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Utah in the Weeds Episode #106 – Lissa Reed is Uplifting the Cannabis Community

The 106th episode of Utah in the Weeds features Lissa Reed, Community Programs Manager for Utah Therapeutic Health Center. Part of Lissa’s job is overseeing “Uplift,” a Medical Cannabis subsidy program for low-income and terminally-ill patients.

Since its launch last December, Uplift has raised more than $53,000 to subsidize Medical Cannabis evaluations. Thanks to Lissa’s hard work, and donations from the community and UTTHC’s partners, 194 patients have already benefited from the program.

Podcast Transcript

Tim Pickett:
Welcome everybody out to Episode 106 of Utah in the Weeds. My name is Tim Pickett and I am the host. Here is a great episode describing and interviewing and discussing and conversing with a good friend of mine, Lissa Reed, who is the manager of the Uplift program. Oh, there’s the dog in the background. He’s howling because he likes the program too. So Uplift is a great program in Utah designed for low income and terminally ill patients who need access to medical cannabis, and it’s a subsidy program. We describe how the program works here and get to know Lissa Reed too, who is an amazing part of the team. Somebody with a deep background, as you’ll hear, in community development and community program development, frankly.

Tim Pickett:
She’s a great individual. I’m very excited to share this with you because when you do good things, good things happen. We’ve raised a lot of money for people in Utah. It’s a program that does nothing but give back to the community. And I think it’s kind of designed… I know I’m patting ourselves on the back a little bit because I feel like it’s designed and implemented in a way that does nothing but good for the whole system for medical cannabis here in Utah. So I’m excited to share this with you. Lissa Reed a good friend of mine, Utah in the Weeds. Okay, Lissa Reed, Alessandra Reed.

Lissa Reed:
That’s me. Hi.

Tim Pickett:
When did you first smoke cannabis?

Lissa Reed:
Oh, it was, it was 4/20 and I was in high school.

Tim Pickett:
In south Florida?

Lissa Reed:
South Florida, yeah. I grew up near Fort Lauderdale in the suburb out there. And I remember that I had been talking to some of my weed smoking friends for a few months about what it’s like to smoke weed. And I was like, “That sounds good. I think I’m ready to try it.” And then 4/20 hit and everyone was making their 4/20 plans and I was like, “Yeah, I’ll come.” So it was real shady because we were high schoolers in a state where it’s not legal. So we hid behind some kind of tree or something, smoked a bowl, and then I had to go to-

Tim Pickett:
Was it a glass bowl or was it like a… do you remember?

Lissa Reed:
I think it was probably a glass bowl.

Tim Pickett:
Like with a lighter, a Bic lighter?

Lissa Reed:
Yeah. Oh yeah, of course.

Tim Pickett:
Okay. And just whatever weed anybody could get.

Lissa Reed:
It was weed that’s as much as I knew.

Tim Pickett:
Then you had to go somewhere?

Lissa Reed:
Yeah, I had a piano lesson that night, that evening, which was bold of me. But I remember coming home from hanging out with my friends and being like, “Okay, I’ve got to play piano and make sure I can do this in front of my teacher.” And I was like, “Oh my God, I’m amazing at piano.”

Tim Pickett:
So you sat down to the piano and you’re like just getting into it.

Lissa Reed:
I was like, “Wow, weed made me so good at things.” I’m sure it didn’t. I was just high. But yeah, I made it through the lesson. Nobody brought it up so I don’t think she knew.

Tim Pickett:
Wow, that’s pretty good.

Lissa Reed:
Yeah, and it was all downhill from there.

Tim Pickett:
Then of course it was like, “Oh yeah, I did that once I can do it again.” Did you ever get paranoid though? I always remember in high school just the paranoia of… it was so much fun right up until the moment I inhaled, and then after that it was just like, oh man, I was so worried about everything.

Lissa Reed:
Yeah. I look back and I’m like, “Why did I keep doing that?” Because I was definitely paranoid all the time.

Tim Pickett:
All the time.

Lissa Reed:
Like was it even fun or was it just fun to be rebellious?

Tim Pickett:
Breaking rules is fun. Yeah, I feel the same way.

Lissa Reed:
It actually has taken me a long time to get over the paranoia, like till recently.

Tim Pickett:
Oh really? What made you get over it? Just like using different strains, different products? Or was it the experience, giving yourself permission to be high?

