was holding on by a thread, so I can't really say I was keeping my head when shit was hitting the fan during this pandemic. But I am developing ways to cope with the help of my therapist, who I see on a weekly basis. I focus a lot on breathwork and meditation, more than I ever have before. Social media is great for many things and my business, but also terrible for mental health. I find I am in a better place mentally after limiting my time online and replacing that time going on long walks, especially close to water or in nature, and doing things that make me happy and fill my cup, instead of things that empty it.
BK: So what do we do?
SE: We should all just seek to be overall healthy, instead of paying more attention to one over the other.
BK: Well, this was dope. Thank you so much for your time, my friend. Hopefully, next time we can do it over some edibles.
SE: The pleasure was all mine and yes, that sounds like a great idea!