What are cannabis coaches and how can they help close the cannabis education gap?

If your first experience with alcohol was a night spent chugging a gallon of rotgut, people would probably understand if you became a teetotaler. But what about with cannabis? In the absence of guidance or know-how, can people get turned off for good?

“For me my biggest fear is always that someone will try cannabis once and have a really bad experience with it and then never be open to trying it again,” Andrea Meharg, the cannabis science education partner at the Cannabis Coaching Institute and the head of the cannabis coaching and education programs at Reveal Cannabis told The Cannigma this week. 

Along with Corinne Tobias, the co-founder and program director of the Cannabis Coaching Institute, Meharg spoke with The Cannigma about the importance of cannabis coaching in this golden era of legal weed, and how their own journey as patients led them to become cannabis coaches. 

Corinne has worked with people from all over the world to improve their health with cannabis (Cannabis Coaching Institute)

“I was a patient trying to find out the best information I could about using cannabis to help me with what I was dealing with,” Tobias said. 

The author of three cannabis cookbooks, Tobias said that while she was doing research for her cookbook Wake and Bake, she “started to see how much confusing and conflicting information was out there. It was really hard to navigate even back then as a patient.”

Tobias, who was using cannabis to treat pain and a degenerative disc disease, said that she realized that there was a knowledge gap, and that “people needed a lot more support than they were being given by doctors and by people who worked in dispensaries and so it became kind of an obsession – how do we best support people as they navigate this plant because it shouldn’t be on the consumer to do all this research and know all this stuff.”

Tobias said that it was a multi-year process for her to figure out which cannabis products work and don’t work for her, and her decision to enter the health and wellness industry was made in part to help other people on this journey. 

Tobias published Wake and Bake in 2013, began coaching in 2016, and two years later co-founded the institute.  

Like Tobias, Meharg said that her journey began as a patient, when she used cannabis to help pull herself out of severe depression. 

“It was cannabis that brought me completely out of the depression and allowed me to change and do a 180 on my life. I had the same frustrations as Corinne that it took me forever to figure out what was working and my family doctor didn’t agree with [cannabis] and my cannabis doctor gave me no actionable advice.”

A teacher with close to 20 years of experience, Andrea is a Cannabis Coaching Institute student turned Instructor (Cannabis Coaching Institute)

A look at the legal cannabis industry in 2021 makes it pretty clear why people like Tobias and Meharg have been drawn towards coaching. 

Why medical cannabis users need guidance

From cannabis-infused syrups and balms to “canna cigars,” moon rocks, sunrocks, and nano-emulsified cannabis beverages, the world of marijuana in 2021 is an entire solar system reaching far, far beyond pot brownies and pinners of brick weed. It’s no real stretch to call this a golden age of cannabis, but like any golden age, there can be those who fall between the cracks. With so much variety on the shelves, how does the average consumer know how to easily and effectively hone in on what will work best for them? And in the absence of reliable, well-informed advice from healthcare professionals, how can medical cannabis patients be confident that they have the knowledge and guidance they need to find the medicine that will work best for them? And once they do find a medicine that works for them, how will they know the right dose to take?

Cannabis is a remarkably safe medicine, but that doesn’t mean that patients couldn’t use some safe and trustworthy guidance. Cannabis and cannabis-derived medications can have potentially harmful interactions with specific prescription medications, and not all cannabis preparations work the same for every condition or every patient. 

For instance, a specific high-THC formulation could work wonders for a patient coping with the pain of arthritis, but could also potentially aggravate their anxiety or paranoia. CBD has anti-inflammatory properties that can help ease a number of inflammatory health conditions, but could potentially also cause nausea. 

Misinformation regarding cannabis can also stifle its potential to help all types of cannabis consumers (Cannabis Coaching Institute)

In addition, certain patients may be better served by a specific THC to CBD ratio, and may not have the know-how to try, or the time to sort it all out by trial and error. 

Misinformation regarding cannabis can also stifle its potential to help all types of cannabis consumers. Countless cannabis fans are so convinced of the concept of “Indica vs Sativa,” and this fallacy as a guiding principle when purchasing their medicine, instead of looking at the cannabinoid and/or terpene profile. Many cannabis fans may think that they have to smoke or vape cannabis and may not understand how to use ingestibles or why certain cannabis formulations that everybody swears by, just don’t work for them. 

And just because a doctor is certified to prescribe medical marijuana doesn’t mean that they have the time or the expertise to give patients practical, actionable advice. 

This is where a cannabis coach can make a big difference.

What is a cannabis coach?

A cannabis coach can mean many things. They can be a personal guide for medical cannabis patients who are looking for some guidance to help find the right medical cannabis regimen for them, and to advise them on how to work cannabis into their daily life. They can help a patient develop a personalized, holistic plan for medical cannabis treatment, and advise them on the various intake methods at their disposal and help them find the right dosage for their treatment goals. A cannabis coach can also help inform people on the science of cannabis and how it works. 

