AACE INTERVIEW: Alyssha Bal
Hello all! We welcome Alyssha Bal today to AACE! Alyssha is an American Puerto Rican force of nature, she grew up in the inner city of Philadelphia and now lives in Germany with her East Indian husband. I would describe them as the multi-power couple. Alyssa heads up the content for Nordic Oil, based in Munich Germany.
We are honored to have Alyssha here on AACE.
Where did you get your negative views of cannabis when you were young?
Growing up a 90’s kid from inner city Philadelphia I had my experience seeing my friends going to jail for having a joint. The D.A.R.E. program was there in my elementary school, and I remember the police man from D.A.R.E. coming to my classroom to teach me that cannabis is a dangerous drug and if you ever consume it, you’d get addicted, then go to jail or drop dead. As much as people say that the D.A.R.E. campaign ultimately failed, it worked on me. Back then, I was very familiar with what cannabis looked and smelled like, but I was not made aware of which drugs were *truly* addictive like opiates and prescription pills that students of my generation actually ended up using more than weed. I don’t have anything against the D.A.R.E. program, but I think that it’s time for the education system to have an honest and thoughtful discussion on cannabis with kids especially now that it’s being legalized recreationally in many states. Being honest with kids instead of just telling them its bad and say no can help children to make better decisions about not using cannabis at a young age. Teaching children about the differences between hemp and cannabis and talking to them about it the same way we talk to them about alcohol will make a huge difference. If you are told your whole life that cannabis is bad for you and it could kill you, and then you try it or see your family doing it and they're fine, you reflect on your education and think that everything you've been taught is wrong.
Have you tried to educate your family on cannabis?
My mother has always been against using pharmaceuticals unless it is absolutely necessary. The medical advice she would prefer to give us consisted of: "Drink some water!" Or "Eat more fruits and veggies." Or "Put Vicks on it!" So, I knew I would not have any issue teaching her about cannabis. I knew that she would be open-minded about using cannabis rather than taking prescription medicines. I have educated my mother on the benefits of CBD and she is very open about cannabis as a medicine.
Your marriage to a South East Asian also brings a new facet to your work in cannabis, how did he react to your work?
Cannabis is nothing new for most of the Indians although knowing the difference between Cannabis, Hemp, THC, & CBD is certainly not clear. India criminalizes cannabis but the law excludes the seed and leaves when they are not together with the flowering buds of the cannabis plant (although the law is still not very clear). This unclear law in India allows the common mode of cannabis consumption (also the oldest mode) which is an edible form, called Bhang. Bhang is seen as a religious form of celebrating the power of Lord Shiva and many devotees consume it on certain holy festivals related to Lord Shiva. Although my husband is not religious, the fact that he got to consume cannabis with his friends encouraged him to consume and learn more about it. I started to work with Nordic Oil after my marriage and he didn't find it bad at all, in fact he was interested to learn more about CBD for his parents. He believes my work is not just making him educated (as we discuss a lot of benefits) but also providing him with good ideas on how to use his knowledge of IoT (In Horticulture) in this market.
How has his family reacted?
His parents have an open mind set on the medicinal benefits of cannabis. As they are religious (Hindu) and practice a lot of Ayurveda medicines, they have a good understanding of the ancient usage of Cannabis in Hindu mythology as well as in Ayurveda. They may not like to be intoxicated with THC rich products, but they are certainly up to try CBD and other medicinal hemp products if available to them. They also feel proud that I, as a person from the western world, am taking interest in bringing back cannabis to the Ayurveda culture especially when it has so many health benefits and supports a poor crowd who can easily afford. They also want me to update them on the most recent research findings on cannabis and if possible, expose some CBD products which can help some of their health issues but, unfortunately it’s not legal in India yet. I’m not sure what’s taking them so long. While India keeps delaying, over 30 countries have already legalized cannabis for medical or personal use.
Name your WOC actress that you would like to see portray a cannabis user?
Mindy Kaling is a beautiful, hilarious Indian woman, and I would love to see her play a cannabis user. I love how she comes up with clever and witty comments, she’s relatable and owns her sass.
Mindy’s ownership of her own awesomeness gives me hope.
What is your favorite strain?
I prefer Indica, so one of my favorite strains is Gorilla Glue because of its mentally stimulating, euphoric, and relaxing, properties. It’s my favorite for controlling pain and to get a deep, relaxing sleep.
Where do you see the EU’s legalization of cannabis? And how has the roll out of CBD affected Germany? Is it easily accessible or is by prescription only?
There is a lot of confusion still around the legal framework here in Germany. When it comes to medical cannabis with THC, it’s totally legal in Germany only if you have a “serious condition” but there are a lot of hurdles for patients to obtain a prescription. First of all, a “serious condition” is not clearly defined but most patients in Germany are people with cancer, multiple sclerosis, ADHD, or some chronic pain. To get a prescription, first, you need to find a physician who is licensed to prescribe cannabis (which is extremely difficult because there are few here) Generally, the doctors who are qualified and certified to dispense cannabis will specialize in neurology, oncology and chronic pain. If you are able to get a recommendation from your doctor, you must prepare documents such as medical history and current prescriptions to prove that you have tried every other method of treatment and cannabis is your last resort for relief from symptoms. The whole process difficult and very time consuming but on the bright side (and unlike in the US) once you get your prescription, public health insurance will cover the cost of your medicine. It’s easier to get CBD products in Germany than to try to get a prescription for THC. I believe the EU will redo and standardize their policies when it comes to CBD products (similar to what happened for e-cigarettes 4-5 years ago). CBD products can currently be bought without prescription both in online shops and in some convenience stores. CBD is easily accessible in Europe but definitely more widespread in the US. Especially when it comes to novelty products infused with CBD, such as gummies and CBD infused drinks.
Where do you see cannabis in 5 years in the EU?
It has not been easy, but I hope to see a change in stigma with the word cannabis in Europe. I hope to see cannabis legalized for medical use (not just for serious conditions) in many European countries within 5 years, including Germany.
What is the weirdest use of CBD you have seen in a product?
The strangest use of CBD I have seen in a product is definitely CBD toilet paper. When I first heard about it, I didn’t think it was real until I Googled it. It’s real.