If you don’t or aren’t willing to make decisions for yourself, someone will be happy to make them for you. I know it’s more than three words but it’s advice I’ve learned to live by. Making decisions, and taking certain risks, are part of the real life living I feel we are designed to do. Deciding to do nothing, is also a decision and it’s important to take accountability and own that too.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Khadisha Thornhill.
A Black Canadian woman and single mom to a 14yr-old hockey fanatic, Khadisha is fluently bilingual after being born and raised in Montreal before moving to the GTA in 1994.
She’s a 20+ year property & casualty insurance industry professional with a background in teaching insurance courses, staff unit training & development and litigation management of complex bodily injury files from serious car accidents.
For fun, Khadisha played touch and flag football recreationally for 15 years before coaching her son’s flag teams, allowing her to pass down her love for the game to another generation. She’s also been certified in the past as a spin instructor.
While Khadisha’s journey into cannabis use is not novel, her path towards its advocacy is unique. Khadisha and her business partner Natalie Cox are co-founders of Afro Cannada Budsistas, a private online space created for Black women to discuss and normalize cannabis use. Founded only this past March 2020, their group has already grown to 400 members, primarily in Ontario and Quebec, with members joining daily from all across Canada. Through specified theme days, informational videos, live video feed interactions and virtual smaller group chats, they manage to provide a safe space for Black women to discuss everything from how to roll a joint for beginners, to where to buy cannabis and most importantly, how to grow your own. Slowly but very intentionally, they are reversing the negative and racially-motivated stigmas associated with cannabis use in the Black community. This couldn’t happen at a better time given that many of the women members first became acquainted during the very early and scary days of the covid-19 pandemic and lockdown. It’s now a bond they share, and the cannabis is what helps to get them all through relentless uncertainty, together.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I was tired of aimlessly searching for people like me. More specifically: Black women like me. I’m a risk management professional and single mom of an active teen. I work hard, workout, and socialize with my friends. I also love cannabis. I found that on the rare occasion I encountered other Black women who smoked, we found an instant kinship with one another. I was no longer satisfied, however, with the infrequency of these meetings. Natalie, on her own parallel journey, arrived at the same conclusion and together, we decided to build the village we were seeking.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
For so many of us, the journey with cannabis began in secret, or in hiding. The legalization of cannabis in Canada in 2018 through the passing of the Cannabis Act has brought the plant and all of its healing benefits to the forefront in a lot of communities and households. Unfortunately, the previous criminalization of Black men and women both young and old, has made legalization a controversial discussion in our Black community for an abundance of reasons, stemming from the impacts of white supremacy and the counter narcotics. We want to change that. We want to change the narrative of cannabis use in our community and normalize its use while educating those who are interested, about its almost limitless benefits.
We want Black women to feel comfortable using cannabis and it starts by educating others and normalizing its use in our community. Whether it is through tutorial instructions on how to roll a joint, which vaporizers are the best value, or anecdotal discussions on responsible edible dosing, women in our group engage daily with each other, giving tips, advice, jokes and kinship.
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?
Funniest mistakes, hmm when cannabis is involved, a large majority of our mistakes become hilarious. Sometimes we’ll struggle with getting the tech working properly. My business partner is 50 and I’m not too far behind her at 47. We will fight with things like poor wifi during our strategy sessions for about 20 minutes before her teenage daughter will make a simple suggestion like “why aren’t you guys just using your cell data to talk uninterrupted” and the lightbulb will go off for us “Right! Cellular! Regular call! Let’s!”
And because we are cannabis users, we will forget the next day and struggle over an app on wifi again. LOL
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
We have been really fortunate to have encountered an environment with an appetite for equity and justice here in the Canadian cannabis community. This has particularly held true for the amazing women in the cannabis industry here in Canada that I’ve encountered to date. Anne-Marie Fischer of Cannawrite, Michele Perrota of Mimi Cannabis and Kelly of Kelly’s Green Lounge definitely come to mind but so many have amplified our messages on their social media platforms and we’ve been so grateful. Tracy Lamourie, our amazing publicist has kept us very busy as well and guided us to some amazing opportunities. This is entirely uncharted territory for my partner and I. We have been humbled by the men and women who’ve taken the time to show us love or to guide us.
I can’t also emphasize enough how blessed we are to have our talented Budsistas membership community which is filled with some of the most talented, entrepreneurial and professional Black women I’ve had the fortune of meeting. Our website builder, and so many other helpful creatives and business minds have all contributed in some way to our success. To have this all happen organically is even more rewarding.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
As a racialized Black woman and mother to a Black son, I have to be mindful of whatever systems or structures others are actually trying to preserve. As recent history has shown us, there are legacy law enforcement, educational and economical hardships placed on my community designed intentionally by these very same systems. So in my view it’s hard not to see why these systems demand disruption. When I can see nothing has changed in the American judicial system that acquits Breonna Taylor’s murderers on the same day as Emmett Till’s 65 years later that’s an example of a disruption that not only never happened but is long overdue. Essentially injustices do not get corrected without societal disruption. I guess I’ll leave the more nuanced discussion of positives vs negatives to others who have that privilege. For me and my community at large, disruption can be a matter of life and death for us.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
If you don’t or aren’t willing to make decisions for yourself, someone will be happy to make them for you. I know it’s more than three words but it’s advice I’ve learned to live by. Making decisions, and taking certain risks, are part of the real-life living I feel we are designed to do. Deciding to do nothing, is also a decision and it’s important to take accountability and own that too.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
We are planning great things for our growing membership and movement. I’m really excited thinking about how great it will be for Black women to become more educated about medical cannabis and we also plan to teach them how to become their own growers, extractors and bakers. We plan to host mental health days across the country to not only inform Black women about the benefits of cannabis but to show that it’s not a bad or negative thing to use. We are in a pandemic so getting the messaging across will have its challenges however we are leveraging the tech available to us and together my partner and I are committed to push through. The cannabis industry in Canada is still growing. We plan to make sure product marketers do not forget about Black women and our consumerism needs. We aren’t going anywhere and our membership is only going to grow further.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
I can only speak for myself however as a Black woman, every time I enter male-dominated spaces I’m reminded that I’m expected to be there. In my professional life, I have faced assumptions that perhaps I’m an event staffer, or that I answer to a male counterpart higher-up. This has taught me that no one will ask or even care for my input. I’ve learned to say it anyway. Even if mine is the last voice heard in the meeting or conference.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
We’re excited because we just started taping our Peace & Light Sis! Podcast and while it’s still in the infancy stages, we are tackling a lot of great topics such as the revelations and acceptance of a Black mom’s cannabis use to her children (and how to have the age-appropriate discussions). We discuss how Black women are socially compelled to hide their cannabis use professional while white male counterparts for example can have their oil on conference tables for their use as needed. We also discuss a lot of issues that affect the Black community intensely and very specifically such as anxiety, mental illness and managing symptoms using cannabis while facing scorn or ignorance by relatives. We even discuss relationships with partners who are not cannabis users, and the nuance of being involved with someone who has their own negative perceptions of the plant.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to see Black women valued and respected far more worldwide. We are constantly overlooked, while being depended upon to be gatekeepers to decency and common sense in many of the environments we enter. Cannabis use has helped me to own my personal space and agency over my voice in a world that has felt particularly violent, anti-Black and anti-woman for the last few years. I think teaching the wonders of the cannabis plant to Black women globally could have wonderful impact on not only our community’s mental and physical health but for all global citizens.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
If no one is going to give me a seat at the table, I’ll just make my own and pull up. I know it’s not a classic figure of speech but it truly aligns with my perspective and approach on life and anything new I begin. Coming from a long line of Black women in Canada (since the late 1700s) I think the disruptor gene is literally embedded within my DNA and it has served me well.
How can our readers follow you online?
We’d love everyone to check out our social media handles: @afrocannadabudsistas and @ms_weedwiki We feature one of our members every Monday!
Our website is also live and can be found at www.afrocannadabudsistas.com.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!