Local Gal Makes Good
Jun 23, 2019 07:39PM
● By Jameson Viens
By the tender age of 22, Ellen Brown had everything she thought she could have ever wanted as a US Air Force veteran and northern California resident with a burgeoning career in the cannabis industry as a dispensary manager and lead cultivator. Things seemed like they couldn’t get any better. Little did she know that in a few short years, her dream job and career track position at a family-owned and operated dispensary would come crashing down around her.
The Cape Cod native, now 30, has experienced somewhat of a there-and-back-again story arc before becoming a recognizable face of the Massachusetts cannabis movement. Two weeks after graduating Barnstable High School, Brown crossed the Cape Cod Canal for the Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, following in her grandfather’s footsteps to serve her country.
“There’s definitely a sense of patriotism in my family,” Brown says. Clearly remembering the tragedies of September 11, 2001, Brown decided it was time to leave the Cape and see the world.
Enlisting as open general, Brown was assigned the role of nutritionist, gaining real-world experience in hospitals, teaching classes, and providing one-on-one patient counseling. Her training would prove to be the foundation for the rest of her life.
Upon returning home, Brown tried cannabis for the first time and found it improved her overall quality of life and how she perceived the world. However, she quickly found herself restless to leave home once again.
“I had read in High Times magazine that you could move to California, become a patient, and cultivate for yourself at home, and you wouldn’t have to worry about any kind of prosecution. I left as a medical marijuana refugee,” Brown says, laughing.
Though she picked up a job as a budtender and quickly rose through the ranks from manager to lead cultivator, Brown’s dream world was short-lived. “I was living the dream,” she says. “I had everything I ever wanted.”
At the time, prospective dispensaries in California were required to enter a non-refundable lottery for a chance to win one of a limited number of licenses; applicants were required to submit application fees in excess of $14,000, whether they received a license or not. While California dealt with the legal grey area of extorting money from business owners in Brown’s paradisiacal home in Redding, all 26 dispensaries were forced to close, leaving hundreds of people without jobs and even more patients without safe and readily available medication. To this day, there are no dispensaries in Shasta County.
“It lead me to become an activist when I moved back home,” Brown says. “I had a real fire beneath me to get information out there, to destigmatize cannabis and teach as many people as I could so this would never happen to anyone else.”
The loss of her career in California may have been a blessing in disguise, but it also proved to be a precautionary tale for those who think the toothpaste is out of the tube when it comes to marijuana legislation. Witnessing firsthand the repercussions of bad legislation in a state that has led the charge for cannabis reform, Brown is wary that regressive lawmaking is possible anywhere.
Brown continues her mission of teaching the masses as the founder of Sinsemilla Seminars, a regional education provider holding classes on a variety of subjects including cultivation techniques, making topicals and tinctures, laws and regulations, and free lessons for veterans looking to learn more about medicating with cannabis.
As the winner of NECANN’s New England Cannabis Business Leader of the Year for 2018, Brown has fashioned herself into a pied piper figure, evangelizing the benefits of cannabis through lectures and training.
“I think there’s a want for education, and because cannabis is becoming more socially acceptable, even your grandmother wants to know more about it, if she can use it in lieu of her medications,” Brown says. “I want my students to go and teach the world.”
If it seems like Brown is burning both ends of the candle, it’s because she is. In addition to attending Suffolk University for a degree in Environmental Studies, concentrating in sustainability, with the hopes of using hemp as an alternative to plastics and biofuel, Brown has taken her message international. She is consulting in Canada for CannaCollective, a 100-acre hemp farm in Ontario with a focus on CBD. For perspective, 100 acres translates to about 75 football fields, 40 hectares, or the approximate size of Winnie the Pooh’s estate. Sensimilla Seminars continues to spread the green gospel of cannabis, despite Brown’s jet-setting schedule these days. “I like to joke that wher ever there is cannabis, I’ll be there.”