Anette Recinos said she was drawn to cannabis during her undergraduate years in the Bay Area after experiencing anxiety in college.
“I was going through kind of a tough time,” Recinos recalled. “It’s that time when you’re trying to find yourself, and you have no idea what your identity is. You get anxious about everything.”
Recinos, a graduate student in the Iovine and Young Academy, realized that even though cannabis helped her, there was still a stigma and lack of information around it which prevented other people from reaping its benefits. So, she decided to launch Cannaclub, a student organization focused on educating, advocating and providing opportunities for students within the cannabis space.
“I just saw that there was a need to actually educate students on everything having to do with cannabis,” Recinos said. “It’s not just about smoking it. There’s a lot of science behind it; there’s a lot of culture and societal factors around it.”
After turning to the Bay Area’s rich cannabis scene to ease her stress, Recinos said she realized more students should be educated on the medicinal properties of pot and thus began working in the industry in 2014 by co-founding cannabis brand Ladybug.
“Most of the research shows that [cannabis] helps for these types of ailments [like epilepsy and cancer],” Recinos said. “I think there’s still that stigma where people think that if you smoke weed, you’re just a lazy stoner just on the couch eating Doritos, but it’s really not that.”
Recinos said the club’s primary goals are to educate students on safe cannabis practices and the benefits of pot along with creating a community where students can network, find volunteer and job positions, and have a platform to express their ideas to those in the industry.
“I think [cannabis] really does help people, and that’s why I’m a part of it, and that’s why I want to educate students on it,” Recinos said. “That you have to be responsible with it.”
While the club is in its beginning stages, recently gaining recognition from the University and a fresh executive board, Recinos said it is looking to create more opportunities for students by hosting events like speaker panels, networking mixers and other social events where members can mingle with the community.
Recinos sought the help of Maha Haq, former president of the UCLA chapter of Cannaclub and original founder of Cannaclub, which is now at 11 college campuses, to set up USC’s chapter.
Haq, who is a 2019 graduate of UCLA, started working in the cannabis industry when she was 18 as a budtender at a medical dispensary. After multiple rejections from UCLA’s administration because recreational marijuana hadn’t been legalized in California yet, Haq said the club was approved in 2018.
“We want to educate our students, as well as anyone else that we can educate,” Haq said. “We want to advocate for the right things within the cannabis space, so advocating for social equity or advocating for good practices in cannabis businesses, and then opportunities: We want to share job opportunities or really anything for students who are trying to break into the space.”
Haq said she values the partnership that has developed between the USC and UCLA chapters of the club and has worked with Recinos to standardize the Cannaclub’s constitution and bylaws to make sure the club could be easily approved by other university administrators.
“The best part of USC and UCLA Cannaclub chapters is that we get to work a lot together and collaborate,” Haq said. “The L.A. market for cannabis is huge [and] has huge potential, as well.”
Recinos said the two often joke about the universities’ intense rivalry.
“We’re kind of collaborating, and we kind of have a running joke that weed has brought us together,” Recinos said.
Associate Dean of Research at the School of Social Work Charles Kaplan, who is the faculty adviser for Cannaclub and has worked with another adviser for the club, Director of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative Jeff Chen, said he wanted to support Recinos in engaging students with cannabis research.
“Instead of just relying on the faculty and the administration to do it, if the students are really interested, let’s work with the students,” Kaplan said. “And that’s why I said ‘Well, I know about cannabis, I have a good network all over the world on cannabis, I’ve done research in it, so if I could help the students to have a good program that’s comparable, and even better than UCLA, then let’s do it.’”
Recinos said she was initially concerned about potential pushback from the administration because she didn’t know the culture of the student body or if people would be interested in a cannabis club. But the approval process went smoothly, with the University’s only stipulation being that pot would not be consumed on campus.
The executive board has attended conferences like CannMed, which hosts talks with leaders in the cannabis industry — such as 2019 keynote speaker “Father of Cannabis Research” Raphael Mechoulam, who discovered tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis — to make themselves known to companies.
“A lot of companies really are happy to work with us because we’re the next generation of not only consumers, but business owners, leaders in the space, and I think they see the value in that,” Recinos said.
Cannaclub has partnered with Nail Garden and LYT Delivery for member discounts on cannabis services, and the club hopes to continue expanding partnerships through brand ambassadors or sponsorships.
Recinos said she’s optimistic about the change Cannaclub can bring to USC and other campuses across the country.
“When I came to USC, I know I wanted to do something here. I know I kind of wanted to leave a little piece of me behind,” Recinos said. “In history, a lot of change has happened through students, so even just creating a student movement around cannabis is going to be a good foundation for that change.”
Kaplan said he believes with legalization efforts gaining ground across the country, clubs like Cannaclub can open doors for educational conversations about pot’s complexities and potential benefits.
“I understand that these clubs are springing up at other universities, not only in California,” Kaplan said. “So it’s sort of like a national movement that’s going on that’s tied to students and student interest, which I think should be the primary driver of this … This is a club that is promoting knowledge, promoting education and outreach to the community.”