Lissa Reed:
I think that working in this industry, it definitely has happened since joining the cannabis industry, where occasionally I’ll be like, “Oh, everyone’s a little bit high today, maybe I’ll try it at work.” Like I’m in some pain, maybe it’s okay for me to take a hit right now and then see if I can still keep my wits about me. And I think I’ve learned like what works for me when I’m medicated and what doesn’t work for me, what kind of tasks, and so I’m less worried all the time like, “Oh, everyone thinks I’m an idiot right now because I’m high and I don’t know what to do.” I can regulate it more.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah, I feel like I can plan it out. Now if I have a three o’clock meeting or I need to record a podcast, I mean, there’s a couple of podcasts that I’ve been a little medicated. Not a lot though because, I don’t know, just the way my brain works, I don’t love to have conversations where I have to think about questions and where the direction… I guess it’s the direction of the conversation. If I feel like I need to guide the conversation in a specific way, I don’t like to be high. If I don’t need to guide the conversation at all and I just need to be present, that’s a totally different scenario.

Lissa Reed:
Yeah, that makes sense. I feel like if I’m doing really logistical work, I do not. I will wait to medicate until later. But if it’s more conversational, like I work events occasionally, if I’m out talking to the community that’s a good time for me to medicate if I need to.

Tim Pickett:
To medicate, yeah. I’ve found that there are people who… I met somebody who does social media for a company and they found that medicating before they do all their… they pre-plan all their posts, and I guess it’s easier to come up with quippy little statements… and to think about yourself like absolutely that’s going to work great, post. That’s going to work great, schedule that one, and not being so inhibited with worrying about what you’re going to say. With things that really, I mean they matter, and you want to say good things, but-

Lissa Reed:
But you don’t need to really stress over every single detail and make sure it’s going to work. Right?

Tim Pickett:
Yeah. Okay, so tell us the story. I think I know the story, but tell everybody the story of how you got into cannabis, because I feel like this is… Yeah, okay, I want to know the story. So you’re in Florida. You’re going to school. You graduate high school, thank goodness, the weed didn’t kill you.

Lissa Reed:
I made it.

Tim Pickett:
Thank goodness. Okay, so then did you go to college in Florida first?

Lissa Reed:
Yeah, I went to Florida State for my bachelor’s. Got it in music theory. Played a bunch of music up there. While I was in my undergrad, I was on The Students for Sensible Drug Policy Club. I don’t know if you knew that.

Tim Pickett:
What was that like? I didn’t know that.

Lissa Reed:
Yeah. I guess I’ve just always been like pro drugs. I think drugs are fun and good if you educate yourself and want to explore what your brain’s like. So The Students for Sensible Drug Policy is exactly what it sounds like it is, it’s students advocating for drug policy changes.

Tim Pickett:
How much impact do you think those students actually have?

Lissa Reed:
Well, in my time there… I think there’s a lot of local impact that can be made. I haven’t really kept up with the org on a national scale lately so I don’t really know what they’re doing now… but in my time there I’m pretty sure that SSDP was really involved in getting good Samaritan laws in Florida, which is if you’re with somebody who’s doing an illegal drug and you are too, but that person overdoses, you have amnesty if you call for medical help. They can’t charge you for the drug use or the paraphernalia charges because you’re trying to save someone’s life right now. So I think that was an impact we had. And then they’ve been pretty involved in getting naloxone centers, harm prevention type stuff.

Tim Pickett:
Well, I mean, they’re the ones in the thick of it, so to speak. Right? I’m here, I need the naloxone right now, like listen to me.

Lissa Reed:
So I think those groups have a lot of impact that way. And then another thing we did was a lot of education on campus. We would bring in speakers and stuff and just kind of try to move a cultural shift.

Tim Pickett:
Then you went to Ohio next?

Lissa Reed:
Did my master’s at Ohio State also in music theory. I didn’t do any interesting cannabis related things there other than smoke weed.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah, well it’s Ohio. But The Ohio State, “The”, and it’s trademarked now. Did you hear that? The “The” is trade… they own it, they own the “The”.

Lissa Reed:
We, we own the “The”, as a Buckeye.

Tim Pickett:
Of course you do, of course you do. Why does one study music theory and then go on to get a masters in music theory? I’m sure that’s a really pressing question that everybody wants to know the answer to. I’m smiling right now because we’re friends, but I love music and I do understand now more talking to you that there is… well, there’s theory and there’s science kind of behind all things, music is no different. But what made you want to go on and get a master’s?

Lissa Reed:
Well, my goal was a PhD, which I will get to, I guess, but I wanted to teach and I got to teach throughout all of grad school. I got to teach undergrad music theory classes. And what really got me into music theory is I was always pretty good at music and I always hated practicing my instruments. And I was like how do I do music in a way that doesn’t make me sit alone in a practice room for eight hours a day and drive myself crazy? And so music theory is kind of like, I like to call it like the linguistics of music sometimes, or the math of music. It’s kind of just the mechanical ways that notes fit together to create different effects. So scales and chords, how are those things built? Those are kind of the building blocks of music theory. And I always really liked those logic puzzle type things, math things have always just kind of worked for me. So that’s why I went into that because I was like, “Oh, I could just do puzzles all day and listen to cool music. That’s great.”

