Dr. Emily Earlenbaugh, Ph.D. is a freelance writer and the co-founder of Mindful Cannabis Consulting, where she consults with patients interested in utilizing cannabis as a natural medicine. Emily has a doctorate in the philosophy of science and with an expertise in the science of happiness and well-being. Utilizing her own experience as a cannabis patient and her doctoral training, she’s developed several tools to help patients with the complex task of finding the right strains and methods of intake for their particular symptoms and biochemistry.
1. How would you describe yourself and what you do?
I think of myself as cannabis educator, and I’m passionate about helping connect people to the information they need to be successful in using cannabis.
At Mindful Cannabis Consulting, I offer one-on-one phone consultations for who are interested in learning more about cannabis. I teach cannabis basics, and help cannabis users navigate the many variables involved with cannabis use like strain and method of consumption.
I also educate about cannabis through my writing. I’m a regular contributor to publications like the SF Chronicle’s Green State, Cannabis Now Magazine and HelloMD (where I have an ongoing series for Cannabis Newcomers).
2. How has Cannabis influenced or affected your life?
I have multiple chronic pain conditions that used to leave me in a pretty non-functional state. The medications the doctors prescribed just seemed to make things worse, and came with so many negative side effects.
When I started using cannabis, I was amazed at the difference. Finally I was able to find relief from the pain and focus on the rest of my life. I went from being so sick that I couldn’t get out of bed most days, to feeling pretty normal. I was in the process of applying for disability, because my illness was interfering so strongly with my life. But with cannabis, and without so much pain, I could get work done.
Cannabis really gave me back a chance at a full and healthy life. I’m so grateful to have access to it as a medicine. My pain is reduced and I can be present whether it is with my work, myself or my loved ones.
This has been an incredible gift and has inspired me to dedicate my time and energy to the cannabis cause. I hope my work can help others discover the same kind of life-changing benefits that I have found.
3. Can you tell us about Mindful Cannabis Consulting and how it started?
Mindful Cannabis Consulting was the brainchild of myself and my business partner Ashley Woodbury. We both saw a need for more cannabis education that could help patients and recreational users to sort through the many options available and find what would work best for them.
There is a lot of incredible cannabis education out there, from cannabis experts and doctors alike, and it is always crucial to talk to an MD if you are treating a medical condition with cannabis. Still, even after seeing a doctor, cannabis users are often left wondering which strains or methods might work best for them and their needs. There is a whole world of cannabis options and these options provide a variety of different effects. If you don’t understand how to navigate through the different strain names, product options and ways of using cannabis, you may find yourself using something that isn’t right for your needs.
We offer to be a kind of tour guide to the world of cannabis, explaining the variables involved and guiding clients through the process of figuring out what works best for them. Because we are familiar with the many varieties of cannabis and the ways of using it, we often point clients to options that might be particularly well suited to their needs or individual biochemistry.
4. What ignites you as a writer?
For me, it’s all about touching individual lives. I love the moments when someone reaches out to say that a piece I’ve written has changed their lives in some way. I’ve gotten some really heart-warming responses, and they never fail to inspire me to work harder.
When someone tells me that a piece I’ve written helped them find more relief from pain, to find more confidence in themselves as a cannabis user, or to better understand someone they love who uses cannabis, those kinds of comments make my day and show me that my writing work is worthwhile. That inspires me to keep working, and keep trying to find new topics that are meaningful in the cannabis space, and can create change in the lives of others.
5. What does wellness mean to you?
In my view, wellness is all about finding what helps you live in a happy, healthful way. When we are unwell with sickness or stress, it takes a tole. Encouraging wellness is about encouraging self-care. That might be different for different people, so it's all about finding what works best for you.
6. What is your self-care routine? Do you incorporate cannabis into your routine and how?
My basic self-care routine includes a special diet, cannabis, meditation, and exercise. I also find I am most well when I include soul-nourishing activities like being with friends and family, spending time in nature, making art and music, or volunteering for causes that I care about.
