Cannabis education is key: NICHE Canada founder Barinder Rasode

(Photo: Alexa Mazzarello)

Barinder Rasode, NICHE Canada

“Our main goal with NICHE Canada right now is to make the transition and implementation into (cannabis) legalization as seamless as possible by educating the industry community as well as the public they serve,” said NICHE Canada founder Barinder Rasode. “Our focus is on cross-cultural education, which means building educational resources in several languages including Punjabi, Mandarin and Cantonese. Starting with communication is paramount.”

“There are a number of municipalities across the country that have been against allowing recreational dispensaries, and I’m concerned that that number will continue to grow. However, if you take a look at the demographics of those communities, I think it’s important to note that there is a cultural component to this trend, as many of these communities have large South Asians or Asian populations,” she added. “There are efforts to educate the public and local business communities in Toronto and Vancouver, but who is responding to the needs to places like Markham and Surrey?”

“A lot of the negative biases people have come from their real-life experiences, seeing how the criminalization of cannabis has impacted those in their community.”

“When communities are focused on these impacts, they aren’t considering the potential healing properties of the plant. Public concern (about any issue, not just cannabis) stems from a lack of education and awareness. Legalization is a big transition for this country, one which requires that we all work together to understand what different communities need.”

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“I am passionate about policy and education, and nothing excites me more than being able to educate people to the point where they change their mind. That’s why I founded NICHE Canada. I felt there was need to bridge the cannabis industry with mainstream businesses, professional services industries and health associations.”

Rasode said her introduction to cannabis was extremely personal.

After watching a close friend’s mom suffer through a terminal illness, Rasode said she chose to use cannabis instead of morphine for her pain.

“I witnessed first-hand how cannabis helped this same friend’s father cope with the anxiety of watching his wife die: I saw first-hand that anti-anxiety meds didn’t work for him and what a simple CBD vape pen did, instead,” said Rasode. “That experience led me to do more research. I concluded that our institutions are rigid, and their policies are based on outdated processes and research. It was transformative to strip all of that away and get the real facts and transformative for my own life when I opened up to learning more about the true benefits of cannabis.”

Rasode said cannabis is part of her personal wellness plan too; she takes CBD each morning and an edible at night to support healthy sleep.

Throughout her career, in both public policy and as an elected municipal official, Rasode said her “mission has always been to encourage respectful, informed dialogue on diverse issues between stakeholders, and these same core values drive her work within the cannabis sector.”

Barinder Rasode is the CEO of NICHE (National Institute for Cannabis Health Education), an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides impartial and evidence-based research about cannabis production and use in Canada. Based in Vancouver with a national vision, NICHE was established in 2017 after discussions with the federal and provincial governments, industry, universities, patients, consumers, non-governmental organizations, law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders.