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Dianna Donnelly of Canna Clarity: “Systemic problems require multiple modes of action”

I’m excited about the normalization of home cultivation. I’m a legal user for depression and anxiety and I get as much benefit from cultivation as I do from the cannabinoids within the plants I grow. I’m excited for the day when we can source or grow more of these herbs safely and affordably. As a […]

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I’m excited about the normalization of home cultivation. I’m a legal user for depression and anxiety and I get as much benefit from cultivation as I do from the cannabinoids within the plants I grow. I’m excited for the day when we can source or grow more of these herbs safely and affordably.


As a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of Dianna Donnelly.

Dianna took an obsession and turned it into a career. In 2012 she began blogging and dared to pitch “Gifts From Mother Nature” to Marco Renda of Treating Yourself Magazine. That began a multi-year unpaid internship of writing voluntary submissions to sites like Ladybud.com, IllegallyHealed.com, CannabisLifeNetwork.com and many more. By reading and hearing thousands of personal testimonials online and as a Cannabis counselor, Dianna learns more about plant medicine to this day. She believes that whether dosing or growing Cannabis, the empirical knowledge we are building will affect positive change. Today Dianna owns Canna Clarity, a freelance writing and consulting company and lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada with her hubby Jay. She is also part of the Boveda Cannabis social media team and has been working and writing for Boveda remotely for three years. As a medical grower, Dianna is proving that big things can grow in small places. She calls her eighth floor apartment garden “heaven on the eighth” wherein she’s growing all forms of Cannabis, three types of Tobacco, Peyote, and many other unique plants that are legal to cultivate in Canada. Cannabis, gardening, and writing are all tools Dianna uses to manage her mental wellness. Need help dosing, choosing, growing or infusing your plant medicine? Canna Clarity can help!


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?

Like so many other Cannabis consumers, it was my own health issues that led me to seek plant medicine. Once I realized that Cannabinoids could help me see the bright side, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. My artistic forte is writing so I began blogging and pitching my articles as free submissions to print magazines like Treating Yourself and sites like ladybug.com, illegallyhealed.com, cannabinslifenetwork.com, theWeedBlog and many others. At last count, I’ve written over 100 voluntary submissions. To write those articles however, I spent hours reading studies and patient testimonials — successful and not successful ones. Luckily, through multiple platforms the Cannabis community provides constant information updates. With this knowledge I was hired to counsel new patients at Canadian Cannabis Clinics. The 14 months I spent working on the face to face and email counseling teams legitimized my knowledge even more. This job also introduced me to anxiety, something I didn’t know I had. As is the norm these days, training was minimal and when that first clinic day arrived, so did the elephant on my chest at 4 am. Every single clinic day I had at CCC began this way along with vomiting, shortness of breath, illogical fear of the day ahead. I then began treating the anxiety with vaped CBD. While my co-workers smoked ciggies, my PAX and I vaped CBD flower morning, noon & afternoon break. Today, of the 15 plants currently growing in my garden, 12 of them are higher in CBD content than in THC content. Experience and personal need has evolved what plant cultivars I grow and will continue to do so as my health evolves. With the news what it is, my current ailment is anxiety and I treat it with vaped, smoked, or ingested homegrown with much more CBD than THC.Soon after beginning at CCC, I was approached by a new site called Roottie.com and offered five cents per word. I jumped at the chance. Being a Cannabis patient working as a Cannabis counsellor at the time, I purposely wrote about things that would help the patient. I was getting Boveda packs in my legal orders and after learning about them and then using them, I wrote “The Magical Boveda Pack”. The then VP of Marketing at Boveda read that article and hired me to help write Cannabis content for the Boveda Blog. Among other articles, I wrote a 15 part Boveda Home Grow Journal. Today I’m on the Boveda Cannabis social media team and represent the company on several grow forums and facebook pages as the voice of the home grower.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

