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Sports Medicine, Meet Plant Medicine.

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During a short lull in the pandemic near the end of November 2021, I found myself at Lift&Co. Expo in Toronto, attending the psychedelic business summit and cannabis conference and trade show – in real life! This was a perfect opportunity to interview some of the most prominent Alpha women entrepreneurs and founders in the emergent cannabis and psychedelic industries without a camera or screen between us. I was excited, and a little bit nervous at the same time.

Lift&Co is a conference and trade show where North America’s top business leaders, scientists, innovators, and regulators come together to spotlight leading industry analyses and market forecasts, new trends, and thought leadership on the most important issues facing the sector today. With the addition of a full day on psychedelics, I came prepared to learn.

The participants at the psychedelic summit are not your everyday businesspeople. Due to this industry being relatively new, the entrepreneurs who are part of this movement are breaking ground in the sectors. 

Cannabis and Athletics

Panelists from left to right; Claire Samulak, Angelina Blessed, Justin Renfrow.

Introducing the inspirational world-class Pentathlete and entrepreneur, Claire Samulak.

Claire began working in the cannabis industry two years ago, upon her return from the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. Her dedication and drive to succeed in sport translates into her dedication to succeed in the fast-paced, dynamic, and brand-new cannabis industry. She brings together her experiences utilizing cannabis as a treatment for the physical and mental challenges that come with being a multi-sport athlete to the industry. In fact, as a young athlete who suffered from concussions Claire had turned to cannabis for relief.

Read the panel discussion Claire moderated at Lift&Co here and learn from top athletes’  perspective on cannabis treatments and the benefits this plant has to offer.

Claire Samulak, Pentathlete

Cannabis came into Claire’s life at a young age, having grown up in the interior of southern British Columbia – the heart of cannabis culture in Canada. She remembers playing in the forest as a child and stumbling upon fields of cannabis plants. Although the plant is widely accepted in her hometown, it was only when Claire began travelling more that she realized it’s not accepted in other places, and that as an international athlete, Claire had to abide by the WADA rules and regulations which prohibit cannabis consumption when training and competing abroad.

Claire started pentathlon in her 20’s after competing in sports all her life. 

“I grew up in the middle of nowhere in British Columbia, Canada, where it’s so rural and remote, that there are definitely no fencing clubs. I moved to Calgary for university and I was working as an exercise rider with horses when I met a pentathlete. I said,”please take me to a fencing club!”

Claire was 22 when she fenced for the first time. Her advice to everyone is it’s never too late, and don’t be scared to just dive in even if it’s just for a fun competition. “What I love about fencing is that you can fence your whole life, there are people of all ages and it’s a great workout too.” With Claire’s encouragement, I decided I wanted to try fencing too, I’ll report back later on my progress!

Training Your Mind

The importance of training your mind for optimal performance is a topic I really wanted to dive into with Claire. I’ve always felt that we can train the brain just like we can train the body, and this is especially true for an elite athlete so I asked Claire how she trains her mind to be a winning athlete.

“It’s about working with professionals and having a mental component to your training plan.  Working with GPs and psychologists help you develop routines and foster a mental approach to training. In my sport, mental training is the ability to move on from one moment, clear your mind, and make room for the next moment to be just as great – despite the moment before it not being your best. The ability to do that is so important but takes a lot of training. It’s key in any sport.” Claire’s comments are, applicable to life too. Inner strength and grit developed through training and practice — this really resonated with me. I’m a person who embodies a growth mindset and strives for continuous self-improvement. 

Claire isn’t only a devoted athlete. She’s also a PR specialist and an entrepreneur. I was excited to hear that she has her own PR agency launching soon.

For Claire, what appeals to her about being an entrepreneur is pushing her boundaries and challenging herself in high-pressure situations: “I’m a hard driver. I like to push my limits. My basketball coach once said when we were practicing dribbling, ‘Don’t just dribble while you can hold onto the ball, dribble until the ball goes flying away and you lose control because the next time you’ll be able to hold onto it a little bit longer,’ and I try to apply that.” 

Cannabis, Government Relations & Youth

Claire’s current focus is on cannabis public relations and drawing investment attention to BC bud. In BC there are “mountains glistening with trichomes. It’s part of our culture and lifestyle and I want to build their brands. I speak for Boutique cannabis but also for Kootenay farmers.” 

When Claire’s cousin Alena Jenkins was opening FivePoint Cannabis, a cannabis retail shop, she asked Claire to work on contract as a PR manager. “I thought, why not. It’s a fantastic challenge. I‘m always seeking challenges… given by my…” I cut her off and said choice of sport?! We laughed. 

Claire is particularly driven by the government relations piece of the cannabis industry. “What I’ve seen other PR companies offering to clients is advertising, digital management and social media, whereas for me, it is the government relations piece that’s quite important, and what I’m focusing on. In this industry language must be nuanced and legislation needs to be broken down for retailers and growers. We need people to work on the government relations side to help provide more context, to thrive in this space.” 

As Claire explained, messaging and language around cannabis is important in the sports sector as well. “In the world of sport, cannabis has really nuanced messaging too. We’re community leaders, we’re volunteers, and we work with youth. Cannabis is a topic for adults and not youth.” So I asked, “what do we do about it?” 

“There is a way we should talk to youth in order for them to make their own decisions and I believe it comes down to the language we use and then strategizing that language correctly.” It all comes down to changing the way we think about and speak about cannabis.”

Stay tuned for the next Alpha woman interview from Lift&Co!

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