Sitting in a little cafe in downtown Vernon, Jayna Pooley clinks her spoon against her cup as she gingerly stirs her coffee. The sun is out and she’s preparing for a meeting later that day to talk about cannabis with the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.
Pooley has been sharing her story, one of personal perseverance, as a way to inspire others to explore the healing properties of cannabis, a medicine she credits for helping her walk again.
Pooley introduces herself by her nations.
“My Dad used to call us NavajoOpiOkaShwap,” she says. She’s Navajo, Hopi, Okanagan, and Shuswap and she now lives and works in her community in Inkumupulux (Head of Okanagan Lake) on the Okanagan Indian Band, where she owns a cannabis dispensary.
Pooley lost her ability to walk at 32 years-old, after years of working in the forestry and fisheries industries. Her journey to recovery brought her to cannabis, and years later, she’s now the proud owner of Top Hat Cannabis in OKIB.
She just celebrated two years of being open for business.
“I sell medical grade, tested edibles, tinctures, topical salves combined with THC and CBC (Cannabichromene) and our traditional medicines: in teas, and oils,” said Pooley.
Pooley grew up on the lands of the Navajo Nation. In her late teens, she moved north and graduated from high school in Kamloops. She completed a diploma for Natural Resources from Nicola Valley Institute of Technology, and soon after started working in her field.
“I worked alongside all the guys on big ships and boats, and I got to see our whole territory by boat,” Pooley said. “I’m truly really grateful. It was an awesome career. I stayed in the area for about five to six years.”
But the physical labour was hard on her body.
“Working on steep hillsides, working on ice, and there were days I was covered in ice in the middle of winter, while I was doing work with fisheries,” she remembers. “We would sometimes have to break ice to get down the river, so I would spend a lot of time in the cold waters right up to my torso.”
Pooley also spent much of her time playing sports, and physical activity was a major part of her life, she says. She was about to move to Calgary to take on a new role as a service technician when her life changed dramatically.
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