By the time I started Canna Clarity, I had over a dozen years of research and writing plus fourteen months of counselling. Being a patient myself, I understood the program and the plant very well. Because of this, my reactions to the typical jokes or comments have changed and the subsequent reactions are very interesting. What I learned is that people who are curious about Cannabis will break the ice with a joke or a typical comment because it feels safe. The first time was with a neighbor and the conversation went like this:
“Hey girl, where are you workin’ now?”
“I work at a clinic helping people get legal to use Cannabis”.
“Oh ya, helpin’ all the stoners eh?”
“Helpin’ them kill their pain!” 
She leans in and with a serious face says, 
“I hear it’s even good for diabetes eh? Maybe I should come over and talk to ya sometime.”
“Yes, it helps diabetics in several different ways. Come over any time and we’ll chat!”
Stigma is normalized so being overheard using old verbiage is safer for the majority people. Once you show them that you’re willing to engage regardless, then magic happens. This interaction has happened so many times and I learn from every single one.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

She should not have received that oil but an error occurred and that was it for her. She was a believer in THC and threatened to cancel her yearly cruise to Cuba if she couldn’t take it with her. Her hubby looked at me like “what the heck have we done?” That part was especially difficult for me because I too would never and have never traveled where I could not take my medicine. In fact, we had to switch her to the other Doctor just to ensure that she could continue to buy the 1:1 oil! I had to advocate for her, and I did. She was a very active senior and even told her friends at curling and euchre how great she felt. Tetrahydrocannabinol gave this woman back her joie de vive! The lessons I learned from this experience were numerous! Listen to the patient! Dosage is key — the difference between a panacea and a poison is dosage. An oil of 12% THC & CBD dosed at 0.5 mls thrice daily will almost completely relieve the neuralgia pain many feel from diabetes and other chronic conditions. THC lessens the negative bias that chronic pain & so many other issues creates. I knew this from my own experience but seeing the life that came back to her and so many other patients was life-changing for me. It was at times like the change in the Mad King after the Wormtongue’s curse was lifted.

Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?

When I was hired at Canadian Cannabis Clinics, I was working as a taxi call-taker. When I told my buddy and co-worker Marcus, he jovially said, “Oh wow, so you’ll be talking about Cannabis to people who actually want to hear what you’re saying! That’ll be new eh?!” Sounds harsh but he learned to be a really great listener. I mean, he was a captive audience hooked in with headphones, a fact I took advantage of weekly boring him with random Cannabis info and examples of platonic animal relationships.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Cannabis was able to show me the bright side when no other medicine would. I thank the many nameless, faceless individuals who supplied my Cannabis needs before I became a legal patient. I was 28 years old and had tried five psych medications by the time I realized that Cannabinoids from a plant could lower my negative bias. It took me a very long time to realize that it wasn’t just coincidence that my depression literally lifted when I partook. In time, I realized that using Cannabis gave me none of the biological side effects I had experienced with psych meds. Had those individuals not helped me out, I’d never have learned this. So I thank the demographic we now call the legacy market, black market, or what I lovingly call the original market. These individuals risked their lives and freedoms to provide me with the dried flowers of a plant. Heck, many even fronted me until payday, something no legal Cannabis producer will do.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Five years ago I started a Youtube account to post videos about my experience as a legal Cannabis patient and grower. This was also a really great way for me to discuss my evolving need and understanding of CBD. One poor quality video titled “Anxiety Sucks!! CBD Helps!” has been viewed 4758 times in three years! So over the past year I’ve been slowly building the groundwork for much better quality videos. My hubby and I live in a 675 square foot apartment. My office and video/photo backdrop is the NW corner of our bedroom and iis finally coming together — green screen and all! This means that all of my media will improve in quality.

Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Despite great progress that has been made we still have a lot more work to do to achieve gender parity in this industry. According to this report in Entrepreneur, less than 25 percent of cannabis businesses are run by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support greater gender parity moving forward?