Cannabis is a daily ritual for me. I use an edible tincture and a cannabis topical daily to help reduce and prevent my chronic pain and muscle tension. I smoke cannabis in joint form in the afternoons while meditating, and then again in the evenings while I chat about the day with my husband. I like to incorporate cannabis into these other wellness activities, because it creates ritual around them. It’s easy to remember to smoke a joint when the pain starts to hit, but sometimes in a busy day, I can forget to take the time to meditate or have a real conversation with loved ones. By tying cannabis in with these key wellness rituals, I’ve cemented them into my daily habits, and am so much happier for it!
7. What is your favorite way to use Cannabis? Do you have a favorite strain and why?
Smoking joints is my all time favorite way to use cannabis. It can have a bad reputation because of the smoke, but it’s really the only method of using cannabis that fully resolves my symptoms. I can use other options, and they help in conjunction with joints, but without joints, I don’t feel half as well.
My favorite strain is Afgoo. It is the perfect hybrid for me, and always makes me feel pain free, while still clear minded and energetic. It also just puts me in a good mood. I feel all warm and fuzzy with Afgoo so it’s easier to be social, patient and kind. If I had to pick one strain for the rest of my life, it would be Afgoo for sure!
8. What advice can you give someone who wants to come out of the Cannabis closet to their friends and family?
I am lucky to have a very supportive family, who have been an incredible rock for me during my health challenges. But even with my supportive family, it took a while for them to get fully on board with my cannabis use. They didn’t quite understand it at first, and were concerned for me.
What helped me was being very clear about how cannabis was helping me, and asking them to try to understand that this was the best choice for me. I tried to be compassionate to their point of view, and understand that they might not understand because of their limited frame of reference with cannabis. I was patient with them, and listened to their concerns. I responded to their worries with the facts about my experiences with cannabis, so they no longer had misconceptions about what it was like for me.
Soon, they began to see the benefits. This really sunk in when I started to use cannabis around them. I remember one of the first times, I was going out to eat with my parents and wasn’t feeling well, so I smoked a joint. I was too nervous to tell them, but afterwards my mom went on and on about what a great time they’d had with me at dinner! Without the usual pain weighing me down, I had been a much more pleasant dinner companion, making jokes and exchanging compliments with my parents. On cannabis, I was actually able to engage with them much more fully than ever before. When I confessed I had smoked cannabis before the dinner, they were surprised, realizing what a positive effect it was having on me.
Sometimes it can be hard to share about cannabis with your family, and they may not be supportive, especially at first. My best advice is to try to be patient and understanding with them. Stay true to your experience, and don’t let anyone shame you for taking care of yourself. If you are confident in your cannabis use and the benefits it is bringing you, your family will likely see this and come around eventually. If they don’t, at least you were true to yourself and genuine with them.
9. Why is education so important in the cannabis movement?
There is so much misinformation floating out there about cannabis, and a lot of negative stigmas. I believe it’s crucial to combat this with real education about cannabis, its effects and how it is helping people. As more people are seeing the incredible benefits cannabis can bring, they are more accepting of it, and more upset by the restrictions against it. This helps move the whole cannabis movement forward.
It’s also important that people suffering with conditions that could be helped by cannabis learn about it as an option. Doctors aren’t usually talking about cannabis with their patients, so it’s even more important to get the educational information out there, and accessible for the people who need it.
10. Name one-way Cannabis has changed your life?
Cannabis completely changed my life by taking away that pain that has been with me since birth. I’ve always felt sick and in pain, and still do when I don’t use cannabis. But with cannabis, I can turn that off and get back to living. It has truly been a gift that I never expected to receive. I have been able to make a life for myself. I’ve been able to contribute financially to my family in ways I never expected to, and I’ve been able to enjoy my life free from the constant suffering I used to endure.
I try to avoid words like miracle when talking about cannabis, because it’s a medicine like anything else, but it’s felt like a miracle to me. Cannabis gave me a life that I never thought I’d have, one where I don’t have to organize my life around my pain.
How to connect with Emily:
Follow me and my writing on instagram at @emilyearlenbaugh
Learn more about my consulting at mindfulcannabis.com