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Eat Your Greens, Dammit! My Mission To Put Cannabis in the Kitchen.

Lifestyle

After 20 years producing food magazines, cookbooks and reporting on the food industry, I learned that the father of my co-designer, Nellie Williams, had lung cancer.


I've worked with Nellie for nearly a decade and consider her to be something of a little sister. Her family lives in the small town of Washington, Missouri (just outside St. Louis), which at the time, did not have access to medical marijuana. Her dad, Fred, spent several years enduring one grueling treatment after another, with no real results. In 2016, I put a call out for edibles to my cannabis-using friends in Chicago—chocolate edibles, specifically. The lymph nodes in Fred's neck were severely swollen, making it painful to swallow. I knew chocolate would melt on his tongue.

Fred downed three chocolates in about 20 minutes. I warned him to slow down but was relieved and excited to see this very sick man finally experience some relief—relief that came from a plant rather than opioids. It was life-changing for everyone in the room; his wife and six daughters were so grateful to see their husband and father finally—after all these terrible months—eat a full meal and get some real sleep. That day was the last time I saw Fred. He died in June 2016.

My experience with Fred was the catalyst for Kitchen Toke, a quarterly magazine devoted to the culinary, health and wellness benefits of cannabis. Aside from watching my parents smoke pot when I was very young, (and trying it myself in high school), I knew nothing of marijuana. And as I looked for entry-level information on the subject, I realized there wasn't much available. It occurred to me that there was a white space to be filled for people who don't want to smoke marijuana, but might be willing to try it in food—for nutrition, health and wellness. Kitchen Toke was born.

Food as medicine

Why would a person introduce cannabis into their diet? For the same reasons people choose organic foods over non-organic foods. For the same reason people use healthy oils and other healthy fats: Cannabis takes health and wellness to the next level. Add to that the option to use cannabis without getting high, and the reasons grow.

When I say cannabis, by the way, I'm referring to the whole plant. I'm a huge proponent of eating foods in their "whole" entirety—just yesterday I had a conversation about eating the outer-skin of garlic. Garlic skin is loaded with heart-healthy, anti-aging properties, like phenylpropanoid antioxidants. As a matter of fact, most "skins" are good for you, whether it be from fruit, fish or vegetables. Cannabis is no different.

How to start

For people lucky enough to live in a state where you can grow or buy cannabis leaves, I suggest eating them raw. Cannabis leaves are packed with tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), the non-psychoactive acid form of THC known to ease symptoms of epilepsy, chronic pain, digestive disorders and more.

For those with medical cards, I recommend buying a cannabis flower with higher CBD content than THC, (approximately 4-to-1). Add it to a high-quality good coconut or olive oil and use it throughout the day. Hemp-derived CBD, which is federally legal and available nation-wide, contains 0.3% or less of THC and is great for hesitant first-timers. The product options are wide, with new CBD-infused honeys and olive oils and even salts showing up on the shelves every day.

Personally, I love starting my day with cannabis. By the time my stress kicks in, I feel like I've already beat it the punch. Stress, as we know, is a silent killer. But do we know why? From the hectic morning commute to the call from the kids' school to working on deadline, the compilation of individual daily stresses triggers a release of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine. In more permanent states of stress, the amount of cortisol in the body can lead to weight gain, anxiety and insomnia. Weight gain has been linked to heart disease. Lack of sleep triggers a vicious cycle of further cortisol production—and thus more weight gain and less sleep!

Break the cycle

In 2011, while training for a triathlon, I discovered I had an insulin-resistance problem. I practiced "brick-training"—running, biking and swimming in a single day—several days a week, and to prepare for those days, I would fuel up on carbs the day before. I was trying to do some good for my body but ended up gaining more weight than ever. I knew something was wrong. I felt awful. My clothes didn't fit, and I was in a constant state of inflammation.

My doctor ordered a blood test. The results revealed that all those carbs weren't being properly broken down and as a result, insulin was flooding my body. I decided then and there to take control of my own health. I finished the triathlon and began an 8-week eating program of healthy fats, low-carbs and no dairy. My insulin returned to normal levels, and my weight dropped by 20 pounds. I succeeded at hitting the "reset button," and I looked and felt better than ever.

My discovery of cannabis took my eating and health and wellness program to a whole new level. I was already fit, but with the integration of cannabis into my diet, my overall inflammation dropped, my sleeping improved dramatically, and my post-workout muscle recovery is significantly quicker. I hope my story inspires you to do some research, look into what CBD can do for you. Starting with CBD is a great entry point and accessible for everyone.

Here's my favorite salad recipe with torn cannabis leaves

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8min read
Politics

Do 2020 Presidential Candidates Still Have Rules to Play By?

Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.


When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.

2016: What rules?

Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.

Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.

And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.

And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?

Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.

Digital policies for 2020 and beyond

While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.

Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy

Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:

  • If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
  • While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
  • If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
  • Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
  • Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?

Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.

Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply

The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:

  1. Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
  2. Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
  3. Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
  4. Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
  5. Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
  6. Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
  7. Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
  8. Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.

Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles

Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.