Systemic problems require multiple modes of action. My mind always goes to the root of the problem — or what I perceive it to be. Society has a problem with misogyny. Like the movie with the kid who sees dead people, I see misogynists everywhere and they don’t know they’re misogynists! The past century has made misogyny not only the norm but the cool and the comedic too. Many men I know who are not misogynists have made sexist jokes merely because of the company they were in. It’s a tough crowd when even describing a woman’s body using correct verbiage will get you teased; while using derogatory slang would not. 
1a)What can the individual do? Be vigilant to shining a light on inequality. Demand equal pay for equal work and demand that the same currency be used to calculate remuneration. For instance knowledge, skills, and experience should reflect the same monetary figure regardless of gender. When we can and as difficult as it is, we should not settle for remuneration below our worth. b)If misogyny can be normalized then so too can equality be. I take comfort in the fact that perceptions can be changed with respectful dialogue and education. c) Yet, many women like myself have trouble with self promotion. For many of us, it’s much easier and natural to pitch or rave about someone else. I began a few years ago seeing women gathering like they were being pulled together by an unseen force. They were purposely promoting each other. Most of us can ride that horse if only we were given the leg-up. You can imagine the results when more and more women and girls begin or continue to do this. With more women in the spotlight showing their value, equal pay for knowledge will become normalized. 
2)What can companies do? a)Refer to #1a when hiring. Realize the power and existence of misogyny in marketing and be consistent to avoid it. Be fresh! If using the female body as a prop is the norm, pull a Costanza and do the opposite! Imagine how quickly perceptions would change! b) Respect experience over age or schooling. Normally this isn’t the case but in this industry, the 30 year old who has been immersed in the industry using the product for a decade will know more than the medical professional with dozens of years of schooling. To illustrate, when my legalizing Doctor assesses friends of mine she tells them to contact me if they require any assistance. When we worked together we encouraged all of our patients to eat their green in one form or another.c) Understand that the majority of women respond to women so your staff picture, your information panels, podcast hosts and guests, marketing and communication should show that you’re aware of this. Too many speaking panels are what were once referred to as “man-els” or as I refer to them, “sausage parties” where every single person on the team is male. In a world where 52% of the population is female, this boggles my mind.
3) What can Society do? Use the technique taught in cognitive behavioral therapy where you recognize negative thinking and challenge the thought. So as a society, we need to challenge the norms of our thinking when it comes to gender disparity everywhere — especially parents! Double standards exist in almost all of our grey matter because as mentioned, misogyny is normalized. Like negative thinking, half the battle is recognizing the thought or the perception so you can challenge it. But the brain is a muscle and so we become sharper to recognize our own incorrect thinking. This is where writing and marketing can help immensely. For instance, we’re already seeing most of the industry switch from using the word “strain” to using the more botanically correct term of “cultivar”.

You are a “Cannabis Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive things one should know to succeed in the cannabis industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each.

1-Realize that the only reason this industry exists is because humans all over the world realized that Cannabis is medicine and refused to not take no for an answer. Because of this, it follows that we are witnessing humanity’s longest human safety trial and those labeled with the word “chronic” will be your greatest sources of knowledge.

2-The difference between THC & CBD and what they can do when combined. I like to say that if THC is the hot air balloon; CBD is the rope holding it down. Or if THC is the hook on the fishing rod; CBD is the bobber holding it up off the bottom. Patients combine these two cannabinoids for various reasons in various different ratios to avoid sedative side effects and to lengthen and ameliorate effects.

3-The crucial role of terpenes for helping the cannabinoids uplift, relax, or sedate. I like to think of whole plant medicine as a band of musicians. THC & CBD are the lead singers but Terpenes and lesser Cannabinoids are the back up band. The difference can be like Dance Music to Diana Krall. And, you need the band; the unplugged version is not as efficacious. The entourage effect of all cannabinoids is real.

4-The Endocannabinoid System & its role in health. When activated, this whole body receptor system all mammals and many organisms have, helps all other body systems work better. Polypharmacy is warned against and so when this system is activated, patients are able to stop taking some other medications that hold side effects. In addition, combining some pharma meds with cannabinoids can result in better therapy.

5-That Cannabis is just a plant. We’re all zoned in on this family genus cannabaceae but if we pulled out to the macro view we’d see it’s just one of millions of plants with medicinal compounds. Aspirin or Salicylic acid, one of the most commonly ingested medications on the market is derived from the bark of the While Willow Tree. And yes, some people still ingest it that way.

