Yogajuana: How local marijuana advocates are working to break the stigma

LEE COUNTY, Florida – You may be familiar with the practice and postures of yoga, but have you ever heard of yogajuana?

For millennia, yoga has been used to heal the mind, body, and spirit. Some use it for strength training or flexibility, but now some members of the medical marijuana community in Southwest Florida are taking yoga to a deeper level by incorporating cannabis.

“We come to yoga to work on our own individual areas, whether we are trying to let go of something or bring something up, to heal something, so that’s really the concept.” said Tara Mina, yoga teacher and cannabis advocate, also known as “Yoga Mama”. “It’s not so much about cannabis, it’s about treating the symptoms of why we choose to use cannabis.”

Members who attend Mina’s private yogajuana classes are prescribed medical marijuana. They don’t sit in a circle and smoke a joint or pass around edibles. One of the main points of yogajuana is to break the stigma that still exists around the use of marijuana.

“Instead of using your cannabis and going home and sitting on the couch eating Doritos, you can practice yoga, fix these issues, relax your back, relax your anxiety, boost your confidence and go. inside and find your power, ”Mina said. .

Mina recommends that participants use their cannabis on their own terms, as prescribed, and then use yoga to focus on the benefits.

“I think it helps you center a bit, makes you a bit more introspective,” she said.

Jaime Renee Cruz, a medical marijuana patient, was hospitalized for five months to fight for her life. Her autoimmune issues were attacking her body and as she struggled to stay alive, she didn’t want to become addicted to opiates.

So her pain management doctor suggested she use cannabis.

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

This was only the start of his journey with cannabis.

“At the time, I was stigmatized, having worked in the medical field for 25 years,” said Cruz. “My oldest daughter was familiar with cannabis and she always used to say ‘mommy plane!’ And that really bothered me for quite a while because I was plagued by the stigma.

Cruz said that one way she broke the stigma for herself was to view marijuana as what she used it for – medicine.

“I took every symptom that I was dealing with and in my brain and compared it to which drug I would use and how often I would take it,” she said. “So if I were to use cannabis every two hours, I would accept that because if not, I would have to use something else every two hours.”

Now Cruz is an advocate for cannabis. She started an education-focused business called 420RX. On social networks, she has more than 12,000 subscribers.

“I made a lot of edible videos to help patients microdose their cannabis,” said Cruz. “You can microdose and function like an adult without worry. That’s the problem when people know because of the stigma… that’s why we work so hard to break it.

Norman Gallon attends yogajuana with the same mission: to break the stigma.

“Right now the stigma is on lazy stoners or people who don’t really care about their future,” Gallon said.

Gallon is a mixed martial arts fighter with goals to reach the top.

“I’m an amateur fighter and I’m going pro next year,” said Gallon. “I am 4-0 to 135 with the ambition to be world champion.”

Gallon said the same things associated with laziness helped him heal wounds and keep fighting.

“I’m going to use it before I work out too, almost in a meditative way,” he said.

Gallon said combining cannabis with yoga has been crucial to his routine.

“Honestly, I do yoga more than I lift traditional weights now,” he said. “These are two things that help me relax and not think too much about life. It helps me think about the present.

When Gallon looks around during yogajuana sessions, he sees a community – different people with different backgrounds seeking healing for different reasons.

“The cannabis community is alive in Lee County,” Mina said. “It might still be small compared to Miami or Tampa, but we’re here and it’s growing.”

For Mina, breaking the stigma around marijuana is personal. To this day, she uses both cannabis and yoga for healing.

“In 1998, when I was eight years old, my father was sentenced to prison for trafficking in marijuana,” Mina said. “Before that, 10 years ago, he was a Tampa Bay police officer. “

As she grew older, Mina became a lawyer.

“Once I grew up and understood what cannabis was, I started to defend it more because I realized that my father had been in prison for 3.5 years, from 8 to 12 years old, I missed all this time with my dad, ”Mina said.

Mina started teaching yogajuana at the Iona Cannabis Clinic. There you will find Dr Gregor Sonn, a key player in building the local cannabis community and fighting stigma.

“First and foremost, we are a doctor’s office,” he said. “If we call cannabis a top-down medicine, then we’re going to break down the barriers, that’s just natural progress.”

Dr Sonn has seen this progress firsthand. When Florida first legalized medical marijuana in 2016, it opened a new wellness clinic. It was the backbone of prescribing medical marijuana and now it serves patients of all ages and backgrounds.

“It’s pretty amazing the response we’ve had from patients, doctors, families, mothers, fathers, yes – all demographics,” said Dr Sonn. “Even the people who audit our work are also patients. “

Regardless of more widespread use, Dr Sonn said there was still work to be done.

“Unfortunately, it is still illegal at the federal level,” he said.

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration still considers marijuana a annex I substance.

“Schedule I drugs, substances or chemicals are defined as drugs without currently accepted medical use and with a high potential for abuse,” according to the DEA.

However, more and more studies come out, showing that marijuana is effective in medicine. It is used to treat a wide range of ailments ranging from trouble sleeping, pain and nausea to anxiety and PTSD.

“The things that are in a cannabis plant are also found in everyday things, vegetables and fruits, the herbs that we use every day,” said Jodi Hahn, CBD specialist at Seed and Bean Market in Fort Myers. “We all have an endocannabinoid system within us, which means we are ready to receive different cannabinoids. He’s right there waiting for her. There is real science behind these things.

As for the next steps to normalize cannabis use, Dr Sonn said he hopes Florida will start allowing patients to grow it at home.

“It seems like a terribly strange thing that we created this program to grow a plant that almost anyone can do, but it’s illegal,” he said. “We force patients to spend money they don’t have to spend.

Right now in Florida there is an initiative to legalize the personal use of marijuana for all adults 21 years of age or older. It would also allow adults to obtain permits to grow their own marijuana at home.

Last week, Sensible Florida PAC announced a new petition that would get the proposal before voters in 2022.

“Our amendment will allow consenting adults to choose whether they want to choose to use marijuana legally and responsibly rather than being labeled as criminals, while reducing the burden on law enforcement resources for a long time. obsolete ban era, “according to a press release. by Sensible Florida PAC.

Local advocates have said the goal is to change the state’s constitution through a vote instead of submitting the proposal to lawmakers.

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