Annie MacEachern has fought hard for cannabis to be legalized in Canada. But on October 17th, when Islanders are legally allowed to smoke-up for the first time, there will still be kinks to work out.
Canada recently packed a major legislative bowl of C-45 and passed that bad boy through the House of Commons. When the rotation came back around it was a mellow, ‘yeah, man.’
Pot culture on Prince Edward Island and across the nation varies depending on where you are and the company you keep. I grew up here, in Cornwall, and dope was at school, around the rinks, dirt roads, and just about everywhere else. It wasn’t talked about openly for the most part, except in with your buds, and was still seen communally as a fuckin’ drug. And, it was often hard to come by.
I’ll never forget the drought of ‘04.
You’d give a buddy a twenty-sheet and he’d give it to his older brother. He’d give it to his best friend who slipped it to his older pot dealin’ cousin who drove the tractor and graded potatoes for the farmer in Rocky Point that had a wild crop of sticky ‘tomato’ plants behind his shed.
As legal, walking, talking, tax-paying adults, are we gonna get suspended if we’re caught smoking it on the sidewalk? If we pile into uncle Steve’s supped-up Neon with under-glow on Friday night, will the cops test our spit in the Burger King parking lot? And what if we don’t stay outta the farmer’s tomato plants?
Charlottetown native, public relations professional, and lover of all things cannabis, Annie MacEachren, is an advocate for medical marijuana and she dropped some Visine on the red reefer eyes of legal kief on PEI.
Her work with weed was a slow-burning left-handed cigarette. She had to get to know its name for a few years. She went out to British Columbia in 2008, and connected with the sticky-icky culture out West and began her journey to the present day pot encourager that she is-- unknowingly.
“[In ‘08] I went back to Halifax to do PR at Mount St. Vincent. A weed habit-- er, hobby -- came with me,” MacEachren says, drawing on her favourite strain of late, CBD heavy, Baleen.
“It was definitely super low key back then. I had a few friends I smoked doobies with, but not like out in B.C.. I kind of repressed it a bit. I had boyfriends who were like, ‘ya smoke too much weed,’ and ‘stop watching all these Youtube videos about weed'.”
Certainly, that stereotype of the lazy, unmotivated, drain-on-society stoner is alive and well in the minds of many today. Young and old; user, boozer, or abstinence chooser.
Pot’s always been portrayed as the sketchy ne’er-do-well friend from a broken home with too much time on their hands. It’s not quite the same image lately, but you get the idea.
As MacEachren points out, “we’ve never been here before.”
Of course there are going to be straight-laced, worry-warts who automatically hate what they don’t know or are too fucking stubborn and afraid they might have been wrongly informed this whole time to look at the actual biological and societal facts about cannabis.
MacEachren’s mission is in part to help make sense of the unknowns for those who are humble enough to find out about them. For her, it came in the form of internet videos while getting educated and stoned in Halifax.
“One chick out of North Carolina, she was studying PR and Communications in university and doing this Youtube channel and I was like, ‘whoa, I can totally be that. I can apply what I’m learning in school to that. But it was a long time after I made that realization that I started moving forward on it.”
Annie’s foray into advocacy for medical and legal cannabis has only spanned the last two years, professionally speaking. Using her scholastic expertise and social media accounts she has gained followers, sponsors, and political and media attention for her cause.
“Instagram is definitely my platform of choice just because of the ease of use and my novice ability and resources.” Her Instagram page currently has 3,930 followers (and counting) and she has recently worked out a deal with an American vaporizer company to test and share her findings with their products on her ‘story.’ She volunteers a shit-ton and does work consulting medical patients about what to buy, whether to smoke, vape, or scarf, and what to expect from the plant.
MacEachren is a medical marijuana patient herself and carries around the proper documentation and papers (ha) to prove it.
I have to disclose that Annie and I are pals and knew each other prior to this interview.
I met her sometime around 2010, maybe 2011, in Halifax through mutual friends who were in the same program at the Mount. I saw her at parties and rock ‘n roll shows, and shared a few tokes with her on Tracadie beach in the summertime the year we met--whenever that was.
