The Advocate: Shanel Lindsay
Massachusetts attorney-turned-entrepreneur Shanel Lindsay created a cannabis business worth millions in just three years — and she did so without ever selling weed. With her company, Ardent, Lindsay focused on ancillary products and devices designed to help users get the most out of fresh and cured flower.
At the heart of Ardent is the NOVA Decarboxylator, a device that uses a scientific process to properly activate the THC and CBD in marijuana to prepare it for use in everything from food and cooking oils to tinctures and capsules. Cannabis must be decarboxylated over a specific amount of time and with a certain level of heat before it can be added to your favorite brownie recipe, and Lindsay's company has taken the confusion out of the process.
An active medical marijuana user for years, Lindsay first used cannabis to treat painful ovarian cysts brought on after the birth of her son. "I wasn't thinking about a cannabis career because there wasn't a cannabis industry yet," Lindsay told POPSUGAR about her early days growing and preparing cannabis for her personal use. She'd been making her own medical marijuana for 10 years before she took her medicine to a nearby laboratory and learned that she was wasting 30 to 40 percent of the flower's THC because she was preparing it incorrectly.
Lindsay then commissioned the lab to do further testing, took the data, and developed the NOVA Decarboxylator with the help of engineers. She drew the prototype for the device, found a company to manufacture it, and brought the world's first personal decarboxylator to market by 2016.
As a business owner, Lindsay is at the forefront of Massachusetts's cannabis movement, but it was her own run-in with the law that made her more aware of just how imbalanced marijuana laws and policy could be.
"I was always concerned about the legalization piece of it because, even though the laws were beginning to progress, they weren't protecting everybody, including me," Lindsay recalled. In 2008, the state of Massachusetts decriminalized marijuana, yet in the Summer of 2009, while driving to the law firm where she worked, Lindsay was pulled over for a minor traffic violation and arrested after the officer spotted marijuana in her purse. Her arrest could have ended her career had she been arraigned in front of the judges she often faced with her clients. At the police station, she explained to the officer that her arrest was excessive and a violation of her civil rights since she possessed less than an ounce, warranting only a $100 ticket — and she prevailed. Lindsay's legal savvy helped her get out of being arraigned and she was never charged with committing a crime — but it also exposed how important it was to serve those that have suffered under harsh marijuana laws.
"If you're in this industry and you're benefitting off of prohibition and the fact that this is an exploding marketplace because it has been illegal for so long, with that comes an obligation to push this thing forward and to help the communities that have been harmed because of this," Lindsay explained. For her part, she started working on her state's Guidance for Equity Provisions with the help of her alma mater, the Northeastern University School of Law, and formed the nonprofit Equitable Opportunities Now in 2016 to inform people of color about how to become active participants in Massachusetts's legal cannabis market.
Lindsay is currently working on commercial-size versions of the NOVA Decarboxylator and wants to develop a fund for women and people of color who want to launch cannabis brands. "People should look at this as the biggest economic opportunity in our lifetime," Lindsay said. "I would encourage all women to think about how they can be an active and a positive participant in the space. Whatever someone is good at, there's a need in this industry."