Tim Pickett:
Yeah, okay, that does make a lot of sense. And I like the logic part of it. So you finish at The Ohio State, then you go to… where’d you go in New York?

Lissa Reed:
The Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.

Tim Pickett:
What does your family think about all this? You started in Florida, you go to Ohio, do you have a lot of siblings?

Lissa Reed:
I have two siblings and we have all moved around several times as an adult. So that’s kind of the norm. We all moved out to go to college and then landed in different places from there. I at least stayed in the country. Both my siblings spent decent amounts of time in different countries.

Tim Pickett:
Was that encouraged by your parents?

Lissa Reed:
Yeah, totally. They were like, “Yeah, follow your dreams. You’re succeeding. You’re doing what you want to do. If that brings you to Japan for a summer, if it brings you to South Korea every year, great. Go out and do it.”

Tim Pickett:
What did your parents do for work? Did they both work?

Lissa Reed:
Yeah. My mom worked in advertising. She worked for a parenting magazine, which actually made for a great childhood for me, very convenient. All kinds of fun kid’s events. And then my dad did something in software. I never understood it. He’s gone now. So I can’t ask clarifying questions.

Tim Pickett:
So a parenting magazine and then and all these events for the magazine, do you feel like that’s where you got your… you enjoy events because when you were a kid you used to go to these fun events?

Lissa Reed:
Totally, and it was also my first job. Once I was 14, I think, I started working at those events for her.

Tim Pickett:
What did you do?

Lissa Reed:
Just like manning a table, helping kids do crafts or sitting in a dunk tank. I did a lot of costume characters. I was the Easter bunny a few times at events.

Tim Pickett:
Oh wow. All for this parenting magazine. What kind of booths do these events have? I can’t imagine a parenting booth, like a don’t hit your kid booth?

Lissa Reed:
I think it’s more like advertising for products and locations. The event would be at the museum or at the zoo or something, and it was a place kids wanted to go and then they had all these community partners that would set up booths of tables.

Tim Pickett:
Oh, cool. So you go to New York and you teach because now you’re working on your PhD, and this is 2018, 19?

Lissa Reed:
2017 I started my PhD. Yeah, I went to New York, the Eastman School of Music. It was, still is, one of the top schools in music theory in the country. So it was kind of always my dream school. And then I got there and it turned out the dream wasn’t wasn’t really my dream anymore. There’s a lot of emotion in this for me because it was the life path I had set myself on from like age 16. I was just going to get a PhD in music theory and become a professor. And I worked, I was in school for like 10 years working on that, and towards the end of it the academic life started to appeal less and less. It’s a really, really overworked space where you’re just expected to be working a hundred percent of the time. And also you are your own product.

Lissa Reed:
I had to market myself as an academic and I just found that that really didn’t work for me. I love being part of a team, I love having a common goal and I just couldn’t get motivated by I have to be the best. I have to show that I deserve one of the few academic jobs that are out there by being better than everyone that I’m friends with.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah, because the people you would be working with at all would be the people who are striving for the same goal you are in a really limited field. So during that time, so you worked for the drug policy in Florida, but then you worked, you did more nonprofit work in New York.

Lissa Reed:
Yeah. I co-founded and for a year I co-ran it, this organization called Project Spectrum and it is an org that is dedicated to diversity and equity and inclusion and access in all music academia, all that kind of like academic music studies world. So not necessarily the performance world, but all these nerds who are getting PhDs and stuck in these really just inequitable spaces that do a lot of harm to marginalize people. I was one of those marginalized people. I am a queer black woman, so there were a lot of ways that the music academic space was just doing harm to me and my communities. And so a few of us kind of started this org to start making some changes in the way that we talk about people in our fields.

Tim Pickett:
Was it mostly just to bring up the conversation and to kind of expose it do you feel like?

Lissa Reed:
That’s definitely a big part of it. And we really had a big impact on that conversation.

Tim Pickett:
Oh, you did?

Lissa Reed:
Yeah.

Tim Pickett:
I mean, I imagine if you’re not talking about it before and you have people that are academics that have skills of communication, and it’s 2017/18, is this the timeframe?

Lissa Reed:
Yeah, yep.

Tim Pickett:
Right? So, I mean, you’re going to have a pretty big voice pretty quickly in the circles because you already have, I mean, you’re already working on your PhD, you’re already kind of somebody in this small pond, so you’re going to stir the pond.

Lissa Reed:
Yeah, and then the other thing is, so our org was entirely run by grad students of color, which was awesome. It was people from different schools that we kind of networked at conferences and then decided to start this thing. And it’s fairly common in academia that scholars of color who make it are already at the best schools. So we were all kind of from these elite schools which meant that we had networks that had influence. Like it was me from Eastman and a couple people from Harvard. I think we had a Yale, we had a U Chicago. So yeah, so we had these networks of impact already and that really was useful.

