CHELSEA HANDLER

ON CANNABIS AD­VO­CACY

The Georgia Straight - - Front Page - > BY PIPER COURTE­NAY

If we can thank U.S. pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump for one thing, it’s for giv­ing Los An­ge­les–based co­me­dian Chelsea Handler in­cen­tive to find a health­ier al­ter­na­tive to man­age pol­i­tics-in­duced anx­i­ety.

“The first time I smoked weed I was prob­a­bly 16 or 17 years old and it was a dis­as­ter be­cause… Well, not a dis­as­ter, but I coughed for about an hour,” Handler tells the Ge­or­gia Straight by phone, adding that it wasn’t un­til later in life that she dis­cov­ered an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for cannabis.

“Around the time Trump was elected, I had to find an­other av­enue to sup­press my rage and har­ness it into some­thing use­ful in­stead of some­thing toxic. I turned to cannabis…and I re­al­ized what it could do for other women like me.”

Dur­ing the past year, Handler has ramped up her pot ad­vo­cacy across the U.S., and with the help of a Canadian com­pany, she’s bring­ing it north of the bor­der just in time for le­gal­iza­tion.

In June, Handler de­liv­ered the key­note speech at the World Cannabis Congress in Saint John, New Brunswick, pre­sented by Civ­i­lized, a dig­i­tal­me­dia and life­style brand fo­cused on weed. Shortly af­ter the pre­sen­ta­tion, the brand’s founder and CEO, Derek Riedle, ap­proached her with the idea of tak­ing the cannabis con­ver­sa­tion cross-coun­try.

The five-time New York Times best­selling author says she jumped at the op­por­tu­nity, adding: “They [Civ­i­lized] talk about mar­i­juana use in a cul­tural con­text and nor­mal­ize it as a way of life, and I just thought: ‘This is in­cred­i­ble. We have to ed­u­cate peo­ple.’ ”

The tour, a speak­ing se­ries mod­elled af­ter the town-hall events Handler has hosted in cities across the States, will start in Al­berta on Septem­ber 20 and end in Nova Sco­tia on Oc­to­ber 6. Handler and Riedle will be in Van­cou­ver on Septem­ber 21 at UBC’S Chan Cen­tre to talk po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism, le­gal­iza­tion, and her per­sonal jour­ney to cannabis use.

Speak­ing on the phone from Lon­don, Eng­land, she says that once she ex­pe­ri­enced suc­cess with cannabis for sleep, she be­gan ex­per­i­ment­ing with the vast ar­ray of prod­ucts avail­able in Cal­i­for­nia’s newly le­gal­ized recre­ational mar­ket.

“I was tak­ing sleep aids way too fre­quently. And it was a great al­ter­na­tive to that, be­cause I didn’t want to be on any of those med­i­ca­tions that phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies are ped­dling,” she says.

“I re­al­ized it [cannabis] is so dif­fer­ent than what it used to be. Now with mi­cro­dos­ing, you are able to con­trol what you are tak­ing in…it’s much more of a con­trolled ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Handler is known for her guineapig ap­proach to ex­plor­ing new sub­stances and ex­pe­ri­ences, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to drugs. One episode of her four-part Net­flix spe­cial, Chelsea Does, is ded­i­cated en­tirely to ex­plor­ing the ben­e­fits and harms of a mix of drugs, from over-the-counter pills like Ad­der­all and Am­bien to black-mar­ket weed and psychedelics. In it, she mixes booze and pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tion (un­der su­per­vi­sion) and dines on Thc–in­fused feasts, with the episode cul­mi­nat­ing in Handler par­tic­i­pat­ing in a tra­di­tional Peru­vian ayahuasca (a psy­choac­tive plant medicine his­tor­i­cally used by In­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties) cer­e­mony—all in the name of ed­u­ca­tion.

Since tak­ing a step back from her high-pro­file en­ter­tain­ment ca­reer, Handler now only uses small doses of cannabis to deal with the stress that ac­com­pa­nies her ac­tivism.

“For me, it is more about get­ting off anti-anx­i­ety med­i­ca­tion and get­ting away from sleep­ing pills and be­ing a more func­tional per­son…and mak­ing every­body a lot less an­noy­ing,” she says, laugh­ing.

“It helps me not lose my tem­per, it helps me be a lot less re­ac­tive, and it just makes every­body just a lit­tle bit cooler.”

Since em­bark­ing on her nor­mal­iza­tion cam­paign, she has smoked with the cream of the pot crop, from rap­pers like Wiz Khal­ifa and Snoop Dogg to the weed leg­end him­self, coun­try singer Wil­lie Nel­son.

“Smok­ing weed with Wil­lie Nel­son was a sem­i­nal mo­ment. It was great,” she says.

“Af­ter I smoked a joint with him, I was, you know…let’s just say I was not able to drive af­ter­wards. It was a sit­u­a­tion. He’s got some po­tent stuff.”

Get­ting stoned off of a canna celebrity’s su­per­stash may be quite the ex­pe­ri­ence, but she says a line of prod­ucts for the ev­ery­day cannabis con­sumer is in the works.

In Fe­bru­ary, Handler teased her pot-friendly fans with an In­sta­gram post in­di­cat­ing an in­ter­est in start­ing a line of weed prod­ucts. When asked for an up­date, she says she’s still in the re­search phase but is cer­tain of one thing: any com­pany she cre­ates will have a fo­cus on bring­ing fe­male con­sumers into the fold.

“Women re­ally need to be rein­tro­duced to mar­i­juana,” she says.

“There is a joke in L.A.: who­ever has the best plas­tic sur­geon never re­veals it, be­cause they don’t want any­one else to have a good facelift. And I’m here push­ing against that when it comes to mar­i­juana. Girls need to share in­for­ma­tion, they need to em­bolden and em­power other women to own their mar­i­juana use.”

Corus pro­duc­tion ex­ec­u­tive An­drea Grif­fith re­lies on four strate­gies, in­clud­ing visu­al­iza­tion, to make the most of time with her fam­ily. Piper Courte­nay photo.

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