Amanda Reiman has worn many hats in the cannabis space. After receiving her PhD from the University of California at Berkeley, she was named Director of Research and Patient Services at Berkeley Patients Group, one of the oldest dispensaries in the country.
She also became Manager of Marijuana Law and Policy for the Drug Policy Alliance, a national non-profit set-up to draft and lead campaigns of initiatives across the U.S. and abroad.
As if this part of her resume isn’t impressive enough, Reiman also taught courses on substance abuse and treatment, and drug policy at U.C. Berkeley for 10 years.
As an internationally acclaimed cannabis expert and public health researcher, she’s been dubbed “The Brain” by Elle.com, she’s a leader in the area of cannabis as a substitute for alcohol and other drugs, presenting her research on cannabis dispensaries and the use of cannabis as a substitute for opiates all over the world.
Also an expert on local, national and international cannabis policy, Dr. Reiman was named the first Chairwoman of the Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission; also sitting on the Oakland Cannabis Regulatory Commission.
Reiman Finds Personal Plants
Reiman recently founded Personal Plants, a multi-media platform supporting home cultivation and processing of therapeutic plants. The site hosts articles and videos of experts teaching every aspect of growing a beneficial garden; with how-to guides on harvesting, processing and recipes for making remedies from the garden.
She says there are three different types of folks, those who grew up gardening with a green thumb; those who have always felt they can’t grow anything; and those who have no idea how to form relationships with plants, good or bad.
“I fell in love with the act of growing my own medicine,” she shared. “One of my first gardens was in Chicago in a closet with one light. I self-medicated illegally at that time for diagnosed arthritis. When I began my PhD program at U.C. Berkeley, I also became an official personal gardener in California.”
Reiman said she grew plants on her balcony initially, finding great satisfaction in taking a seed or a clone, adding dirt and watching it grow into cannabis—or her medicine.
“Lots of people have never seen a cannabis plant growing in the ground—or at all,” she said. “Some have only seen them in magazines. And information on growing was hard to find. Mostly, you’d read about a grower explaining how much they knew, rather than conveying easily digested information. For this reason, much of my early growing was done through trial and error.”
She eventually left city life for country life and a chance to grow her own outdoors, in the sun, as God and Goddess intended.
“I never missed the concrete jungle of the Bay Area,” she laughed. “When I moved to Mendocino I had land to farm—and grew sage, calendula, chamomile—as well as cannabis.”
Recognizing that many plants held medicinal and healing properties, she also found a community of gardeners. And they didn’t always talk about cannabis.
“I began to investigate a whole new world of plants,” she added. “Personal Plants was created to teach people not only how to grow their own cannabis, but to grow many beneficial plants in an age where people are becoming more suspicious of the negative side effects of pharmaceuticals and are intrigued to go into the garden to heal.”
The recent pandemic, she said, had a lot to do with her encouraging others to grow their own, no matter what the plant, as she watched many posting newly planted gardens on social media, as part of lockdown therapy, if you will.
“People are looking for alternatives, and with Personal Plants, we aim to lead them back to the garden in a simple way,” she concluded.
Gardening, Understanding & Advocacy
At U.C. Berkeley Reiman became frustrated at the amount of people slamming those visiting dispensaries in the newly created medical cannabis space, stating the consumers appeared to be healthy young men in their 30s.
“We did a survey about cannabis use to get to the bottom of who was using cannabis the most in this legal market,” she explained. “Most people assumed the demographic for cannabis use was younger, but we found the average person was in their 40s.”
The survey found that many dispensary customers were dealing with sports injuries and subsequent chronic pain from their youth, while other seemingly healthy young men were medicating for industrial or construction work injuries. This led to the common assumption, you can’t judge a book by its cover.
“If you go to a health club or gym and see who’s there, they are fit and healthy—why do they need to go to a club?” she pondered. “They go to the gym to stay that way. It’s the same thing with cannabis. We found they were going to the dispensaries in an attempt to feel better, quell their chronic pain and continue to be well.”
One of the main reasons Reiman said she earned the PhD is to add a layer of legitimacy to the work she wanted to do in the cannabis space.
“I knew that if I had the doctorate people would listen to me, plain and simple,” she said. “I was looking at the potential benefits of cannabis, and knew the work I did would be discounted from the get-go by both the academic and cannabis communities. I used my medical cannabis patient status and the fact I was an academic in order to challenge the stigma of what a cannabis patient or partaker looks like.”
Gardener, Not Grower: The Language is Changing
With Personal Plants, a main goal is to change the stereotype, while educating people about what it means to be a cannabis patient. Adding other beneficial plants to the mix from the common garden helps do that.
”Propaganda is the use of emotion to impact opinion,” she waxed poetic. “We need to replace the assumptions with a different emotion. As a scientist, I get frustrated after sharing all the studies, graphs, tables—and then someone will still say, ‘I just feel… ‘ We need them to feel something different—something not based on political bias—which is where the misinformation is coming from.”
Reiman said the masses need to understand the healing benefits of all plants—and to realize that cannabis, aside from the psychoactive effects of THC, has many of the same properties as other beneficial plants, or superfoods.
To add another layer, THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, the compound in the cannabis plant that causes one to feel high, was increased over the years via hybridization by human hands. The plant did not begin with upwards of 30 percent THC, it became potent over time.
Historically, the cannabis plant was said to have weighed in at around five percent or less THC. Knowing this makes the argument against THC hard to bear. That said, THC does have a place in medicine. It’s a beneficial compound in its own right, it just needs to be managed in order to find your therapeutic dose.
Positive benefits of the plant include fighting inflammation, infection—just two components of many beneficial plants from the healing garden.
“With Personal Plants, we are attempting to reach people who do not think of themselves as cannabis experts or connoisseurs,” she added. “We are looking for people who have real health issues, and are looking to the garden for help—wanting to learn how to grow their own—not just cannabis.”
The right to grow your own cannabis, she said, is actually a social justice issue.
“Everyone should have the right to grow beneficial plants,” she said. “Take tobacco, for instance. It’s a beneficial plant when grown and processed naturally. The additives used by the tobacco industry makes it a toxic plant, with the tobacco industry working to restrict the right to grow it themselves. This is when gardening truly becomes a social justice issue.”
As COVID and lockdowns change the way people look at sustainability, Reiman said there are many lessons to be learned from the garden.
“Everyone should know how to make a simple tincture or salve,” she said. “With Personal Plants, we don’t just show them how to grow beneficial plants, we also teach them how to harvest, process, and make their own remedies.”
Gardening is not new, but for many, it’s a whole new world of sourcing your own and doing it yourself. It also brings satisfaction in knowing where your medicine comes from.
“People are thinking now, what if the supply chains we depend on are disrupted, what are we going to do?” she surmised. “Self-sufficiency becomes everything. Knowing I can grow my own cannabis and other healing plants makes me feel more secure if drug store chains fall off the face of the earth. I can still find relief from the garden, and so can you.”
For more information on Personal Plants visit, www.mypersonalplants.com.
Check out a recent Higher Profile piece here.