Tim Pickett:
I mean, what did the work look like?

Lissa Reed:
Yeah. I’ll say first, I’m talking about this organization in past tense but they are still alive and well and doing amazing things since I’ve left academia. If you are happening to listen to Utah in the Weeds podcast and you’re in music academia, hi, let’s be friends and also go check out Project Spectrum. So we did a bunch of different projects. Our first thing was a conference. It was called Diversifying Music Academia and our theme was strengthening the pipeline. So we had this conference, it was in San Antonio and we planned it so it would be right before the big music conference that happens every year so that people would already be flying in and they could just come out a couple days early and come to our conference on diversity in music academia. And that really worked, we had about 120 people come to our very first conference. We were this new org asking people to fly in early.

Lissa Reed:
And there were just enough people in the field that were hungry for those kinds of conversations so they came out. And we had workshops, we had speakers, we had networking and fellowship events and it was all centered around this idea of strengthening the pipeline for marginalized scholars. So that kind of is looking at all the ways between being an undergrad and becoming a professor, all of these leaky spots that marginalized scholars tend to leave that pipeline, tend to leak out or be pushed out, we were kind of trying to look at all these different stages of a scholars career and where are the holes that we can plug for diverse scholars?

Tim Pickett:
That’s cool. I mean, I like this. It really is your you from the beginning to now. And as you get to know people, I don’t know if everybody is like this, but certainly it almost is like you enhance yourself. You’re like enhancing yourself as you go along your life journey and you totally have done this, at least so far. I mean, it’s certainly not over with yet. No, no, definitely haven’t arrived to all the things that you want to do. Okay, so then COVID hits.

Lissa Reed:
So COVID hits, I was working… Oh, I did a lot of music psychology research, so at the time I had a grant from the National Science Foundation. I was working on this big multi-site study on music cognition. And our lab got shut down when COVID got shut down, we couldn’t keep testing human subjects. So I came out to Utah because my sister had moved out here by then. And I was like, “I don’t know how long this COVID thing’s going to last, but I don’t want to be stuck in my one bedroom apartment by myself not working, so I’ll come out and be with my family and help with the childcare of my niece while everyone else is working from home.”

Lissa Reed:
So I showed up like March of 2020 and I stayed for about two months at first. And then it was time to go back and I realized I really, really didn’t want to. I just decided to move out here so I just went back and got my stuff and came back. And at that point I was still in school, I was doing remote. I was kind of done with my coursework and I was teaching a class still and working on my dissertation. And so I was like, “I can do this from anywhere. I don’t need to be in Rochester,” which was not my favorite place I’ve lived already. So yeah, I stuck with it remote in my apartment in Utah. And then over that next year, I was like, “Oh, it wasn’t just Rochester that I wanted to leave. It’s this whole shebang.”

Tim Pickett:
This whole thing. Okay, so that’s when you started working for Utah Therapeutic?

Lissa Reed:
Yeah.

Tim Pickett:
And that’s when our paths crossed. But there was this other piece that you did with this bail. Remember that bail? Remember that thing two?

Lissa Reed:
So when I first moved out here, I was working a little bit with…

Tim Pickett:
What are they called?

Lissa Reed:
What are they called?

Tim Pickett:
I know what they do, right, so I know what they call…

Lissa Reed:
This is so embarrassing.

Tim Pickett:
They support giving bail to low income… do they focus on minorities or just low income people who cannot afford their own bail?

Lissa Reed:
I think if they don’t have bail.

Tim Pickett:
Because if you’re rich, if you’re rich or you have any money, you can go get… I think you can go get a bond, somebody will post your bail for you. But if you’re broke, you stay in jail.

Lissa Reed:
Yeah, whether you’re convicted or not. You just have to wait there.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah, you just wait there. So it’s really not-

Lissa Reed:
And that ruins people’s lives. You lose your job if you don’t show up for three days. And if you’re innocent and you’re stuck in jail just because you don’t have money, now you have even less money when you come out because you lost your job.

Tim Pickett:
I know it’s really such a broken system. An acquaintance of mine has been involved in the system for a little while and has money, and at least enough money to pay all the fees. And I mean it’s like a siphon. It just siphons money away from people. The parole, the meetings, the testing, the lawyers, the home confinement. I mean everything costs money. You want the ankle thing, you’ve got to pay for it. Everything just all costs money. And the bail and not being able to get out, that would be pretty rough. When you first told me about this organization, I thought, “Well, this is kind of crazy. They’re letting criminals out of,” of course my white privileged mind is like, “They’re letting criminals out of the jail.” But when I started thinking about it like, well, it doesn’t make sense.

Lissa Reed:
Criminals are getting out of jail as long as they have money.

