Cannabis

The Boston-Based Lawyer Democratizing Edibles for All

How almost getting arrested inspired Shanel Lindsay to innovate the future of DIY infusions.

boston weed
Grace Han/Thrillist

Some people are introduced to cannabis as a medicinal plant, one favored by cancer patients and anyone with painful, chronic issues. The rest of us first met weed under more giggly, recreational circumstances. For Shanel Lindsay, founder and CEO of Boston-based decarboxylation company Ardent, it was a little bit of both. 

“The first time I tried cannabis in my late teens, I was suffering from a cyst and I just wanted a break from the frustration and stress,” says Lindsay. “I ended up with a side effect of my pain completely going away.”

She’s been using cannabis to treat pain ever since, keeping her symptoms at bay while avoiding addictive and expensive prescriptions. But she was less enthusiastic about the uncertainty around strain and potency of unregulated bud. Lindsay decided to learn how to do things herself for a little more transparency. She began growing plants in a spare bedroom at home, then infusing her own food with them to get more out of her medicine.

Throughout these secret wellness experiments, Lindsay attended law school and became a lawyer. She had a son. She did her best to ignore the hypocrisy of a substance-heavy legal community that looked down on cannabis use and often ended weekdays at bars. Once Massachusetts decriminalized cannabis in 2009, limiting any punishment for possession under an ounce to a $100 ticket, she was sure the worst of cannabis stigma was on its way out. 

She was wrong. 

“One morning, I’m on my way to work,” recalls Lindsay. “I make a right turn on a red light, and I see lights start flashing. I pull over, and as soon as the cop noticed a jar of cannabis peeking out of my bag, he ordered me to get out of the car and began searching my car without a warrant. He grabbed the jar, looked at me, and said, ‘You’re going to jail.’”

When she asked why she’d go to jail for possessing less than the decriminalized amount, the officer simply eyeballed the jar and disagreed. He put Lindsay in handcuffs, and she watched her car get impounded from the backseat of the police car. As they drove towards the police station, Lindsay knew getting arrested would mean her law career was over. She racked her brain for a way to stop what was happening from happening.

“I’m watching them fill out my booking paperwork, and kind of went into lawyer mode,” says Lindsay.” I told them that I know my rights, this is less than an ounce, and you’re holding me for something that I should merely be getting a ticket for.”

One police officer present murmured something to another about how what Lindsay was saying wasn’t true, and that they had probable cause.

“I said, ‘that may have been true on the side of the road, but we are in a police station now, and you have every tool you need to verify whether or not I should be getting more than a ticket,’ says Lindsay. “The entire room went silent.”

The officers went into a side room without a word, and when they returned, they confirmed it was indeed less than an ounce, removed the handcuffs, and told her she was free to go. 

The experience was a defining moment for Lindsay. It proved how high the stakes are for people who simply wish to treat their health issues with cannabis. It showed her how easy it was for someone without a law school degree to get arrested and get a criminal record, just like that.

“I felt so naive for thinking that decriminalization would make a difference,” she says. “It started a fire in me.”

Cannabis worked for her, and Lindsay was not about to give it up. But she couldn’t keep living in fear. After Massachusetts legalized medical cannabis, and signs of legalizing adult use emerged on the horizon, Lindsay dove into advocacy and policy work, participating in the lawmaking that implemented adult use cannabis in the state. She went out on her own as a lawyer, freeing up her schedule to get more involved with the new industry and doing more meaningful work representing individuals in civil suits instead of companies. Every penny she made went into her idea for her own cannabis-related business.

“I was interested in decarboxylation -- the activation of the compounds in cannabis that allow us to feel effects -- and how to demystify and simplify this process for everyone,” says Lindsay. “I knew that I wanted to help people understand the plant and how it can help them.”

When it came to her own trials and errors, the biggest issue with Lindsay’s preferred method of consuming cannabis via edibles meant eating a lot of extra oil, butter, and fat.

“I was eating three extra bowls of oatmeal throughout my day just to consume a pat of weed butter,” laughs Lindsay. “It was not sustainable.”

Lindsay could’ve kept thinking through the problems she faced making edibles for months. But she needed a scientist to tell her whether or not the usual methods of convection ovens or boiling water were even the best place to start. After going to a lab and doing exactly that, she found out, in fact, it’s not, and she got to work with scientists at MCR Labs on developing a new concept for an efficient, easy, 1-button home decarboxylation machine.

“It was a scrappy journey,” says Lindsay. “I remember walking into a Dollar Tree and seeing a beer koozie. Thinking about the way it wraps around a can and thinking, ‘that’s how the heat needs to move -- all around, instead of from the top and bottom.’”

Ardent officially launched in 2015 with the Nova, a compact canister-shaped machine built to infuse butter or oil with up to an ounce of flower or 5 oz. of kief, featuring an odorless, mess-free design. However, the most frequent feedback Lindsay received was that customers wanted to be able to infuse higher quantities at once. 

Cue the Ardent FX, the next product in Lindsay’s lineup to recently hit online shelves and one with four times the infusion capacity.

The FX is actually an all-in-one “cannabis kitchen” of sorts, serving as an infusion machine that you can also use to cook your final product (banana bread, spaghetti sauce -- even infuse body lotion and other topicals). It’s got unique settings for THC, CBD, CBG, infusion and bake, offering a variety of decarboxylation, extraction and cooking capabilities (a.k.a. no prior cannabis or cooking experience required).

“If you don’t make a product that makes it easy, people aren’t going to get it right the first time,” says Lindsay. “They are going to give up on cannabis because it doesn’t seem to work for them.”

More than convenience, the FX is one step closer to Lindsay’s original dream of helping people feel empowered to make their own medicine, to prove that anyone can do so, and that it can be as accurately dosed (and in some cases, moreso) as products from a dispensary. 

“It’s like being able to cook. You can go eat out at restaurants and enjoy that, but you should also be able to know how to cook simple things at home.”

For any new home chefs with an Ardent FX at home, Lindsay’s team put together this exclusive recipe you can make start-to-finish in this “easy bake oven.”

Totally Loaded Mac ‘n Cheese

100 mg using plant material at 20% THC/CBD
3-4 servings.

Ingredients:
2 cups elbow noodles
2 ½ cups whole milk
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
½ onion powder
⅛ cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons cream cheese
¼ cup water
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup shredded pepper jack cheese
1 gram of cannabis

Directions:
1. Decarboxylate your plant material in the Ardent FX using the A1 setting for THC-rich material and A2 setting for CBD-rich material.
2. Add whole milk to the FX over the decarbed material and allow it to infuse on the infuse setting. Strain.
3. Combine spices, infused milk butter, and water in a saucepan on medium heat until it’s brought to a boil.
4. Toss in pasta and bring down the heat. Allow it to continue cooking for 18-20 mins.
5. Stir in cream cheese and allow it to melt with the pasta before removing from heat.
6. Stir in the pepper jack and cheddar cheese.
7. Load. Up.

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Lauren Yoshiko is a Portland-based writer and co-host of Broccoli Magazine's podcast, Broccoli Talk. She was among the first journalists to cover the commerce and culture of cannabis starting in 2014 and her work has since appeared in Willamette Week, Forbes, Rolling Stone, and Broccoli Magazine, among others. Follow her on Instagram at @laurenyoshiko for Portland breakfast sandwich recs, stoned nail art, and moderate cat content.