All photos courtesy of Sari Gabbay / Cannabliss

In the ever-evolving world of weed, cannabis vacations — ranging from lush getaways and herb-friendly honeymoons to new age retreats with a holistic wellness angle — are fast becoming the green rush ticket du jour. While many destination events toute spiritual awakenings, shamanistic sessions, gourmet meals, and all-night dance parties, few address one of the all-encompassing issues within the legal cannabis world today: a lack of education on the science behind the medicinal aspects of the plant itself.

Cannabliss, a six-day Malibu retreat taking place in a luxurious mountainside villa from April 19-24th, is here to change that. Driven by her own negative experiences with edibles as a fledgling user, Cannabliss founder Sari Gabbay has partnered with cannabinoid medicine expert Dr. Ira Price to incorporate his certification program K.A.R.E. (Kannabis Accreditation Regulation & Education) into the nearly week-long retreat, now in its third edition. 

"K.A.R.E. is a certification program that Dr. Ira created to standardize industry knowledge through education," Gabbay told MERRY JANE over the phone. "With so much misinformation out there, his goal is to streamline education so that people get the right knowledge."

In addition to receiving their K.A.R.E. certification, which covers everything from cannabis's medicinal properties and basic botany to how to grow and cook with your own medicine, guests will kick off their 4/20 in style with an exclusive holiday party featuring music, a BBQ, vape bar, hot tub, tonic bar, games and more. After the initial soiree, the rest of the week can be spent unwinding by the pool in the warm California sun, while partaking in a multitude of artistic workshops, yoga classes, ceremonies exploring the powers of cannabis and other sacred plants, and a litany of sensory-activating experiences.

To fully grasp the importance of certification programs like K.A.R.E. and their place in the budding world of cannabis retreats, MERRY JANE spoke with Dr. Ira Price about Cannabliss 2018.

Cannabliss partners/founders Dr. Ira Price and Sari Gabbay

MERRY JANE: As a doctor, how did you get involved with cannabis?
Dr. Ira Price:
As an emergency room doctor, I was tired of seeing patients come in with opioid overdoses, in acute withdrawal, or seeking more narcotics. I was also disappointed in medicine for not having a deeper armamentarium to treat chronic pain sufferers. I thought there had to be something else, which led me to medical cannabis.

Can you tell me about Synergy Health Services and your work in the industry?
After having worked in various sports medicine clinics and pain clinics, feeling quite alone in terms of trying to use medical cannabis as an alternative to opioid therapy, I decided to open my own clinic. It wasn't easy. In 2010, Synergy Health Services was the first of its kind, dedicated to evaluating patients requesting medical cannabis. There weren't many doctors in Canada practicing clinical cannabinoid medicine on a full-time basis, and only a handful researching it.

However, I believed in the work and began educating other healthcare practitioners and the public. Realizing that as a physician we need to treat more than just one part of a person, Synergy eventually morphed into a Natural Health and Wellness Centre, offering healing not only in the form of medical cannabis but also physiotherapy, yoga, and chronic pain services.

With this as the inception of a bigger vision, I joined forces with Sari Gabbay, founder of Cannabliss Retreats, to support her initiative in creating these transformational wellness experiences by integrating the medical educational aspect into the program, creating a synergistic combination of science and spirit through cannabis.

Cannabliss attendees at one of the retreat's education sessions

Tell me about the K.A.R.E. certification program, and what Cannabliss participants can expect to learn?
In my seven years working in the industry, one thing has become clear: education on medical cannabis is lacking, both from a healthcare perspective as well as the general public's point of view. A lot of misinformation about cannabis is out there, or "Bro Science" as I call it, born from recreational use and the surrounding stigma.

I took the lectures I've created over the years and the dosing protocols developed from clinical practice and put them into a program that can be delivered in a live seminar format. This format will provide participants with a generalized understanding of cannabis and its uses. It's meant to be a starting point, a springboard for those interested parties to delve deeper into any aspect they choose.

We are currently using Cannabliss Retreats as our platform for providing the education in a safe and experiential environment. This way, guests can learn from our team of experts and sample various ways of cannabis usage that works best for their needs. Participants can expect to learn a general history of cannabis, the science behind the medicine, dosing protocols, simple extraction methods, home growing techniques, and even a little business.

The villa where Cannabliss attendees will stay at the 2018 event

Why is education an important part of events like Cannabliss?
Currently, there are not many outlets where the public can obtain proper education around the medicinal and wellness benefits of cannabis. We are one of the few groups who are creating community by integrating all facets of [cannabis] science, cultivation, spiritual, and lifestyle — backed by science and industry experts. Many of our guests are new to cannabis, while others are long time users seeking understanding due to the lack of resources in the mainstream market. We receive guests from all over the world, ranging from about 30 to 70 years old. Everyone comes together in this beautiful community setting, and we bond over cannabis, food, compadre, spiritual practice, and celebration. Education is at the core of it all, and it's the foundation that allows us to be so successful.

What are your hopes for expanding the K.A.R.E. program?
To spread the knowledge to the masses, worldwide, so that people develop a deep understanding with cannabis and her many, many different ways to enhance our quality of life. Our goal in the next few years will be to own our own retreat center where we will have education as the foundation of our services. This will overflow into many different areas of wellness, and will be the hub of cannabis and plant medicine teachings. Eventually, we hope to increase our content and our delivery platform to an online format, as well. This will help disseminate the evidence [and our general message] to a larger group of people.

Dr. Ira Price giving a lecture at a Cannabliss event

How do you think education can revolutionize the cannabis industry, as well as the surrounding public opinion?
Our goal with all our initiatives is to ultimately redefine cannabis, challenge the status quo, and change its negative connotations. In order to do that, you need to reach the people who are still in fear and you need to give them scientific evidence, which we provide, as well as a safe place for them to receive and try cannabis. When people feel better as a result, they will share their experiences, and the collective truth can't be denied. This is how movements are created and this is how mass transformation happens. This is what we, and the brands we work with, desire to achieve.

For more on Cannabliss, including where to buy a ticket for the April 2018 retreat, visit the company's website here.

Visit Dr. Ira Price's Facebook page here and follow Sari Gabbay on Twitter

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