Robyn Griggs Lawrence was originally encouraged to try medicinal cannabis for extreme menstrual pain and premenstrual syndrome. Since then, she's made moves to challenge the typical 'stoner' character with cookbooks and cooking events. We chat about sustainable living, yoga and women in the cannabis industry.
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Robyn Griggs Lawrence works as a writer and has had a keen focus on sustainable living practices. In 2009, her doctor recommended she try medicinal cannabis for her menstrual symptoms and she was hooked.
Griggs Lawrence looked for ways to consume cannabis that would suit her lifestyle and found cooking, but instead of eating brownies all day, she contacted US chefs to write her own collaborative cannabis cookbook. She has since also written a history of eating cannabis from ancient India and Persia through to the modern day.
Nowadays, aside from writing, Griggs Lawrence tours Colorado giving in-house cannabis cooking workshops and is an active cannabis advocate. We speak about her history in green living, her dabbling in ganja yoga and why the US government needs systemic shifts to help rectify the racially-biased incarceration rates across the country.
Branching into cannabis
Robyn Griggs Lawrence didn't have a long-term goal of getting into cannabis writing, but her prior background in sustainable, green living provided the perfect foundation for cannabis as a natural medicine.
"I had a magazine I started in 1999 called Natural Home and it was all about green homes and how to live naturally, basically. I didn't really know anything about cannabis at all, I was just into natural medicine."
In 2009, Griggs Lawrence was dealing with severe menstruation symptoms. That was when cannabis came onto the scene.
"My gynecologist actually recommended it because I had been working with really severe PMS and also dysmenorrhea, or menstrual cramps. We tried a lot of things and I even tried pharmaceuticals, which I'm usually not into, but then he was like, 'I think you should try [cannabis], it's legal here now' so and I did and it worked," she says. "It was amazing to me because it had been a struggle. It just kind of evolved from there."
After recognising the healing power of cannabis, Griggs Lawrence started looking for different ways of consuming it. "I had kids at home at the time and I wasn't a smoker and I didn't really want to smoke it, so I heard you could cook with it but at that time all anyone was making was brownies," she says. "I didn't really want to eat brownies every day!"
She started digging for information on cooking and found a severe lack of resources. "It was really cool. I started to reach out to [people, but] it took me a long time because I had to research all across the country to see who was actually cooking with it and being open about it," she says.
At the time Griggs Lawrence started her journey to writing her first cannabis cookbook, recreational cannabis wasn't legal in her home state of Colorado, and so it was difficult to find the chefs to collaborate with.
Cannabis in print
Eventually, Griggs Lawrence found 12 chefs across the country who were keen to work with her for the cookbook. The Cannabis Kitchen Cookbook shared information and love for cannabis.
"[The chefs] taught me to cook with cannabis which is, in my mind, spectacular," she says. "It was a lot from the goodness of their hearts and because they believe in this plant so wholeheartedly. They really want this information out there."
The process was a hugely rewarding one for Griggs Lawrence. "As far as all the projects I've done in my whole career, this one is really close to my heart because it was so collaborative," she says. "We had to work together and cook together and make these things beautiful. Now my mission really at this point is to pass that on."
Her second book, Pot in Pans, is a study of the history of eating cannabis from ancient India to the modern world.
Cannabis cooking on the move
In 2018, Griggs Lawrence started Cannabis Kitchen Events – a company which brings the knowledge of cooking with cannabis into your home or Airbnb in an interactive and delicious workshop.
Even though the company has only ever worked in the legal state of Colorado, it's still a tricky business. "The way we work this is we don't actually supply the cannabis, the clients themselves supply the cannabis," says Griggs Lawrence.
"So we work with the cannabis but we have to be super dooper careful – making sure that [the clients] buy it and pay their state taxes and all of that process. There are a lot of hoops that you have to walk through still, even though it's legal in the state, because of it not being federal. It's just so crazy and ridiculous, but this is how you do it."
Female representation in the industry
Like many industries, it seems that female representation is lacking within cannabis companies. In addition to professional under-representation, popular media continue to push a stereotypical male stoner, with fewer films and TV shows featuring and starring stoner girls.