Tim Pickett:
That’s the only people that have to stay. Yeah, exactly.

Lissa Reed:
So it’s the Salt Lake City Bail Fund or Salt Lake Community Bail Fund, and that is kind of affiliated with Decarcerate Utah, that’s the org that I was working with for a little bit. The bail fund is just one of their projects in this larger decarceration effort in Utah. But they just will pay, they raise money and they use it to pay the bail of whoever needs it, whoever needs their bail paid.

Tim Pickett:
That’s cool. That’s a cool little organization.

Lissa Reed:
Yeah, it’s really cool.

Tim Pickett:
I think, especially when now we get into talking about cannabis and there’s so many people that have been incarcerated for cannabis and really just stupid charges. And then if you’re broke, you can’t get out. That sucks.

Lissa Reed:
It’s terrible.

Tim Pickett:
Okay, so you start working in cannabis, but now, what do you do now?

Lissa Reed:
Okay, present day. So I started working for UTTHC-

Tim Pickett:
Fast forward.

Lissa Reed:
Started out doing outreach and events mainly, and as I was doing all this community outreach I just couldn’t kind of let go of the fact that a lot of people who need medical cannabis just can’t access it because of that same thing, they just can’t afford it. And so maybe they’re still using cannabis, but without a med card and they’re at risk legally there because they just can’t afford the med card, or maybe they’re just in pain and they don’t have access to the kind of medicine that can help them. Or they’re on 10 different opiates or whatever. And so doing all this outreach, I was like, “You know what we need to do for outreach is we need to find money to help get our services to the people who can’t afford it.” So I started the Uplift program and that is what I run now.

Tim Pickett:
Just like that?

Lissa Reed:
Yeah. I was like, “Hey Tim, is it okay if I start this program and run it and you keep paying me?” And then you were like, “Okay.”

Tim Pickett:
It kind of was about that easy.

Lissa Reed:
Yeah, it really was.

Tim Pickett:
If I remember it.

Lissa Reed:
It was. Well, you were really invested too.

Tim Pickett:
I mean, I feel like there was… Oh totally, because I mean we’re going along with the evaluations and cards and there was a lot of people that were complaining that they couldn’t get access and I was seeing it too. The program is literally designed for the most sick. How did we get this program passed in Utah? Well, we bring the most sick, the most traumatized, we bring those people to the capital. Now granted we raise a bunch of signatures, but we literally used the stories that are the most impactful, have the most chance of impacting a legislator, and those are the stories that… a lot of those stories revolve around people who can’t afford the product or they can’t afford the evaluation or they’re not getting the good education because they’re asking some… I mean, sorry folks, but they’re just asking some doctor who doesn’t know shit about cannabis how to use it.

Tim Pickett:
So when you say we need to design this program that gives back to those people that literally helped us pass this, helped us get legal cannabis in Utah, it just seemed to make sense. Now I love the idea because then it’s a puzzle that we can solve. I remember trying to figure out well, how are we going to make this create a self-perpetuating machine that can do this?

Lissa Reed:
Keep bringing in the money and keep bringing in the patients, yeah.

Tim Pickett:
Right, I love that part of Uplift because that’s my personality, I like to solve those types of problems.

Lissa Reed:
You and I both. And it’s always so fun.

Tim Pickett:
Well see, the chords, the music theory, right, you’re like putting these puzzles together. How do we do this? So how does Uplift work? We have found, you and I have found, that this is somewhat unique in kind of the US. We don’t know of another program that does this. If you’re out there and you have a program, love this, like this, we’d love to hear about it.

Lissa Reed:
Yeah, comment below.

Tim Pickett:
Comment below and slam the subscribe button.

Lissa Reed:
Yeah, okay. So Uplift works… it’s kind of similar to the Salt Lake Bail Fund actually, we bring in money and then we use it to get med cards to people who need it. So more complexly, we raise money from individual donations, mostly our own patients have been so generous when we tell them about this program. They’re like, “Yes, I want to help somebody else get a med card who needs it.” And so a lot of our patients donate. We get a lot of online donations too. And then we have several industry partners that we work with and that we refer patients to, have agreed to match donations alongside UTTHC. So the first thousand dollars that we raise every single month is matched by UTTHC and by each of our industry partners, most of them are dispensaries or pharmacies.

Tim Pickett:
Who’s our industry partners now?

Lissa Reed:
Right now?

Tim Pickett:
In Utah?

Lissa Reed:
Right now we’ve got WholesomeCo Cannabis, we’ve got Deseret Wellness, we’ve got Zion Medicinal, we’ve got Block Pharmacy, and we’ve got Perfect Earth Modern Apothecary, and UTTHC is also matching donations.

Tim Pickett:
So six times matching.

Lissa Reed:
Yes.

