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Alice Moon on Working in Cannabis Despite Having CHS

Hannah (Izer) Vysoky

By Hannah (Izer) Vysoky

June 20, 2022

Portrait of Alice Moon on black background

Courtesy of Alice Moon

Alice Moon is a publicist for Trailblaze, where she represents ancillary and plant-touching brands in the cannabis industry. Her clients have been featured in Rolling Stone, Forbes, Green Entrepreneur, Cannabis Now, Direct Cannabis Network, Green Market Report, Benzinga, Yahoo Finance, MSN Money, Civilized, Weedmaps, Cannabis Aficionado, Merry Jane, Sweet Jane Magazine and more.

Her work as an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry has led to me being a guest on CNN, Viceland and Vice, with features on Business Insider, Washington Post, Leafly, RX Leaf, Civilized, LA Weekly, Benzinga, Yahoo Finance and High Times.

We sat down to chat with Moon about her experience in the industry, what she hopes to see in the future, and her struggles with a condition known as cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS), which leads to repeated and severe bouts of vomiting from the consumption of cannabis. You can learn more about this condition

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2018 at the dinner that was my last supper. Photo credit Civilized
Photo Credit: Civilized

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Alice Moon: Entrance into the Industry

High There: What brought you into the cannabis industry initially?

Alice Moon: So I just fell into it. I started as a trimmer and then budtender and launched Taste Buds, where I would write reviews about edibles. Then I turned it into an app where people could find the right edible for them based on their dietary needs. So if you are gluten-free, sugar-free, etc., my app could help you find that edible at a nearby dispensary. 

We launched that app. I spent about two years working on it before we launched in 2017. We only were off the ground for about seven months, and we had to shut our doors because running an app is very expensive. But in that time, we were mentioned in High Times a few times, and we got nominated for Best Tech Magazine

My journey started 11 years ago, so it’s been a very long journey. When I had to shut the doors down for my app, I pivoted to PR because I had gotten a lot of coverage for my app, and I was like, ‘You know what? Let me just shift that PR.’ I was in-house PR for a company called Paragon; they were a canvas co-working space in Hollywood and a cannabis cryptocurrency. So I was with them for seven months before they ran out of funding and ultimately had to sell the space, and the crypto company shut down.

That was a whole crazy mess that makes me hate crypto now. I spent freelancing for about four years until I joined Trailblaze last year, and I’m full-time with Trailblaze. We do PR and marketing for MSOs in the industry.

My first company in cannabis was that I made jewelry, bracelets, you know, got up. They were called secret smoker bracelets. And that was my first baby in the industry — my way to build up a following. I got featured by LA Weekly for that. It was like the Coachella accessory. I made these flowery headpieces, too. So you take off your super hipster headpiece and have a bowl packed, and you go on with your time at Coachella.

HT: After 11 years of experience in cannabis, what are some things that you want to be seen done for the budding industry?

Moon: I want more people to have safe access to cannabis. I think you know that even in California, there’s not like 100 percent secure access like California’s ban legal for quite some time. However, there are still dry counties where you can’t have a dispensary or delivery service, so people don’t have access to safe medicines. So I want access for everyone. However, you know, that means legalization and last region, like wherever we have to get there, I want us to get there.

I’m originally from New Orleans, and in New Orleans, the culture is all about drinking. Like, I do dabble with cannabis. Also, I had like a pot brownie now and then, but it wasn’t something that was part of my life at all. And it wasn’t until I moved to California in 2010 that I realized, “Oh, cannabis can do so many different things for me. Holy crap, it helps my period cramps, helps my sleep, my appetite, like my mood, my creativity.” 

The culture in Louisiana is now shifting because a lot of it changed. But, still, it’s very alcohol-driven and not gone as cannabis focuses as California is.

Photo Credit: Ginger Michele

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Working in Cannabis with CHS

HT: How do you continue to work in the cannabis industry even though you cannot consume due to your CHS condition?

Moon: I was using cannabis for six years before I got sick with THC, and those six years were pretty great times. Cannabis was such medicine for me and working at the dispensary. I saw how many people it also helped, like we had the elderly come in, you know, walking with like a crane, talking about how they’re using cannabis for arthritis. 

We had younger people coming in and people from all walks of life. And ultimately, my passion in life is just helping people. And, you know, cannabis is one avenue to doing that. Like, I spend time volunteering. I volunteer every month, but cannabis is like the strong way that I can help people. So, um, even though I can’t use it myself, I know that it’s so beneficial for so many people.

That’s what keeps me wanting to talk about it, promote it, like bring it to the masses because it’s like this is a life-changing plant, and sure, I can no longer have it myself, but like millions of people should be able to have it and enjoy it and have all the benefits from it. 

So that is what keeps me going is just like helping people and knowing how beneficial cannabis is. Like there’s been moments when I’ve almost quit the industry. I got a job offer for a nonprofit that I volunteer with, and they were like, now come over here, work with us. We’ll give you benefits, 401K, and all the good stuff you don’t get in cannabis. And I was so close to leaving the industry. So I’m like, This will be another avenue where I can help people, but then I like got another client and cannabis, and like the cannabis industry just kind of like pulled me in. It was like, “No, I got to stay in cannabis. Like, it’s just, it’s where I belong.”

