Women in Cannabis Jeah D'Ambrosio

Story by Cheryl K. Smith

     With the advent of legalized cannabis for the adult market, the issue of safety is on the minds of both prohibitionists and many advocates. Despite the fact that few incidents of overconsumption came to the attention of authorities during the first decade or more of legal medical marijuana in Oregon and other states, there is now a chorus of voices worrying about problems that go beyond “What about the children?”
     Leah D’Ambrosio, a passionate advocate of cannabis, has thought a lot about these concerns and she has some practical ideas about how to help ensure safety for everyone. Along with her partner, Michael Treadway, Leah started a company called Baked Smart (bakedsmart.org).
     According to their website, Baked Smart “is dedicated to bringing safety and awareness to the cannabis industry.” They are developing and distributing edible safety symbols for the cannabis-infused edibles industry. Their product, an edible safety decal called Cannacals™, can be placed on or baked into edible marijuana products.

     This concept goes beyond the usual packaging because the label stays on the product after the food is out of the wrapper. This provides another way for people to teach their children—or anyone else—that the green cross or another universal symbol adopted by a state or other entity means the item contains cannabis and isn’t a regular candy or cookie.
     According to Leah, “The [transfers] don’t take away from the aesthetic of the food” and she hopes that state cannabis regulators will get behind the concept.
     Baked Smart is currently working with a manufacturer to make green cross transfer sheets, as well as the universal symbol adopted by Colorado. They are also working with companies in New Mexico, Nevada, and Washington that have expressed interest in the concept. Leah said that while continuing to work with edibles manufacturers to add the transfers to their products, by this fall, Baked Smart plans to begin marketing kits for home edibles bakers to add to their personal products. The transfers can also be used as an easy and affordable way to mark edibles purchased from dispensaries as medicine.
     Leah currently lives in Portland, Oregon, where she moved from California in 2014 after a divorce. Her initial entry into the world of legal marijuana began with baking cannabis products for friends. On one visit to Oregon she met her partner Michael—another cannabis advocate. He was coming from Mississippi and also interested in the cannabis industry. They found the community welcoming and other cannabis entrepreneurs willing to work together, so they decided to relocate and move in together.

     In 2015 Leah started a company called Sconed, which initially made cannabis-infused scones that contained 5 mg of THC. Finding that scones were not the ideal edible to market, she transitioned to toffee candy under the same brand name. Each toffee contains the edible green cross on the bottom.
     Leah points out that under the old paradigm—where cannabis was only legally allowed for medicinal purposes—people took the products very seriously and treated them like medicine.
     They taught their children to avoid them and hid them away from tempting foods that an unwitting person might eat. With the legalization of recreational marijuana, a new group of consumers, in some cases, have a different view. They don’t seem as focused on safety, and many object to the state-mandated limits on maximum allowable THC.
     Temporary administrative rules governing THC level went into effect in Oregon this month, allowing the purchase by recreational customers of just one edible containing 15 mg of THC.
     That will change yet again when the permanent rules go into effect on October 1, 2016. At that time, a serving size for recreational customers will be limited to 5 mg THC, with products being limited to no more than 10 servings. The products will have to be scored, when possible, so that customers can clearly determine what is a 5 mg serving.

     Which brings us to the other campaign for safer edibles that Leah is involved in—“Try Five.” Try Five is the brainchild of Dave McNicholl, maker of Dave’s Space Cakes (www.facebook.com/DavesSpaceCakes/).
     In 2014, McNicholl started the nonprofit Oregon Responsible Edibles Council (OREC) (oregonediblescouncil.com). OREC’s mission is “to educate the public regarding the safe and responsible usage of edible marijuana products for adults 21 and over, as well as coordinating youth prevention efforts that are honest, informative, and effective.”
     Leah learned about OREC, which was a natural fit for her goals, so she joined. Try Five is the first of their campaigns. Its purpose is “to teach consumers how to consume edibles cautiously when ingesting them for the first time and begin the conversation about the importance of proper dosage.” The campaign recommends that people new to cannabis start with a dosage of only 5 mg THC, wait and see how affects them before consuming any more.
     Being unable to resist another challenge, Leah now provides administrative support to the organization and the Try Five campaign. The membership is comprised of edibles companies, growers and dispensaries. Membership is currently $100 a year (but is expected to go up. So join now if you are interested). They hold monthly meetings, sponsor speakers, put out a newsletter and have plans for future public education campaigns.
     Leah was an Executive Assistant for years prior to getting into the cannabis industry. She provided support for the Managing Director of a wealth management office. Through that position she learned that “there is no such thing as no” and to “juggle many things and adapt quickly”—ideal skills to bring to this new industry.
     The biggest change for her was not in work, but in her perception of marijuana. Although she had used it intermittently since high school and had family members who regularly use, she believed that it could be a “gateway drug” and had no medical use. All of that has changed in the past few years.

     Leah is committed to medical patients who brought us to this point. She believes that we need a new paradigm and that it is “not just about money and big business.” Contrary to the claim by prohibitionists that medical marijuana was just a foot in the door to get cannabis legalized, she believes that we have the medical patients to thank for where we are now in terms of our knowledge about this marvelous plant. Like many, she is concerned that the recreational system may absorb the medical one here, as is already happening in Washington, and doesn’t want to see that happen in Oregon.
     Regardless of politics, Leah is sure to make her mark on this budding cannabis industry. Expect to see her products and more ideas to come. Edibles producers who are interested in adding Cannacals™ to their home or commercial products can contact Leah at info@bakedsmart.org.
     Cheryl K. Smith is a medical marijuana advocate, freelance writer and editor. She lives in the coast range of Oregon, raising goats and chickens.