Tim Pickett:
And Curaleaf has wants to join the program.

Lissa Reed:
Yeah, we’ve got some folks that are excited to join on and if you’re listening to this, we still are always happy to bring in more sponsors.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah. I mean, I’m mentioning these people because literally if you are listening and you’re not one of those groups-

Lissa Reed:
Yeah, what are you doing?

Tim Pickett:
You really should be.

Lissa Reed:
What are you doing?

Tim Pickett:
Yeah, what are you doing? The first thousand dollars goes back. It directly funds patients to get their evaluation, get good education, get their med card. And then all of those pharmacies supply a discount to those patients in order to help them on the other side.

Lissa Reed:
That’s right. And that’s one of my favorite things about the Uplift program is we are really focused on the med card side because that’s what we do at UTTHC. We do the evaluations, we do the patient education, we help navigate them through the whole process of state certification and all of that, but we don’t touch the product. We don’t touch cannabis actually in our business. But of course that’s where most cannabis patient’s money goes. They get the evaluation, that’s done for six months, and then they still have to go out and buy out of pocket their medicine. So I am just so thankful that our Uplift cosponsors have agreed to do this 25% discount for Uplift patients on cannabis products in their pharmacies. I think that’s amazing. And I think that really, really helps people every day.

Tim Pickett:
So the patients who we support, who Uplift supports in Utah, are low income plus terminally ill patients, that’s the qualifying-

Lissa Reed:
That’s right.

Tim Pickett:
… kind of… obviously you have to qualify for a med card and have the conditions that would warrant that, all the normal stuff, the Q and P evaluation and that sort of thing. But we focus on the Medicaid eligible or people who have Medicaid as that being a nice objective measure of income essentially.

Lissa Reed:
Right, and so up to this point we have used Medicaid as the main metric for income verification because we pour a lot of resources into this program already and doing that income verification in-house would take a lot more of our resources. So at this point we kind of have said, “Okay, we can only do so much.” And we’re doing absolutely as much as we can. But Medicaid is already verifying people’s incomes so if they have Medicaid, then they fit our requirements and that’s that.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah, it does simplify it. It would be nice, and hopefully one day, we figure out a way to expand that.

Lissa Reed:
Totally.

Tim Pickett:
But it’s really hard. I’ve found that it is somewhat challenging to navigate a program like this and make sure that it kind of is sustainable, because everybody wants well… and of course the partners want to see that there’s people joining the program and that we’re doing the work that we said that we’re going to do. Do you think that this is something that you can scale in a bigger way?

Lissa Reed:
Yeah. I mean, I’m hopeful that we can. It would take a lot more money and kind of the infrastructure to bring that money in.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah, I agree. As we’re talking about it there’s no doubt in my mind that this is a totally scalable thing. Nonprofit, I had talked to Matt Hoffman and interviewed him about his Our Cannabis nonprofit, and this is something that I think could easily be a big nonprofit. But, it’s one thing to run it from inside the clinic, essentially that is doing a lot of the work or doing all of the work to get all of this done, it’s another thing to run an organization where now you have to take the money you’re getting as donations and matching and then pay clinics-

Lissa Reed:
Yeah, to see those patients.

Tim Pickett:
… to see the patient, that’s a whole layer of complexity that we don’t have to deal with right now which makes it more efficient.

Lissa Reed:
Yeah, we probably will. I mean, I think right now, like right now this is a UTTHC program, right, the only way to get your med card through Uplift is at a UTTHC clinic. And personally, I think that’s great because I think we do a really, really good cannabis education and evaluation. I think that patients are really well served when they come into our clinics. And that’s what I want to put this money towards is giving our patients a really good experience and getting them off on the right foot on their cannabis health journey. But I think scaling it up, there’s just so much more need than we can fulfill right now. I’ve got a long wait list already. So we’re working on developing it into a something with more capacity.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah, and I think that now that we’re seeing that there’s more need and there seems to be enough interest in matching donations and giving back to this community effort, I think that there is a justification to scale it.

Lissa Reed:
Totally.

Tim Pickett:
And get more donors-

Lissa Reed:
Totally.

Tim Pickett:
… who can not only match a thousand dollars, but put a $30,000 or a $300,000 check in there. Wouldn’t it be cool to have $300,000 as a donation to say, “Okay, we can hire a couple of people. We can expand the program. We can just do more, we can just help so many more people.”

Lissa Reed:
Yeah, I mean, I’ve got a big wait list already for people we just don’t have the funds for yet. And as a principal in Uplift, we see people first come, first served. If you apply and you qualify, we’ll bring you in in that order. There’s no preference or anything. But, oh shoot, what was I going to say? Oh, just that we haven’t really done very much outreach looking for patients who need this because we already have a wait list. I would love to go out into the community and find those vulnerable patients who need medical cannabis and give them this opportunity. But right now it’s just kind of like people who need it have to find us because we just can’t. The patients on the wait list would be at a disservice if we go out and look for more patients to add to the wait list.