I think now with CHS, like, you know, I’m at the beginning of getting diagnosed and having the experience and all that, just like I was upset and angry and bitter. Like, “Why me, why this?” You know, it’s fucking sucks. But now I see it as like it happened to me because there needed to be a voice for this syndrome within the industry, somebody who is not anti-cannabis to talk about it and educate others because this it’s this condition affects a lot of people in the industry. It’s just like a dirty little secret.

I feel like it happened to me for a reason. And because there needed to be a voice for this, there needs to be somebody advocating for all the patients who have this. And it sucks that it’s me. But also, you know, after the years of me advocating and just the process, I realized like it had to be me.

HT: We have seen people accuse you of faking CHS or not even believing the condition is actual.

Moon: Yeah. My eyes are starting to water because I’m like, one of the problematic aspects is the hate that I receive from people in the industry. Some people were once like my friends and like people that I would like to see at social events, you know, every week and like turned against me and said things like “You should leave the industry. If you were allergic to peanuts, you wouldn’t work at a peanut factory. So what are you doing in this industry now?”

These are things that were publicly said on social media posts, where other people can see them. And it’s like targeting me, and it’s like not just like a one-off remark. It’s like, long, lasting me, like talking so negatively about me when I’m like sitting. You’re saying, like, I’m still a proponent of the plant. Like, I’m not against the plant. I’m just talking about a potential rare negative side effect. We talk about it because there have been five deaths since CHS, and we don’t want more deaths. 

The way to do this is through education and awareness. People know that it happens that way. If they have symptoms, they’ll stop smoking, and then they don’t get to the breaking point. The online hate I’ve received over the years has been so brutal.

Photo Credit: Alice Moon

I recently went to the Emerald Cup and being in a room full of all these industry folks, I’m just like, pointing out like, I was with a date, and my date knew so many people are usually like, I’m going to tell this person. I’m like, I’m going to stand back because they’ve talked negatively about me online, so I’m not going to stop. It’s just mean, it’s unfair, and yeah, it’s upsetting. I try to be a tough cookie, but sometimes it gets to me.

Another aspect of this is like, you know, now that I work for an agency and I’m not like a freelancer, it’s not like I also need to be more conscious of like what I’m saying publicly and, you know, so I most of our clients, like, don’t even realize I have this condition. One of them just found out recently when he was like, “Let’s get you some samples,” and I was like, “Oh, unfortunately, I can’t use.” So I sent him like the Washington Post article was like, “Oh my God, Alice, I’m so sorry to hear that.”

It’s like and but, you know, it could go sour where they’re like, “Oh, we don’t want somebody representing us who talks about this condition.” So I like also have just to be cautious. I don’t want to upset any of our clients. My boss is 100 percent supportive of me being vocal about CHS. She knew that I talked about this condition from the moment she hired me. She comes from the beer and alcohol industry, and you have to talk about the adverse side effects like you can’t ignore them. So she’s got that understanding of the way cannabis operates, too.

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Trailblazing Cannabis Publicity & Final Thoughts

HT: What other services do you bring to the cannabis industry outside of your work as a Trailblaze publicist?

Moon: Besides Trailblaze, I do social media consulting. I consult brands and people on their social media strategy, whether it’s like on LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram. And then, I also like people to consider me a micro-influencer. So I do sponsor content on my LinkedIn and on my Instagram account, where brands pay me to take photos of their products. And I talk about the products. And even though I can’t use it myself, I have people who try the products on my behalf.

So I’ve got like three people that are like my go-to people who I’m like, here’s the product, you know? And then I ask them a bunch of questions after they consume it, and then I get some honest feedback. And that’s how I’m able to like talk about products, even though I can’t use them. So yeah, that’s kind of how I operate, and I sell a course, an influencer, an Instagram marketing course, a LinkedIn guide and a course for creating your Instagram bio strategically.


HT:
Is there anything else that you want to share with our readers?

Moon: If somebody thinks they have CHS, take a three-month cannabis break. The typical warning signs are nausea typically in the morning, sometimes abdominal pain, and occasionally acid reflux-like symptoms, like a lot of burping or heartburn. So if somebody experiences those symptoms, take a three-month break and see if their symptoms go away, okay. 

I just think that’s important for people to be aware of the warning signs because it’s not like you will just end up vomiting instantly in most cases. And that’s not the case for everyone. You want to listen to your body, know the warning signs, and take care of yourself.

If you take a break, you may be able to go back to consuming lightly and like manage your relationship with cannabis differently.

You can follow Alice’s adventures in cannabis through her

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Hannah (Izer) Vysoky

About The Author

Hannah (Izer) Vysoky

HIGH THERE MISSION

WE’RE A CREATIVE COMMUNITY — EXPLORING THE SCIENCE, CRAFT, AND CULTURE OF CANNABIS.
WE BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE A COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS ERADICATING THE STIGMA, MISINFORMATION, AND INEQUITIES SURROUNDING THIS PLANT, SO WE CAN UNLOCK ITS TRUE POTENTIAL FOR ALL.

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