Elana Frankel: “Listen, learn, help then lead”

Oscar Wilde: “You don’t love someone for their looks, or their clothes or their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear.” Find that person who hears your song and partner with him/her/them in life, love and/or business. As a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis […]

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Oscar Wilde: “You don’t love someone for their looks, or their clothes or their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear.” Find that person who hears your song and partner with him/her/them in life, love and/or business.

As a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elana Frankel.

Elana Frankel is the founder of IndigoandHaze.com, a plant-based marketplace for health, wellness and living, that provides access (to quality products), education (to learn the truth and unlearn the disinformation) and inspiration (good design sells). Elana serves as the founding Editor-in-Chief of Women and Weed, a biannual magazine sold on mainstream newsstands that focuses on the power of personal narratives to bring a better understanding to complex cannabis issues. She is the author of the book Women and Weed and a cannabis yoga teacher, 200-hours with Nosara and continuing training with Lit Yoga, as well as a meditation mentor. She is an activist and frequent public speaker on cannabis/wellness and consults regularly with companies who value creative thinking. Elana’s previous work as a creative director, editor and writer has appeared in the Wall Street Journal’s Off Duty, The New York Times and The New York Time’s magazine, New York Magazine, Architectural Digest and Martha Stewart Living, among others.

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

I have been in the cannabis industry for 30 years, 25 below ground and 6 above. For years, as a responsible recreational user, I considered my values, attitude, experiences and personality, and my physical and social circumstances when consuming, but never equated it with health and wellness. However, I went public after I suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and healed c/o the plant.

I was at Art Basel Miami with some friends at a dinner and had just ordered appetizers. I stood up, and said I wasn’t feeling well. Next thing I know, I opened my eyes and was having cat scan. I had fallen and fractured my skull. No one knows the details and, most likely, neither will I. I know that I had a 4-inch fracture at the back of my skull and the impact was so great that it thrust my head forward, knocked my brain into my skull and damaged my frontal lobe and nerves. I woke up unable to speak, slurring and garbling words and sentences. I was unable to focus nor was I able to take in light, loud noises or even multiple conversations. I looked and sounded like a stroke victim. Side note 1: It was a busy night at Miami General so there were no single rooms. I was put next to an older man with Tourette’s Syndrome, so you can imagine, under these circumstances how (in retrospect) it was hilarious to feel and act like a stroke victim while listening to some one shouting and cursing all night. Apparently I kept asking for morphine with the universal sign of pressing my thumb into my fist.

The hospital thought I had epilepsy and put me on anti-seizure meds. Then they thought I fainted, so put me on another round of meds. Finally, they allowed me to leave the hospital after a week but with the understanding that the only way I could get to NY was via an airplane with an Air Marshall trained in TBIs. Side note 2: My mom got me on a flight where I was one of 15 people in wheel chairs, with noise cancelling headphones, giant sunglasses, wide brimmed hat and blankets. I was on a TBI flight.

Back to NY. Saw a whole lot of neurologists (because everyone in NY knows someone who knows a doctor) and they all said the same thing: Bed rest until swelling goes down. Then we can determine the damage. How long? 1–3 years. That’s when my husband said: No. After 3 days of bed rest, he came to me and said we need to figure out an alternative. He researched and came up with . Now, 6 years ago, very few people had heard of in New York, let alone where to get it. But he knew that if he told me that research was being done in Israel with soldiers who suffered brain injuries and that it was a new, non-intoxicating plant extract, I would be motivated. Side note 3: When he suggested the plant and I said there was no way I was getting stoned, it sounded like this: blah blah garble garble.

Next, find some Not that easy but we had some connections. People sent products but we had no idea about dosage, timing, protocol. So, trial and error, start low and slow, until I found the right combination. Then, I began to feel better. A lot better. So much so that I started to go back to work a few days a week. Then, I started to feel a lot better. And it had been 6 months. I started to understand the plant. I quit my job and launched Indigo and Haze to provide a curated experience. One year later, I launched a magazine, Women and Weed to help better educate readers about the plant.

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?

Imagine keeping all the cannabis acronyms sorted out as a TBIed person. I had flashcards from THC and to THCa and CBG.

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?

My husband, who didn’t hesitate to support the idea when I said: “Honey, I am quitting my job to start a cannabis business.”

Dr. Junella Chin, who is the smartest doctor, educator and business women in the industry and teaches me something every time we see each other.

Jeanne Sullivan, savvy investor, creative thinker and great public speaker.

Every woman of color in the industry.

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

Indigo and Haze is expanding our merchandising offering, marketing efforts and educational platform. We are excited to take it to the next level with new partnerships. My Women and Weed book amplifies the core mission: connect, learn and get inspired through storytelling. Videos are next!

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.

How about four: Listen, learn, help then lead.

I LISTEN to those who have been in the industry/movement before me.

I LEARN from scientists, researchers, innovators, activists and educators.

When asked, I HELP those who need it and found ways to be of service.

I LEAD through example: When an activist becomes an entrepreneur, you champion advancement for all combined with business savvy and advocacy.

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

-Education. Great new online companies that focus on education before medication and providing the tools for people (consumers, health professionals and bud tenders) to learn about the plant.

-Packaging designs, especially ones featuring artist collaborations, and that focus on ingredients and dosage.

-Cannabis and creativity. Cannabis users’ openness to experience is responsible for higher levels of creativity. Don’t tell me to think outside the box. There is no box.

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?

Keep big growers in check. Permits to cap outdoor and indoor farming. No limit on total number of growers, but each grower would be limited to an ownership stake in only one grow facility. Manageable application process.

Research: More needs to be done. Universities grow and process cannabis for educational purposes. Then destroy it.

Our vets need legal access ASAP.


Water rights, waste management, supply chain. Let’s keep all that in check.

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?

It’s an experiment in the powers and limits of federalism, and it has created states operating an economy outside of federal law. With every new state that legalizes (the trend continues and each state’s legalization law improves upon the one before it), the contradictions are amplified. Research restrictions have led to law enforcement with little information on how to react (rather than be proactive) and federal researchers struggle. Banking regulations challenge cannabis-related businesses. Veterans risk losing benefits for treating anxiety and PTSD, even if it is fully legal in their state.

Federal legalization must include:

-Prioritizing the consumer

-Correcting social justice problems

-Growing cannabis at home

-Mindfulness of both microgrowers and big growers

-Expungement of cannabis criminal records

-Delivery options

-Balancing regulation between federal and state

-Keeping control of the state’s industry in the hands of the locals

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?

The plant is about therapeutics, treatment. I prefer to think of the industry much like the early years of e-commerce. A summary from the 1992 book, Future Shop: How Technologies Will Change The Way We Shop And What We Buy: “For hundreds of years the marketplace has been growing more complex and more confusing for consumers to navigate. New information technologies, combined with innovative public policies, could help consumers overcome that confusion.” We, the people, can make this work, find solutions and keep the plant accessible.

PS Some reports claim that the first online transaction was marijuana sold by Stanford students to MIT students via the Arpanet account at their artificial intelligence lab in 1972.

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

Oscar Wilde: “You don’t love someone for their looks, or their clothes or their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear.” Find that person who hears your song and partner with him/her/them in life, love and/or business.

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. 🙂

Be the person you needed when you were just starting out.

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