Tim Pickett:
Right, to add to the wait list. So how does this compare with the work you’ve done before with these organizations? We’ve never really talked about that because you’ve always, you’ve literally grown up… this is really by the way really who you are, I think. This type of thing just does seem to fit. How has this been different from the music theory world for you?

Lissa Reed:
My favorite thing about doing this instead of music theory is that I’m directly impacting, I’m changing somebody’s life every day.

Tim Pickett:
Like immediately.

Lissa Reed:
Like immediately. Somebody applies, they get approved, they come in, they get their med card and now they have access to life changing medicine. Before, I felt really passionate about a lot of the diversity and equity work I did in music theory, but it was in such a bubble and it’s really a long term project. It doesn’t have that immediate gratification of like, “Oh, somebody’s life is better now because I came to work today.” So that is a big change that I really love is just that direct impact.

Tim Pickett:
Do you feel like that we could expand Uplift into more than medical evaluations? This has always been something we talk about and I’m interested if you’re listening to this and you happen to be listening to it on YouTube, and you make a comment of an idea of how you can solve this problem, we are more than happy to entertain it, but there’s so much need surrounding cannabis with incarceration and giving back to the communities that were so impacted by the drug war. It’s always on my mind of like how… I don’t know. I don’t know whether or not just stick with this because this is what we’re good at, this is what we do, we’re in medicine. We do this, just do it well, make it bigger, help more people.

Lissa Reed:
I’ve got some ideas.

Tim Pickett:
Or do you want to expand?

Lissa Reed:
I want to expand it. I want Uplift to have more kind of subprograms that help get medical cannabis access to people who need it. So like I said, we just do first come, first serve right now, which I would like to keep doing, but I would also love to find maybe a donor wants to donate money for a specific population. Maybe there’s a formerly incarcerated fund in Uplift and that will still be first come, first served, but only for those people who meet that demographic. Maybe there’s a homeless fund. Maybe there’s a cancer patients fund, all these different kind of communities, I guess, that have a different interaction with cannabis. I would love to find donors who want to support specific funds like that.

Tim Pickett:
That’s a really good idea.

Lissa Reed:
Thanks.

Tim Pickett:
Because you would imagine that somebody would, like if I had this experience and I had money and I wanted to help my particular community, that this would be a great avenue. Okay, awesome. Yeah, okay, yes, easy.

Lissa Reed:
All right, so hit me up with your donations and your discretions for them and we’ll take care of it.

Tim Pickett:
You know the other thing that we haven’t talked about is, and I think we’re going to toot our own horn here, but I think Uplift affects the ability of the local cannabis industry to affect legislative change, because we’re just doing good things. It’s hard to say no. It’s really hard for the legislature to say no when they’re like, “Well, we’re supplying this service to people who absolutely need it.”

Lissa Reed:
Yeah, how can you just take that away?

Tim Pickett:
Are you going to take that away from us?

Lissa Reed:
Good luck.

Tim Pickett:
Oh, we can’t do that? Yeah, you can’t do that. So I love that part about, I love the statistics. How much has Uplift raised this year?

Lissa Reed:
Oh, I should have had those numbers. Let me find it.

Tim Pickett:
40 something thousand.

Lissa Reed:
It looks like, yeah, like 45 about, $45,000 this year.

Tim Pickett:
$45,000 this year, so we are literally on track. We’re almost on track to raise a $100,000 dollars this year in 2022.

Lissa Reed:
I think we can do it. That’s a good goal.

Tim Pickett:
I think we can do it. Yeah. I think we could totally do it. Okay. There it is. So how do you donate to Uplift? Utahmarijuana.org/uplift.

Lissa Reed:
Slash uplift, yep. Utahmarijuana.org/uplift, go there now. Send us money. We will give it to patients who need it.

Tim Pickett:
We don’t keep any of the money. Okay? We don’t keep any of the money. If you want an accounting of where the money goes it’s all very transparent.

Lissa Reed:
And that was a big goal for the program when we started it, we want the patients going through it to be able to trust it.

Tim Pickett:
There’s no administrative fee.

Lissa Reed:
And we want the cannabis community to be able to trust it. I mean, I think we’re pretty trustworthy with it. So I trust us and I think that’s all that matters.

Tim Pickett:
And now that everybody knows your story, I mean, there’s no way they cannot trust you.

Lissa Reed:
Good, because it was all a lie.

Tim Pickett:
You were in high school on the responsible drug policy team, you were working for diversity in music theory with a group that was making a really big impact in your specific field, you then came to Utah and were raising money for poor people to get bail. Like, come on.

