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How a Cannabis Expert Spends Her Sundays

“‘Antsy’ is a good word for how they’re feeling right now,” Sharron Cannon said of her patients at Curaleaf, where demand is high.

Ms. Cannon in front of the dispensary in Forest Hills, Queens, where she works. 
Ms. Cannon in front of the dispensary in Forest Hills, Queens, where she works. Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

Sharron Cannon is the outreach coordinator for Curaleaf, a medical marijuana company with 57 dispensaries in 17 states, including one in Forest Hills, Queens, which has recently experienced a significant increase in new patients.

Ms. Cannon became interested in cannabis in the 1980s, while volunteering with H.I.V. patients. The Covid crisis is bringing back memories of that era. “It was definitely doomsday for AIDS patients,” she said. “There’s some similarities to what we’re experiencing now.”

Her job entails educating patients about cannabis and enrolling them in the New York State Medical Marijuana Program. Before the coronavirus outbreak, she spent most of her time talking with patients directly. Now that work is done via the phone, email or text, including on Sundays. Ms. Cannon, 60, lives in Harlem with her son, Kenny Allen, 27.

Morning tea. 
Morning tea. Credit…Kenny Allen

BAGEL BLUES I’m up at 5 every morning. That gives me an hour or two to get myself together and get organized. First thing I’ll do is put on my teapot and make a cup of elderberry tea. It’s good for the immune system. I’ll also have a toasted bagel. I’m not liking my bagels right now because they come from a plastic bag in the grocery store. Before the virus, I would stop at Zabar’s and get one on my way to work. Zabar’s has one of the best bagels in the city.

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WHEELS I gather up all my paperwork, with my list of all the phone calls I need to make, and I take an Uber to work. I used to take the subway, but I don’t feel safe doing that now. Last time I was on the subway, most folks didn’t have masks on and they were coughing and sneezing and laying on the seats. I know they’ve made some changes since then but I haven’t been on to test it. The car gets me there in 30 minutes, which is amazing. No traffic.

Stopping by “Invisible Man: A Memorial to Ralph Ellison,” in Riverside Park before an Uber picks her up for the commute.
Stopping by “Invisible Man: A Memorial to Ralph Ellison,” in Riverside Park before an Uber picks her up for the commute.Credit…Kenny Allen

UPLIFTED When I get to the dispensary, sometimes there are people standing outside looking to do curbside pickup. I’ll get a text letting me know if somebody in that line is waiting to talk to me. By the time I get there I’m feeling uplifted by the church service I listened to on the way to work by one of my favorite pastors out in Brooklyn, the Rev. Kirk D. Lyons Sr. of Vanderveer Park United Methodist Church. He’s very good. It helps me get ready to make things happen.

CAR-SIDE CONSULTATIONS If someone is waiting in line to talk to me, I’m not going to let them stand there. I can’t bring them inside, but I’ll consult with them outside or stand by their car if they’re sitting in a car. “Antsy” is a good word for how they’re feeling right now. A lot of my patients don’t have access to technology, so they don’t have a way to get us their paperwork. I have a lot of patients who are in wheelchairs, a lot of veterans with PTSD, which is one of the qualifying conditions for medical cannabis.

OFF THE HOOK Then I’m on the phone. Sometimes I’m checking on new patients I haven’t heard from, sometimes I’m talking to people who want to know about the science of the plant, how it works in the body. That is my absolute joy. I get calls from people who aren’t even patients who want to know more about how it helps, if it can perhaps work for them. People want to know, How do I register? What doctor can I recommend for them to go see for a medical marijuana card? Not all doctors in New York can recommend medical marijuana. The phones are ringing off the hook.

DETAILS I’m also doing administrative work, inputting data into the state-run medical cannabis registration system. I’m there till about 7, then I’ll get an Uber home. I take off my clothes right inside the door and get in the shower. Cuomo has deemed us essential workers during the coronavirus. It’s so important that we protect ourselves. I wear a mask when I go to work, but not a face shield.

COPING My son loves to cook, and he’s really good, too. He may have cooked some wings and some broccoli or a salad. I’ll eat whatever he’s got for me, or I might just grab an apple from the fruit bowl and call it a night. There are a couple of things I’ll do to unwind. I love watching “Oprah’s Master Class,” and I’m revisiting Alice Walker’s essay collection, “Anything We Love Can Be Saved.” But if a patient calls me, I’ll answer. Because even in the midst of a pandemic, the stigma is there and people need to cope.