Pubdate: Thu, 24 Nov 2016
Source: Airdrie City View (CN AB)
Copyright: 2016 Airdrie City View Ltd.
Author: Dustin Ruth
Page: 19


An Airdrie mother of four and cancer survivor is striving to end the
social stigma surrounding marijuana.

Using a multimedia approach, Melinda Sarpal, 37, is documenting her
journey to open Cannabliss - a retail store promoting holistic
education and tools focusing on cannabis and health - in Airdrie.

With a documentary, television show and podcast currently in the
works, she said she wants to be a part of the now global conversation
helping to normalize marijuana.

"In Alberta, we're so far behind," Sarpal said. "It's time we start
bringing (cannabis) into conversation, making it mainstream and making
it OK."

In 2014, Sarpal was diagnosed with invasive cervical

While waiting to hear the best course of treatment, she said she
researched as much as she could about natural health options.

During this process, the benefits of cannabis on a medical level were
introduced to her for the first time.

This, she said, was much more scientific than the perception she had
of a $5 joint one could buy in her high school days to spend an
afternoon with the munchies.

"That's all we knew about it," Sarpal said.

Eventually, she said doctors determined a hysterectomy would be
required as part of her treatment.

Though the procedure successfully removed the cancer, Sarpal said she
was at a statistically higher risk of getting another cancer afterwards.

"I wanted to be proactive," she said. "I wanted to do whatever I could
to stop that."

At the start of 2016, Sarpal said she received her medicinal marijuana

The process, however, felt as if she was wading through an
"underground railroad" to find someone, who knew somebody, who knew a

"It's not something that was very openly talked about at the time,"
she said. "It's only just starting to come into play now.

"I can't even imagine what it was like 15 years before

Though she believes marijuana has been a positive factor on her own
health, she said it is the stories of others that have inspired her to
make a difference.

Watching a 76-year-old grandmother living with terminal liver cancer
smoke medicinal marijuana for the first time was a life-altering
experience for Sarpal.

"Seeing her face of anguish turn…into relief and relaxation," she
said. "That's when I knew this is what I had to do."

In that moment, Sarpal said the concept of Cannabliss was

Offering a crisp, clean aesthetic, she said customers would have
access to professional staff offering educational sessions, high
quality tools to help use cannabis, hemp-based products targeting
health, essential oils and books.

"I'm hoping to…end the stigma through education," Sarpal said. "But
also provide a place where people don't feel ashamed or judged to come

Sarpal has teamed up with filmmaker and musician Fredie "Frenzy"
Hamdan and motivational speaker Chris Robinson to film a documentary
detailing her journey to open Cannabliss.

Once open, she said the stories of those benefiting from medicinal
marijuana would be told through an LA Ink-inspired television show
featured around Cannabliss.

With his own work helping youth get out of trouble through his Stop
the Violence campaign, Hamdan said he was inspired by Sarpal's story
and desire to create awareness for her own cause.

"She's very honest," Hamdan said. "That's a big thing these

With a friend's mother avoiding chemotherapy thanks to THC pills,
Hamdan said connecting the public with personal stories surrounding
marijuana could be a catalyst for understanding and change.

"The fact cannabis can help people like that, but we don't know about
it, that was a huge thing," he said.

Though Cannabliss will not be a distributor of medicinal marijuana,
Sarpal said she has hopes of adding cannabis to her shelves once
legalization is passed.

With the store set to open in the next 60 to 75 days, the documentary
pegged for release by April 20, 2017 and the podcast - or "potcast,"
as she calls it - set to start in December, Sarpal has been busy
bringing her vision to fruition.

"It's a big endeavour," she said. "I'm super excited."
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MAP posted-by: Matt