A cannabis coach can help bridge the gap between patients and physicians who prescribe cannabis but may not have great expertise in how it works or how to use it to the uptomost effectiveness. Cannabis coaching can also serve as a means to expand upon the cannabis retail experience, where budtenders are on the front line of legal cannabis, but often don’t have sufficiently deep expertise on the ins and outs of the cannabis plant. 

Corinne published Wake and Bake in 2013, began coaching in 2016, and two years later co-founded the institute (Cannabis Coaching Institute)

What a cannabis coach isn’t

Cannabis coaches are not psychiatrists or therapists. They do not provide counseling or therapy sessions for their clients, though they do make use of some of the same skills, including the ability to listen to their clients express what concerns them, and help them find ways to achieve their goals. 

Cannabis coaches are also not trained medical professionals. They cannot provide certification for a medical cannabis permit, nor can they diagnose any health conditions.

A cannabis coach is ‘a well-trained, experienced and certified health coach’

According to the Cannabis Coaching Institute, a certified cannabis coach is a “a well-trained, experienced, and certified health coach who specializes in cannabis education.” The founders also describe a cannabis coach as someone who is an advocate for cannabis and how it can help people, and are confident to answer a wide range of questions about the plant, and understand “how to effectively support someone as they make changes in their lives.”

The Institute states that this entails more than just being passionate about cannabis and having the ability to give advice about the plant. It takes deeper know-how and a specific set of skills to “get clients and guide them around such a dynamic plant medicine.”

How to become a cannabis coach

The institute’s six-month cannabis educator and health coach certification program is a 4-module course that lays it out very clearly. The courses provide an in-depth education of the nuts and bolts of what makes cannabis work, and how and why it affects the human body the way it does, as well as how to set up a coaching practice and safely educate people about cannabis.

The program begins with the “success primer series,” a video series that provides the tools and systems that can help someone break into the cannabis business. The cannabis educator training section of the program includes a deep dive into cannabis science, to provide the know-how coaches need. This includes subjects ranging from the anatomy of cannabis, essential cannabis compounds, cannabis and the human body, endocannabinoid dysfunction, and public cannabis education guidelines. 

The foundations of coaching module provides training on how to set up a coaching practice and enroll and support clients and the cannabis coaching practicum module includes an 8-week cannabis and health coaching program to provide to potential clients, how to keep clients working towards their health goals, and how to help them when things aren’t going as well as they planned. Finally, the business fundamentals for cannabis coaches modules guide future coaches on how to set up and price their classes, and how to attract new clients. In addition, students can make use of 6 months of daily support from graduate mentors and 12 live Q&A mentorship calls with founders and faculty of the institute. 

For a limited time, from the 24th to the 26th of September, 2021, the institute is also running a free video training series called “3 Steps to Launching a Successful Cannabis Wellness Business,” which comes with a free workbook, including a business plan and cannabis business startup checklist. 

Building a ‘fun, supportive, and engaged community’

The institute also includes three highly-trained graduate mentors and Elise Keller, a guest faculty member who covers cannabis and cancer. A breast cancer survivor, Keller is also a member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians and a graduate of the Clinical Cannabinoid Medicine Program and the Medical Cannabis Institute. 

The entire faculty, stuff, and ownership of the institute is female – and that’s not by accident. As women remain underrepresented in leadership roles in the cannabis industry, the institute states that it is “carving out a place for women in this industry,” and trying to build a network of successful female cannabis entrepreneurs that can help one another and help change the face of the industry. 

The institute also states that it’s committed to building a “fun, supportive, and engaged community,” and that even long after students graduate, they can stay connected with former, current, and future coaching students. 

Cannabis coaches in every dispensary?

Both Tobias and Meharg said that the goal of the institute is to have every graduate start their own cannabis business. But if it was up to Tobias, there would also be a cannabis coach working in every dispensary in the country. 

“It is absolutely necessary that people who are acting in the capacity of providing access to this plant know exactly how it works and know how the human body works and how cannabis can be used for different things. That is absolutely essential and unfortunately they don’t,” Tobias said, adding that budtenders solely get product training and that “they can name every strain with their eyes closed and they can teach you how to do a dab, but they don’t understand when someone walks in and they say they want to sleep better their knowledge ends at this is an indica, I’m going to give this to you.”

As the cannabis industry expands, consumers “are demanding certain types of products, and they’re asking questions, but for the most part, they do not know what questions to ask,” Tobias added. 

But while it could be easy to speak only in platitudes about our golden era of legal cannabis, arguably, the need for consumer education has never been more glaring. 

“People probably need a cannabis coach way more now than they ever had before. Because although we have so much more access to information it’s not all great. And it’s really, really hard to parse for a lay person,” Mehrag said. 

The post What are cannabis coaches and how can they help close the cannabis education gap? appeared first on The Cannigma.

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