Ardent Cannabis CEO and founder Shanel Lindsay remembers the moment she knew her life’s work would revolve around cannabis. At the time, she was a burgeoning lawyer on top of the world: She’d recently bought a home, she was raising her son and her career was on the fast track.
But then, one morning on her way to work, Lindsay was pulled over in a routine traffic stop. The officer spotted a bag of marijuana in her purse and arrested her on the spot, even though her home state of Massachusetts had decriminalized cannabis in 2009.
“That was the time that I really started thinking, ‘Something needs to change here,’” Lindsay says. “Just because decriminalization is there and it looks like legalization is on its way, doesn’t mean that it’s going to be in a way that’s actually fair to people or protecting women or mothers or people of color.”
Lindsay, a trained lawyer who’d been using cannabis for years to treat pain, knew her rights. She was carrying less than an ounce of marijuana, which warranted nothing more than a $100 ticket in Massachusetts at the time. The officer finally conceded, but the trauma of the incident rocked Lindsay. “It was really scary, and my whole legal career flashed before my eyes,” she says.
Blazing a new path
Eventually, though, her frustration turned to fuel. She was proud of what she’d been able to accomplish personally with cannabis and knew that she had a gift worth sharing. Lindsay left the law practice she was working for, struck out on her own and started to mull over her career path. Her new goal was twofold: She wanted to blend her knack for education with her ability to make killer edibles.
But before she could teach the masses, Lindsay needed to make sure her homemade, cannabis-laced treats were effective, so she took them to a local laboratory for testing. She quickly learned that the kitchen appliances she was using (an oven and a toaster oven) didn’t have the precision needed to optimize the THC and CBD in the flower. She was actually burning off more product than she realized.
That’s when a lightbulb went off in Lindsay’s head: If she could somehow create a device that more precisely heats and activates raw flower (the technical term for this is decarboxylation), she could help people cook better, more effective edibles from the comfort of home. And so she founded Ardent Cannabis, a Boston-based biotech and medical cannabis device company that’s revolutionizing the way we get high.
It took Lindsay four years—and countless trips to Home Depot, Dollar Tree and Michael’s—to develop and launch the Ardent Nova in 2016. The slick decarboxylator allows users to activate THC and CBD in their flower and infuse butters and oils for home baking. “The whole idea is to make it very simple for people to get from A to Z,” she says.
Lindsay is more than happy to geek out about everything that happens in between, namely the ingenious wrap-around heating system that allows for maximum THC and CBD activation and less wasted bud. But all her customers need to know how to do is press a button.
“I kind of think about it like cooking at home and then going out to eat at a restaurant,” Lindsay says. “There will always be times where you want to go out to eat, but shouldn’t everyone know how to make a meal to survive at home and have that knowledge?”
Easy bake edibles
Following the success of Nova, Lindsay released the Ardent FX in March 2020, just as COVID-19 was forcing folks to hunker down at home. The “Easy Bake” device took her mission one step further, creating a portable cannabis kitchen that decarboxylates, extracts, infuses, melts and bakes—all in one appliance.
“We’re trying to blend all of the best pieces of food and cannabis and convenience to really get people on board,” Lindsay says.
Ardent also stocks a surplus of bespoke bake kits—from brownies and rice crispy treats to breakfast cakes and truffle cups—that make it easy to whip up individual edibles in a flash, without ever turning on the oven. Plus, the process is odorless, so you won’t stink up your entire apartment complex when you’re baking.
This is what cannabis looks like to me. It can be sleek and modern and beautiful.
Both the Nova and the FX are sleek purple devices that are free of any tell-tale labels that scream “cannabis cooker.” Lindsay says it’s critical that the brand blend beauty and discretion, offering something that fits in with your rice cooker, crockpot and other kitchen appliances.
“In the early days, there was always this stoner stereotype of what people in cannabis looked like and did,” Lindsay says. “Part of what I always wanted to bring to the table was just, hey, this is what cannabis looks like to me. It can be sleek and modern and beautiful.”
And while the design may be subtle, Lindsay doesn’t mind getting loud about the research she and her team have been able to produce over the years. The Ardent website is packed with digestible, accessible information so that customers feel empowered when they infuse and bake. Educational videos (like this one with 2 Chainz) further bring the concept to life.
“The science doesn’t lie,” she says. “And it really doesn’t lie when you get to use half as much product as you used before and it works just as good.”
Equity over everything
On the sidelines, Lindsay also co-founded Equitable Opportunities Now, a nonprofit fighting to preserve equity provisions in Massachusetts-based cannabis laws and create opportunities for women and people of color in the industry.
“There’s no other industry that is so intrinsically connected to the criminalization of Black and Brown people,” Lindsay says. “… If there’s not equity baked into cannabis, what hope is there left for any kind of justice when it comes to the unfair treatment of people of color in America?”
Reflecting back on her own journey, Lindsay is immensely proud of the fact that she’s built a profitable business from the ground up. But it hasn’t always been easy, especially as a woman of color in a white-washed, male-dominated industry. Early on, Lindsay says she struggled massively with getting funding. She watched as other cannabis businesses were flooded with cash for pipe-dream ideas, while her built and proven product went mostly unrecognized.
“I had to grow a company in a much more lean way, in a different way. Looking back, I wouldn’t call it a blessing in disguise, because that makes it seem that it should be that way and it shouldn’t,” Lindsay says. “But doing it this way, it forces you to become a better business owner. You run the business better because you don’t have any room for mistakes and you have to be incredibly creative about how you do it.”
That homegrown confidence is something she hopes to instill in future entrepreneurs as well as her customers.
“Cannabis is so personal to people,” Lindsay says. “One of Ardent’s guiding principles in confidence. We love to bring tools to people to make this process easy and fun and educational. I think it’s a win all around.”
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