Cherissa Jackson is the CEO and Founder of We Decode and a veteran of 23 years. She discovered cannabis two years ago when a veteran came to her saying that he got off all of his opioids because of cannabis. He chose cannabis as an option for pain management, PTSD, and suicidal thoughts. It completely changed his life.
Since then, Cherissa has been committed to decreasing opioid use, PTSD, and the suicide rate among veterans by bringing awareness to the medical use of cannabis.
Cherissa dives into:
- The story that inspired her to jump head-first into the cannabis industry after never even touching the plant
- How We Decode is mapping DNA to change the way consumers choose products
- The benefit of finding products by using DNA sequencing
- Her advice for people starting their cannabis journey
Pharmaceuticals are not the fit for everybody. Yes, some people may need them. But it’s not the best fit for everybody. And if it’s not a fit for some people, those people should have another option. I will preach about cannabis until the day I die because it can change people’s lives – and that’s what I’m about.
– Cherissa Jackson
How did you get into the cannabis industry?
It was a veteran coming to me saying that cannabis changed his life. He was suicidal, on prescribed medications, and not feeling like himself – he was feeling numb. He tried cannabis, it was the first time he slept five to six hours straight after not having been able to sleep for years. At first, he didn’t want to try cannabis because of the stigma. But he tried it and realized he got the best sleep of his life. He started titrating himself off of prescribed medications. He told me that he could actually feel again and cried for the first time in years coming off of the medication. After being so numb for so long, he could finally be present again. The antipsychotics made him feel like a zombie. Cannabis was a breath of fresh air. Today, this man, who was suicidal, is thriving because of cannabis.
Since I’m from down South, I’m a nurse, and I was in the military, I had never touched the plant. And you couldn’t get me to touch the plant with a 10-foot pole. But after hearing his story, there was no way I could not explore cannabis and get into the field. Because pharmaceuticals are not the fit for everybody. Yes, some people may need them. But it’s not the best fit for everybody. And if it’s not a fit for some people, those people should have another option. I will preach about cannabis until the day I die because it can change people’s lives – and that’s what I’m about.
What was your first step into the cannabis industry?
After hearing that story, I immediately started educating myself on cannabis. While I’m a licensed nurse and a Chief Medical Executive, I am currently enrolled as a master’s student at the University of Maryland studying Cannabis Science.
What is We Decode?
We Decode is mapping medicines’ healthiest outcomes using your DNA. We use your DNA to guide you to which cannabinoids and terpenes work best for your body.
When you get the We Decode DNA Testing Kit – which is HIPAA compliant – you take a saliva swab, send it to the lab, the lab sequences your DNA, and then tells you which cannabinoids and in which ratios work the best for you. It also includes which terpenes work for you for certain conditions. The information gets uploaded to a patient portal and you get notified that the results are up.
Then, you get a 20-minute consultation with counselors that actually guide you through understanding your report, as well as give you recommendations and a follow-up to those recommendations regarding the products they suggested. And if someone wants to have a concierge formulation created for them, we have the capacity to do that, as long as it’s THC free.
Our formulations come in tinctures, salves, gummies, or whatever the customer wants. We don’t do flower since we can’t control the precise formulation. Our products contain no THC since we sell online, but we will give recommendations with THC and advise which types of THC products to look for at dispensaries based on individual results.
What makes your product recommendations different from a budtender’s recommendation?
Everything is backed by science. It’s taken a while to come to market because we wanted a scientific article for everything. Since we’re focused on medical, we didn’t want results to be speculative – results needed to be accurate. When someone is recommended a specific variant, they can click on it, and it takes them to a peer-reviewed study of that particular recommendation.
Do you have advice for people starting their cannabis journey?
- Education is so key for consumers. It’s important to understand your own body first. A lot of people don’t even know what type of metabolism they have. People are consuming products that their body doesn’t need or is not uptaking because it’s not right for their metabolism. Also, I always tell people to start slow and go low – it’s better to start with a small amount, see how your body reacts, and increase as needed.
- As for finding your place in the industry, customers want to align with companies that are genuine and trustworthy. There are so many different companies emerging. If customers don’t attach to your story and why you do what you do, you’re not going to be in this business for very long.
- Surround yourself with a team who cares about the mission and will also give you their honest opinion – even if it conflicts with yours. Hear what your team says and then go with your gut. (Learn by veterans make good cannabis employees)
What would you like to see change in the cannabis industry?
Legalization, for sure, because we have too many people locked up, particularly people of color for crimes related to cannabis.
Also, access to veterans. It’s important to me that veterans get access to cannabis and they get some type of support. I would love to see the U.S. mirror what Canada is doing for veterans. Not all veterans can afford it, and they need it.
Thank you, Cherissa Jackson, for sharing your cannabis story.
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