Giving Cannabis the Respect She Deserves

One day while entrepreneur and environmental activist Salimeh Tabrizi, M.Ed., was meditating, the cannabis plant came to her in a vision as an infuriated goddess of compassion. “She was tired of being abused, misused, misunderstood, and prostituted,” Tabrizi says. “She demanded reverence.”


Tabrizi was called to action. She created the Cannabis Hemp Conference and Expo (CHCE), one of Canada's largest and only women-run cannabis conferences, with 50 presenters and more than 900 attendees. The fourth annual conference will be held May 6 and 7, 2017, at The Nest, the University of British Columbia’s beautiful new LEED Platinum-certified building. An important conference goal, Tabrizi says, is “giving thanks to cannabis for all that she gives.”

A diverse group of environmentally sensitive experts—including doctors, researchers, biologists, authors, artists, naturopaths, growers, activists, historians, entrepreneurs, industry experts, and more—will discuss growing cannabis outdoors without toxic chemicals and “being mindful, respectful, non-abusive or addictive,” Tabrizi says. Workshops will cover everything from cannabis and health to cooking and juicing to organic growing methods. Master holistic growers Susan Sheldon, David Bernard-Perron and Travis Lane will offer hands-on garden wisdom, Vancouver’s own cannabis activist and advocate Mary Jean Dunsdon (“Water Melon”) will do a cooking demonstration, and musician John Sheldon (Susan’s husband) will provide cannabis-inspired ceremonial music. Every individual who steps into “the container of the conference” helps co-create a gathering about community and working together, Tabrizi says.

“Ultimately,” she adds, “it’s about self-empowerment and leading with your heart for the plants.”

Tabrizi is appalled that cannabis has been “degraded, prostituted, villainized, stigmatized, and imprisoned—grown indoors without natural light and air.” She’ll never forget visiting a Canadian grower who looked over a prize plant and said, “I want to see how much this bitch can get me.”

“That,” she says, “is incredibly disrespectful and abusive.”

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Cannabis and Ayahuasca, Plant Medicine Teachers

Tabrizi immigrated to Canada from Iran when she was nine. She earned a master’s degree in education in counseling psychology from the University of British Columbia in 2015 but practiced counseling for only a year. A seasoned ayahuasca journeyer, she got a message during ceremony in the Peruvian Amazon in 2016 that she should step into an integration counsellor role, helping people integrate their ayahuasca experiences into their day-to-day lives. For the past four years, she has assisted during ayahuasca ceremonies and post-ceremony integration, sharing grounding tools with people whose lives may have been turned upside down after drinking ayahuasca.

“Madre (Mama Ayahuasca) told me that her medicine was being wasted because people were drinking, then drinking, then drinking again and not doing the integration work when they returned home, so they were not fully experiencing positive changes and continued to repeat the same patterns and programming,” Tabrizi says. “These plant medicines ultimately want to help and support us in connecting to our higher selves. Using ayahuasca or cannabis—or any plant medicine—as a crutch is not a way to empowerment.”

Ayahuasca and cannabis have been important teachers for Tabrizi. When she began communing with cannabis, it amplified her anxiety, and her mind raced. “She would kick my ass!” Tabrizi says. She spent years learning to calm down and slow down so she could be at peace with cannabis.

“I didn’t have access to cannabis in high school, so I didn’t try it until my first year at university, and I actually hallucinated,she says. “My focus, intention and willingness to work allowed me to work through blocks to self-love and love for others, clear away the fear, and welcome in empowerment.”

Cannabis as the Goddess of Compassion

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Tabrizi’s plant medicines have taught her big lessons about being a spiritual female within the male corporate realm. She often sees cannabis in visions as the goddess of compassion, generous but asserting her boundaries.

“Cannabis is saying, ‘Enough is enough, guys!’” Tabrizi says. “No more pushing things under the rug, no more sweeping things behind the door, no more polite pretending. Instead, we’re learning to speak the truth from our hearts without being aggressive or hostile.”

Tabrizi believes the plants have an agenda; they want all of nature—including humans—to live together in balance. She once had a vision in which ayahuasca vines grew up from the ground and wrapped up and around her body to her throat, where they became a snake that said, “I own you, right?” Tabrizi stood up to her. “No, you don’t,” she said. “We are co-creating together.” The vines let go and burst into flowers. The snake came back and said, “Just checking.”

Intrigued by “the plant spirit sisterhood of ayahuasca and cannabis,” Tabrizi sees the cannabis liberation movement and the ayahuasca Amazon liberation movement as connected. The plants are reaching out for help. “If we don’t go back to our heart and the heart of our planet, we’re going to perish,” she says. “The social, humanitarian and environmental causes must be at the forefront of the conversation and then back to our personal journeys, but this is now a collective re-evolution of humans.”

Tabrizi cites Eastern healers throughout the centuries who have explained over and over again that “we are nature and that nature teaches us about balance and joy and well-being.”

During a one-month-long solo trip to Brazil, Tabrizi visited with the Indigenous tribes of the Yawanawa and drank ayahuasca under their sacred samauma tree. The Yawanawa receive guidance directly from the wise grandmother, she explains, and the sacred samauma tree told her it has the secret for how to save the Amazon. She will return to Peru and Brazil to sit under the samauma tree again. 

“The plants are urging us to clean up our act and regulate ourselves so we live in harmony with nature and save the lungs of our planet,” Tabrizi says. “Greed, exploitation, and blind consumption will destroy us if we don't choose an alternative path.”

Humans’ mistreatment of cannabis is a strong statement about where we are as a species, she adds. “The faster cannabis is free to come out of the darkness and into the light, the faster we, too, can reconnect with nature and reach for the sunlight, breathe in again, and let our roots grow deeper, reaching out to others.”

The Cannabis and Hemp Conference and Expo moves that agenda forward while fostering committed community with an impressive roster of inspired presenters. Including the keynote speakers, bestselling author Graham Hancock, hemp activist Anndrea Hermann, ethnobotanist and medicine hunter Chris Kilham, and neurologist and leading cannabis researcher Dr. Ethan Russo. Dr. Natasha Ryz, PhD, will discuss cannabis for gut health and skin care. Jodie Emery, who along with her husband, Marc, was recently arrested and stripped of her businesses, Cannabis Culture stores and vapor lounges and a TV service, will give a report.

“This is a very confusing time in the fight to liberate cannabis in Canada,” Tabrizi says. Officials made an example of the Emerys, who ran technically illegal but generally tolerated dispensaries across the country, before adult use becomes legal in Canada in 2018, she adds. “The old paradigm is breaking, and parts of the government are just clutching at straws. There has never been such a wealth of information and research on the practical, therapeutic, medicinal and environmental uses of Cannabis and the overall acceptance and understanding of the general public is taking place. Viva liberation!”

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