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the cannabis industry?

1-Cannabis and other plant medicine replacing pharmaceuticals excites me. Contraindications are real and medication side effects are a main reason why people experiment with cannabinoid therapy.

2-I’m excited about the normalization of home cultivation. I’m a legal user for depression and anxiety and I get as much benefit from cultivation as I do from the cannabinoids within the plants I grow. I’m excited for the day when we can source or grow more of these herbs safely and affordably.

3-Because of #2, I’m excited for the definition of “quality Cannabis” to evolve. Most home growers still hand trim and so we see that in their natural form, dried Cannabis flower buds have many little hairs called pistils! Very few Cannabis flowers are smooth as a baby’s bottom yet many new users see the smooth hard nug as superior. Also, the biggest difference for me between home grown vs regulated and possibly irradiated Cannabis is the abundance of terpenes. Irradiation deteriorates terpenes and for me they’re a major part of the medicine.

Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?

I worry that if irradiation normalization continues, in 10 years the new user won’t know what quality cannabis smells like due to irradiation and unrealistic microbial counts. Some people cannot grow their own so they must be able to source quality cannabis with all medicinal qualities it had upon harvest.
Price concerns me. My first year of being a legal patient and buying from Canadian licensed producers, I chased the $5 gram from producer to producer. Then overnight the price jumped from $5 to $6.50 per gram. My script was five grams per day because I make edibles and oils. That’s $10 more per day for the very same medicine. Today the prices are much higher though the cost per gram has come down substantially. My cost per gram is about $1 but those who grow outdoors can get their cost per gram to below 35 cents per gram. 
Big Industry — Big Tobacco or Big GMO — taking over seed production concerns me. Some people believe in genetic modification yet every gmo plant will try to seed. If it succeeds, it passes down epigenetic changes that nature can no longer control. For instance, GMO corn stalks are so tough they can now pierce the humongous tractor tire. I see enough reason to be concerned with all of the hermie or stress-seeds that are being grown out or even sold as legitimately bred seeds. For this reason, I’ve been behaving like a squirrel before winter, hoarding all kinds of seeds. If I purchase and then store correctly, I could have all the seeds I need. I’ve even started collecting my own pollen from male plants for future seed-breeding!
REFORMS are difficult because fixing the root problem to meet the current standards of study is an incredibly expensive and time-consuming endeavor. Who pays that bill? In a world of capitalism-in-healthcare, it has been deemed “unfair” to allow Cannabinoid therapy to be seen as equal to pharmaceuticals because of the arduous approval process that they require. This was a sentiment used in Canada to justify the taxation of medical Cannabis making all legal Cannabis products the only medicine in Canada to be taxed. But here goes …
We need a diplomatic body to begin collecting Cannabis genetics. In the Canadian medical program, the greatest dominance one can buy is 40/60 Indica Sativa. Some of us have never experienced what pure Indica or pure sativa feels like! Proprietary seeds, hybridization is homogenizing our plant and giving rise to the belief that there is no difference between Indica and Sativa. Ask almost any Veteran using Cannabis for PTSD if there’s a difference. Many cannot touch anything Sativa.
In countries where regulation exists, I would create recycling programs that align the producer with a regulatory body. This would ensure programs that aim to reduce waste and environmental damage are adhered to. Self-regulation in a world of capitalism is and always was naïve.
Create programs that allow and even encourage cultivation of almost all plants. These include rentals of all kinds that offer the right to grow written in the lease. Or even rentals with turn-key/plug-in grow rooms. In addition, funding for more community gardens so that those of who can grow, can teach those of us who cannot yet garden successfully. I believe horticulture is in our DNA or we wouldn’t still be here.

What are your thoughts about federal legalization of cannabis? If you could speak to your Senator, what would be your most persuasive argument regarding why they should or should not pursue federal legalization?