Lissa Reed:
It’s just what I like to do. You called me-

Tim Pickett:
That’s pretty awesome.

Lissa Reed:
… Robin Hood once and it was the best compliment I ever got.

Tim Pickett:
You are, you are, you’re Robin Hood.

Lissa Reed:
Thank you.

Tim Pickett:
And let these cannabis companies, right, this is a money making industry, let this be something that we give back to the patients. Put your money where your mouth is.

Lissa Reed:
Totally, totally. It’s so interesting to be in the cannabis space because everyone’s kind of… you enter and you’re like, “Oh, this is a space that required a fight.” It was unjust. It’s still unjust in many ways. But I think a lot of people in the cannabis space are like, “Yeah, we’re in this together. We fought for legalization of medical cannabis. We’re fighting for recreational legalization,” whatever, but it’s always been kind of a political thing. And so I think a lot of people kind of have that automatic buy-in to initiatives like this, but some people need to be reminded sometimes. The fact that we’re standing in a dispensary is a huge privilege, and a lot of people have been hurt by this industry in the past and we can really make an impact right now to kind of right some of those wrongs.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah, I totally agree. Thank you for reminding me. What else do we want to mention, talk about? What else have we missed?

Lissa Reed:
Good question. Oh, I guess we haven’t talked about, I mentioned our pharmacy partners, but I didn’t talk about our work with our Canna-Therapy program, the kind of cross programming between Uplift and our mental health program over at UTTHC. So Clif Uckerman, who has been on this podcast, hopefully you’ve heard those episodes, he runs our Canna-Therapy program at UTTHC, and he was really excited about Uplift when he came on and he said, “I want to contribute.” And it’s been awesome. So he contributes the money to sponsor some of the Canna-Therapy patients who are in financial need and need access to medical cannabis. So patients that go through Canna-Therapy, if they can’t afford the med card, he basically just will pay for it out of the Canna-Therapy fund.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah, that program pays for the evaluation when they need it.

Lissa Reed:
And that’s been really awesome because it’s kind of helped move the wait list along too. We can kind of say, “Hey, do you want to try Canna-Therapy? It could be really, really good for you, and also maybe they can help sponsor you to move through this Uplift program a little bit more quickly.” And I know that has really impacted several patients who have been on our wait list and had not considered therapy even, and then we were like, “Hey, why don’t you try this?” And now they’re on a mental health journey too, which is amazing.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah, it’s something they didn’t really understand the benefits of until they tried it. And then they had kind of the best of both worlds. There’s so much benefit from therapy, behavioral health therapy, especially when you get somebody you can be honest with. If you listen to Clif’s interviews, I mean just being able to be honest about your cannabis use with your doctor and your therapist, the person you should be honest about this with, it’s a big deal for patients. And again, it speaks to that idea that you’re helping people now.

Lissa Reed:
Exactly.

Tim Pickett:
Right? Today, you could save a life. I’ve interviewed quite a few people where they claim that cannabis really helped save their life. What’s your favorite strain?

Lissa Reed:
I’m not good at this. I’m sorry. I buy vape carts mostly and I just go in and I’m like, “I need a daytime one. What have you got?” In my mind I’m like, “Oh, I’ll try lots of different strains.” Now that I have medical access I can kind of tune in what I want, but then I don’t, I just say the same thing every time.

Tim Pickett:
It works, makes it easy.

Lissa Reed:
I love lemon strains. Those ones really work for me.

Tim Pickett:
Ah, the lemon haze, yeah.

Lissa Reed:
It’s a good daytime feel.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah, it’s good. Cool. Okay, so Utahmarijuana.org/uplift, or you could even call (801) 851-5554. I always find it funny when I have to say the phone number out loud.

Lissa Reed:
And we’ve recently expanded Uplift. We’ve got a new staff member who’s on Uplift all the time. So if you call, you’ll probably talk to him and he’ll help you with whatever you need.

Tim Pickett:
Awesome. Well, thanks Lissa.

Lissa Reed:
Thank you.

Tim Pickett:
I am so happy you’re here.

Lissa Reed:
Thanks, me too.

Tim Pickett:
And you really are Robin Hood for 100% sure. And I am also positive that this is really just the next step in a much bigger thing, and I hope… I’m excited to watch what happens.

Lissa Reed:
Well, I’m excited you’ll be a part of it.

Tim Pickett:
And be a part of it.

Lissa Reed:
Yeah, thanks.

Tim Pickett:
Cool. All right everybody, Utah in the Weeds, subscribe on any podcast player that you have access to, please. We really love when you download the podcast, share it around, share all the Uplift info you can, and we definitely need more donations to help more people. And stay safe out there.

Lissa Reed:
Stay safe out there.

By David Wells
Content Producer & Analyst at UtahMarijuana.org
Published August 2, 2022
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