Many of Cannabis Kitchen Events' clientele are female – could this be because of Griggs Lawrence's prominence in the industry? "I don't think that's it. I think it's because women like cannabis," she says. "I don't think people realise how much because we're quieter about it and we weren't the first to get out there."
Luckily, being such a nascent industry, there does seem to be a reasonable percentage of females in the troops. "I think that there is more representation than probably in mainstream industries," says Griggs Lawrence. "But there's still an issue. Two or three years ago there was a cannabis company at the conference that happens in Vegas every year who had some woman in a bikini with cold cuts on her. So, it's run by dudes and we're making inroads, but we're not there yet."
Griggs Lawrence's background in natural living lends itself to yoga practice. Griggs Lawrence herself is a yoga instructor, although "I don't really love to teach so that's kinda an empty certification for me," she laughs. Ganja yoga has become a sub industry of its own with retreats and workshops thriving within legal states.
"I have a really really good friend who has something called Ganjasana and that's what she does and I've done food and sometimes combined cooking lessons with her retreats," says Griggs Lawrence, although she's not a regular ganja yoga person.
"It's interesting, I don't like to imbibe and drive, and I would always drive to yoga, so I never really combined the two," she says. "But during COVID, when I had to practice at home, I actually started to do some more and I really enjoyed it. It's a whole different [thing]. I definitely do a different type of yoga when I've consumed. It's a little bit less Type A and hardcore, which is kind of a good thing."
The Ganjasana retreats, however, do things a little differently than Griggs Lawrence in her living room. "When they do those classes it's so ritual and it's all about the plant – it's a beautiful thing."
Legalisation, regulation and the future of cannabis
With the federally-legal CBD taking off across the states, Griggs Lawrence thinks full spectrum cannabis can't be too far behind. "I think we need legalization so we can have research," she says. "Israel are already leaving us so far in the dust and then Mexico is going to legalize and we're going to be surrounded and the United States is going to lose. And that is just sad. We were the first ones out with it and we're just going to lose. To me it's pathetic."
Research into CBD, cannabis and other psychoactives like psilocybin has been incredibly limited due to the legal nature of these compounds. Who knows what benefits we're missing out on by clinging to the government-led fear-mongering of the past.
"I think [as far as] CBD as a cannabinoid that is valuable, we've only tapped the surface of it. I think we're going to start seeing more of these sacred plants, like psilocybin, emerging," she says. "People's minds are getting opened to these which is amazing."
The coronavirus pandemic has done all but shut down basic political movements for the past few months. Although businesses are reopening and new cases are on the decline, it's unlikely any federal discussion will be focussed on cannabis legalization in the very near future.
"I thought 2020 was going to be the year that we were going to legalize and go federal but I didn't see all of this coming," says Griggs Lawrence. "I think in the next two years it will be federally legal. We're just not going to have a choice – so many states are already starting to look at it because they're running out of money."
Cannabis taxation is a strong economic argument for the legalization of the drug. It's also becoming more and more popular within the general population.
"It's now 67% of Americans who believe cannabis should be legal so how can you not legalize? You just can't. It can't. I think psilocybin will follow suit pretty soon after and then I don't know, we'll see the rest," Griggs Lawrence says. "They're already doing MDMA studies and Michael Pollan's book, his How To Change Your Mind, has done a ton for that. I think it's finally happening, that the mainstream are just accepting that hey, this is natural medicine."
None of us can rest, or should be able to rest, if we're making money on it and there are people still in jail because of it.Robyn Griggs Lawrence
As Black Lives Matter protests continue in the US, the ubiquitous topic of racially disproportionate incarceration rates for minor drug charges across the country can't be ignored.
"I'm making money on it, there's a lot of white men out there making money on it, and there are still people in jail – most of them people of colour – for cannabis," Griggs Lawrence says. "None of us can rest, or should be able to rest, if we're making money on it and there are people still in jail because of it. Imagine sitting in jail in a state where other people are making millions of dollars, it's so wrong."
Currently, there are only a few cannabis-legal US states who are actively working to exonerate prisoners incarcerated for minor drug charges, but Griggs Lawrence remains optimistic.
"There's a lot of work to do but we've started, and that's the hardest part," she says. "We will get there I believe."
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