Mental health is where my personal experience lies so I would speak on that. Conventional psych medications are seen as safe, effective, and the first line of defense for depression, anxiety and other psychiatric conditions. If it has a DIN; they’ll quickly prescribe it. For some, psych meds are effective but for many they are not and the side effects outweigh the benefits. For me, these meds had detrimental biological effects. If I were to bend the ear of my provincial regulator, I would urge them to consider that no medicine is benign. Yet psych meds are prescribed far too often with far too few clarifying tests or even questions asked. Another way that these medications are over prescribed is for grief after the death of a loved one. The DSM-4 published in 1952 contained a “bereavement exclusion” meaning it was not supported for Doctors to prescribe antidepressants in such cases. This exclusion was removed from the DSM-5 published in 2013. Now, grief is a major reason for prescribing psych meds. When all studies, side effects, dependence and addiction is considered, plant medicine is safer. For instance, recently a loved one experienced what CBD can do for the brain. This individual was grieving and cried herself to sleep every night until she tried CBD oil. In the morning she realized that for the first time since her father’s passing, she’d been able to fall asleep without tears. As I explained, CBD helps the brain feel calm and relaxed. We need voices in regulation stating this without fear of censorship from those who profit. Currently, physicians do not encourage their patients to try Cannabinoid therapy even if it’s legal simply because they’ve never been trained in it. The best you can hope for is a referral to another clinic in a whole other location. To me, the goal is for cannabinoid therapy to be another choice for the prescribing physician. Having felt the debilitating effects of having to detox from numerous psych meds, I believe that the do no harm oath is not being followed. It’s high time western medicine and cannabis medicine merge for the benefit of the patient not for profit.

Today, cigarettes are legal, but they are heavily regulated, highly taxed, and they are somewhat socially marginalized. Would you like cannabis to have a similar status to cigarettes or different? Can you explain?

Anthropologically speaking, inhalation was likely the second or third way that prehistoric humans experimented with the plants they found. They’d chew on it, boil it in water to drink, or burn it to smell or inhale the smoke. Part of me feels like inhalation for medicinal or recreational purposes is akin to a human right. It’s a must-keep, a must-have. I’ve been a barfer my whole life until I realized that inhaling the smoke or vapor from cannabis of almost any kind, will ease my nausea within seconds. So from a patient standpoint, prerolls should be and are, an option in Canada as is dry bud and preground bud. From a recreational consumer standpoint, I think they should be taxed but not as harshly as something as harmful as cigarettes.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Experience isn’t what happens to you but what you do with what happens to you.”-Aldous Huxley
Over the past decade or so, I’ve begun to embrace this quote as a way of life. Maybe it was “show n’ tell” in school but nothing makes me happier than doing something and then telling people about it. Aren’t we all just sitting around the campfire sharing experiences anyways? For me, fulfilling this anthropological need of seeing all others as pack members I can help, is now an antidepressant for me. With social media what it is and what it is becoming, I can reach almost every demographic.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

To grow more wee greens all year long, in many different ways. As chided as the term “woke” is of late, we really need to wake up to capitalism. Every single day we give away our power by buying things that we could easily grow or make. 
Awaken to the Sun, free energy to grow wee greens. 
Awaken to the many cost-free ways that we can grow, ferment, or make our food.
Awaken to the fact that we can grow and then collect our own cost-free seeds.
Awaken to the fact that creating is living and so when you give life to seed, your core purpose deepens.
I read a study from Austria recently. The goal was to see what effect, if any, the human has on the plant. Using two separate grow rooms of common Marigolds, the researchers gave identical feed and light regimens to both rooms. The only difference was how they treated the plants on an energetic level. While tending to the plants the researchers spoke positive affirmations to and thought positive thoughts while in the vicinity of the first group of Marigolds. They then did the opposite to the second group of Marigolds.
When the study was over the results were clear. Positivity has an effect that we recognize as normal and healthy. Negativity has a much stronger effect. The Marigolds in the one room were pristine and in perfect health while the Marigolds that were criticized, had few flowers, poor overall health, and many succumbed to pest infestation.
The benefit of growing wee greens has a cyclical boomerang effect. It isn’t long before one realizes that what you put out into the garden; comes back to you in the bounty. There is a life lesson in there somewhere. Perhaps just buried deeply enough to grow.

Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you only continued success!

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