To be honest, I was really hesitant about the idea at first. I carried it around for a few days and even consulted family and friends before making a final decision. It was a simple concept: host a “potcast” with “me and two buds.” That was the invitation.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the idea of hosting a podcast. Up to that point, my whole career was spent in the advertising agency world and I’d gotten used to being in the media speaking on behalf of my agency and the industry I’d grown to love. And after an intense, but short experience as a contestant on The Amazing Race Canada, there was no denying that I got a buzz from being in the media. It was a comfortable space for me. Somehow, this was different.
It was about a year and a half before recreational cannabis was to be legal in Canada. The owners of Village Sound—an audio production company in Halifax—were starting a podcast division and wanted to create a cannabis podcast as one way of kicking off that part of their business. I’d known these guys for years as part of the ad agency community and we’d even played in a Tom Petty tribute band together. I trusted them, and I was thrilled that they thought of asking me to host the show. Yet, I was seriously considering turning this down.
So many “what ifs?” What if my agency clients are somehow offended by me doing this? What if it’s taken the wrong way? What if my business partners don’t want me involved? Is it too soon? Do I want to be the “weed guy”? Sure, I was overthinking it, but I was taking it seriously and if I was going to do it, I wanted to go all in. I wanted to do it well and make it something someone would want to listen to. With that, I proposed a slightly different approach.
With Canadian legalization just around the corner, and so much to be considered: what if we leave the “stoner” cliché behind and make this about the real points of view and social considerations of something like federal legalization of cannabis? I proposed this as a shift in direction—something that would make me more comfortable doing it.
Turning A New Leaf was born: the podcast that discussed all aspects of what it meant to legalize cannabis across the country. A version of the show that would let me be me and talk about the things I thought people would want to hear about. I didn’t have to be the expert. I just had to be curious and willing to have the conversation. Turns out that willingness to have the conversation was actually bringing to light the first, and potentially one of the largest issues associated with cannabis: stigma.
The stigma associated with cannabis use was not only something I was trying to avoid, but something I was trying to change. For me, the thinking was that if I’m wondering about these things, how many other people are wondering about them too? I thought: maybe there’s a way to do this that will start to make people more comfortable with cannabis.
We launched the podcast with our first guest: Donna Davies. A documentary filmmaker who had very personal reasons for her passion to bring to light the benefits associated with intentional use. It was a heavy discussion treated with the utmost respect, yet easy and incredibly sincere. I learned a lot. Turns out, so did a lot of people who listened.
After that first episode went live, something surprising began to happen. All those concerns I had? All those clients I was worried about? One by one I started getting emails asking for a coffee or lunch. Just people asking for some time so they could finally ask questions and get some perspective on things they were quietly wondering about. It was as if they suddenly had permission to talk about this thing and the flood gates opened. I would hear stories about how someone listened with their mother who was previously against legalization. Now they were spending an afternoon talking about the pros and cons of the whole idea. People were opening up. Guests included lawyers, doctors, city planners, professional athletes and even Hal Johnson – yep, that Hal Johnson of Body Break fame.
I got to know Hal after my wife and I were on The Amazing Race Canada. As a former contestant himself, as many do, Hal reached out so we could share our collective experiences. We’ve been friends ever since and when he saw that I was doing the podcast, he asked me why I was promoting cannabis. As you might imagine he had a lot of questions about why legalization was a good idea. I think he was the only guest who was initially opposed to legalization. We had an incredible chat that opened both of our eyes.
We stopped recording the podcast a week after legalization. We felt its purpose had been served and so much had changed since we started. Now, it’s safe to say I’ve become very comfortable admitting that I’m a regular cannabis user. But I wasn’t always that way. As a father, husband and professional marketer with a career spanning over 25 years, I battled the cliché and stigma attached to cannabis use and was determined that I would not fall into that category or be perceived in that way. In hindsight, it’s not surprising that I’ve changed careers and now find myself working in the cannabis industry—talking about how to market cannabis and impact the stigma associated with it on a daily, if not hourly, basis. I’m proud of my role in this new industry and even happier about letting go of all the things I worried about in the beginning.
Despite the fact that there is still much work to be done, the very real stigma is beginning to change. Cannabis, like any regulated substance, can be a wonderful thing when used intentionally or horrible if abused. Ask questions, get information, and find what works best for you. Most of all, don’t be ashamed if you happen to enjoy, like many of us, this gift from Mother Nature. The best we can do is share our experiences, learn from each other and create the kind of cannabis industry that Canada and the rest of the world can be proud of.