I’ve followed Annie’s cannabis climb online since its genesis, which she says really started in Toronto in 2016.
“I went to the Lift Expo for the first time. I’ve been into weed for ten, eleven... maybe 12 years... I was a late bloomer.
“I noticed this gap in the equation. If we're legalizing this you cannot make it look like we are ruining people's lives forever and portraying the people who use cannabis as irresponsible, draining members of society,” she says.
So, in order to do her part to balance the scale, MacEachren reached out to the government inquiring about public forums and discussions she could participate in. A long-time follower, first-time advocate, Annie wasn’t convinced the Man was doing enough to educate and engage the public, so, she held her own fuckin’ meeting.
“I used my public relations skills to find sponsorship opportunities with National Access Cannabis who are the hosts of the event. I created my own presentation, I wrote the press releases and sent a bunch to media across PEI and Canada.
“I held two public engagement events here on PEI: NAC and Dynamic Fitness and I got media attention both locally in the Guardian and also nationally on cannabis industry sites.”
With the help of the Canadian Government and former Lift employee, David Brown, MacEachren was propelled into the industry. She designed a panel and pitched that sucker to Lift and was accepted to the Vancouver Expo to talk about weed as her job in the fall of 2017.
The Lift and Co. Expo is the Woodstock of dope smokers, movers, and shakers. ‘Cept it’s held more often and in Toronto. Consumers, vendors, speakers, investors, and the media blaze that shit up and celebrate and educate one another on cannabis culture.
“I was encouraged to go and speak with my local MP. I was eventually selected to go and speak as a witness in front of the House of Commons. Sean Casey, the MP of Charlottetown, encouraged me to speak to Wayne Easter (Malpeque).”
The Chair of the Finance Committee, Easter, met with Annie and he invited her to speak to the Council in Ottawa.
Life’s funny sometimes. Giving and taking. Blind-siding and whirling Dervishing. The day Annie was supposed to speak to the House one of the Parliament members dropped dead in his chambers.
“I didn't get to speak, but I got a bomb tour of Parliament Hill from my dude, Sean Casey!”
October 17 is the legalization date. The Island will have four government stores weighing out the Saturday night cigarettes.
Here’s how the Provincial busts out on paper:
The PEI Liquor Control Commission will be regulating, monitoring, and selling the shit. Crown corporations will be distributing the shit. And the rest of us, get to smoke the shit.
To be blunt, legalizing will make it more illegal, says MacEachren.
Johnny Pot-Dealer will find hard times ahead during a time where online ordering and mail delivery is tres chic, and when it becomes fuckin’ legal, those caught buying and selling the shit on the streets after will face some seriously buzzing-killing ramifications.
“It's hard to say, locally, there was an online dispensary that was operating and he just got busted. It's more illegal after. So, big concern,” MacEachren says.
“I was having this conversation with someone about not going to buy it from the store, but just realize police are going to be cracking down and if you get pulled over and you're required to provide a saliva sample and they say that you have cannabis or that you've consumed THC you’re kind of screwed.”
MacEachren went to her doctor straight-up to get her medical ‘scrip, so those concerns are smoke rings in the night sky to her and other patients.
“I told him why I used it and that I had been using it, and I brought the forms that he needed to sign, I didn't really make any work for him. If people want to get it then that's the right way to do it... but if you genuinely want medical cannabis just to get high, there're way cheaper ways to get weed!”
She points to the popularity of purchasing online with just your driver’s licence--something that’s definitely the new thing in dope.
“Everybody does it. I think it's going to be really hard for them to control that. Locally I don't think it's a good idea to start one up, but getting it shipped from BC, that's going to be a much different story.”
It’s hard to say how this will all unfold, but with educated participants and active fact-checkers like MacEachren, we should be in decent shape moving forward.
“I want to make PEI a better place with cannabis in the economy... I want to really feel like it's a culture that I want to participate in and I'm proud to be a part of.”