Marijuana advocates are working to break the stigma of cannabis. The industry is growing, but many people still associate marijuana with criminality and addiction. How can local marijuana advocates work to change this?



You may be acquainted with yoga’s philosophy and postures, but have you heard of yogajuana? 

Yoga has been used to cure the mind, body, and soul for millennia. Some people practice yoga for strength or flexibility, but some members of Southwest Florida’s medical marijuana community are now integrating cannabis into their practice.

“We come to yoga to work on our own unique areas, whether we’re trying to let go of something, conjure up something, heal something,” said Tara Mina, a yoga teacher and cannabis advocate who goes by the moniker “Yoga Mama.” “It’s not so much about cannabis as it is about addressing the symptoms of why we use cannabis in the first place.”

Medical marijuana is prescribed to members who attend Mina’s private yogajuana courses. They don’t sit in a circle smoking a joint or passing delicacies around. One of the primary goals of yogajuana is to eliminate the stigma associated with marijuana usage. 

“Rather of smoking cannabis and lying on the couch eating Doritos, you can practice yoga to address those problems, relax your back, ease your anxiety, develop your self-confidence, and go inside and discover your power,” Mina added.

Mina suggests that people consume cannabis on their own terms as recommended by their doctor, then practice yoga to maximize the effects. 

She said, “I believe it helps you focus yourself a little bit and makes you a little more contemplative.”

Jaime Renee Cruz, a medicinal marijuana user, spent five months battling for her life in the hospital. Her autoimmune problems were destroying her body, and she didn’t want to get hooked to opioids while she battled to remain alive.

As a result, her pain management doctor advised her to try cannabis.

Jaime Renee Cruz, a medical marijuana user, said, “I wouldn’t be standing here today in a yoga class, much less being able to touch my toes, without cannabis.”

It was just the beginning of her cannabis adventure. 

“Having worked in the medical profession for 25 years, I was tormented by stigma at the time,” Cruz added. “My eldest daughter was aware of cannabis and would often exclaim, ‘Mom’s high!’ And it bothered me for quite some time since I was tormented by stigma.”

Cruz claims that one of the ways she overcame the stigma was to conceive of marijuana as the treatment that she was taking it for. 

“I linked each symptom I was addressing in my head to the medication I would be taking and how frequently I would take it,” she said. “I’d accept it if I had to use cannabis every two hours because if I didn’t, I’d have to use something else every two hours.” 

Cruz is now a cannabis supporter. 420RX is a business she founded that focuses on education. She has a social media following of over 12,000 individuals.

Cruz said, “I produced a number of consumable films to assist patients microdose their cannabis.” “You can microdose and operate normally as an adult. It’s a problem when people don’t know because of the stigma… which is why we’re working so hard to change that.”

Norman Gallon comes to yogajuana with the same goal in mind: to eliminate the stigma.

Gallon said, “Right now, the stereotype is lazy stoners or individuals who don’t care about their future.”

Gallon is a mixed-martial-arts fighter who aspires to be the best in the world. 

Gallon stated, “I’m an amateur boxer who plans to become pro next year.” “I’m 4-0 at 135 pounds and want to be a world champion.”

Gallon claims that the same substances linked to laziness have aided him in recovering from injuries and continuing to battle.

He said, “I’ll use it before I exercise, almost meditatively.”

For Gallon, mixing cannabis and yoga has been critical to his daily practice.

He said, “I honestly practice yoga more than I do conventional weights today.” “They both assist me in relaxing and not overthinking my life. It allows me to focus on the present.”

When Gallon observes yogajuana sessions, he sees a community – individuals from various walks of life seeking therapy for a variety of causes.

“Lee County has a thriving cannabis community,” Mina added. “We may be tiny in comparison to Miami or Tampa, but we are here, and it is growing.”

Breaking the stigma surrounding marijuana is personal for Mina. She still utilizes cannabis and yoga to cure herself. 

“When I was eight years old, my father was condemned to jail for marijuana trafficking,” Mina said. “He was a Tampa Bay police officer for ten years prior to that.”

Mina grew into an advocate as she grew older. 

“Once I grew up and understood what cannabis was, I became a stronger supporter for it because I realized my father was in jail for 3.5 years, and I lost all of that time with him from the ages of 8 to 12,” Mina said.

Mina began her yogajuana teaching career at Iona Cannabis Clinic. There, you’ll discover Dr. Gregor Sonn, a major figure in the local cannabis community’s development and de-stigmatization.

He said, “First and foremost, we’re a doctor’s practice.” “If we refer to cannabis as medicine from top to bottom, we will naturally tear down barriers.”

Dr. Sonn has personally seen the improvement. He had just opened a new health center when Florida initially approved medicinal marijuana in 2016. He changed his mind and now prescribes medicinal marijuana to people of all ages and walks of life. 

Dr.Sonn stated, “It’s really remarkable the reaction we’ve had from patients, doctors, families, moms, dads, yes – every demographic.” “Even the people who are essentially checking our work are patients.”

Regardless of wider adoption, Dr. Sonn believes there is still work to be done.

He added, “Unfortunately, it’s still unlawful at the federal level.”

Marijuana is still classified as a schedule I drug by the US Drug Enforcement Administration.  

The DEA defines Schedule I drugs, substances, or compounds as “drugs having no presently recognized medical use and a significant potential for abuse.”

However, a growing number of studies are demonstrating that marijuana may be used medicinally. It’s used to treat anything from sleep problems, pain, and nausea to anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Jodi Hahn, a CBD expert at Seed and Bean Market in Fort Myers, said, “The things that are present in a cannabis plant are also found in daily foods, veggies, fruits, and herbs that we use every single day.” “We all have an endocannabinoid system in our bodies, which means we’re ready to take in various cannabinoids. It’s simply sitting there, waiting for you. These things are backed up by science.”

Dr. Sonn believes that the next stage in normalizing cannabis usage will be for Florida to allow patients to cultivate it at home.

“It seems to be an odd thing that we have established this program producing a plant that almost anybody can grow, but it is unlawful to do so,” he added. “We are forcing patients to spend money they do not have.”

In Florida, there is now a ballot proposal to legalize personal marijuana use for all individuals aged 21 and above. Adults would also be able to get licenses to cultivate marijuana at home.

Sensible Florida PAC launched a fresh petition campaign this week, with the goal of getting the proposal before voters in 2022. 

According to a press release from Sensible Florida PAC, “our amendment will allow consenting adults to choose whether they want to use marijuana legally and responsibly rather than be labeled as criminals, while also reducing the burden placed on law enforcement resources from an outdated era of prohibition.”

Instead of the plan moving forward, local supporters say the aim is to alter the state constitution via a referendum.

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