Amanda Siebert, Weal Alumn, returns to SAIT and talks about her new book on Cannabis

SAIT graduate returns to talk about her new book and the benefits of Cannabis

One of North America’s first cannabis editors talks about a social movement in progress

On Feb. 1, the Odyssey Coffeehouse hosted a reading from one of Canada’s foremost writers on cannabis, author and SAIT graduate Amanda Siebert.

Fittingly, the event started at 4:20 p.m. and was attended by a mix of students, former instructors, and pot enthusiasts.

Siebert’s book, The Little Book of Cannabis: How Marijuana Can Improve Your Life, was released the same day marijuana was legalized in Canada.

After reading an excerpt from the book, Siebert opened up the floor to questions and offered practical advice for those who were unsure about where to start with cannabis.

“If you can, smell the cannabis. If it relaxes you and if it’s uplifting, try it out,” said Siebert.

She stressed that personal experimentation is important because of the complexity of the substance.

“What works for me might not work for you,” said Siebert, explaining “something that puts me to sleep might have you ready to go out dancing.”

The crowd was eager to know how her message is being received in different places as she tours to promote her book.

“I think it will take time for people to warm up to something that’s been illegal for so long,” said Siebert, adding that she thinks that the move to legalize cannabis has opened a lot of people’s minds to it.

Siebert was also asked about one of the major unresolved issues surrounding legalization: the plight of people who were convicted of crimes involving marijuana.

“The federal government is doing nothing about that, and it makes me really angry,” said Siebert, who believes the lack of action in this area is the principle flaw of the government’s legalization process.

Siebert is still excited about the future of cannabis in Canada, pointing to potential research opportunities as a result of being the first G-7 nation to legalize.

“This is going to facilitate some seriously cool research,” said Siebert.

Research possibilities were the subject of her recently published New York Times article, detailing how Canada will benefit from this increase in research by attracting experts eager to study the plant without government interference.

In an interview after the event, Siebert opened up about how her time at SAIT affected her developing career.

“I think SAIT really gave me the foundations that I needed to pursue this topic,” said Siebert.

She also spoke about how cannabis helped her achieve success in college and in life after school.

“It helped me stay in the flow and keep working, and it still does that for me now.”

Although much of this year will be dedicated to promoting her current work, she’s exploring a number of other opportunities to continue telling stories of this movement.

“I’m hoping to write a second book that will look into mental health-related conditions,” said Siebert.

Even though it’s exciting to be at the forefront of the legitimate cannabis movement, she recognizes that her position carries a degree of responsibility, especially when someone may be skeptical.

“I need to be careful, because if I say something that is a little too out there, a bunch of people will turn right off,” said Siebert.

Although the last few months have been a whirlwind, Siebert still seems to enjoy spreading the word.

“I’ve always been a little bit rebellious and I think talking about a subject that might make some people uncomfortable excites me,” laughed Siebert.

By Jayme D. Tucker

Weal Writer

Calgary may not be the first city that comes to mind when you hear the words “nude literary salon,” but the local chapter of international show sensation Naked Girls Reading has quickly gone from titillation to inspiration for the women of Calgary.

“The opportunity literally fell into my lap for the Calgary chapter,” said founder and producer Keely Schneider, who also performs under the name Keely Kamikaze in drag and burlesque shows.

“The producer in Edmonton was the one who connected me, and within 2 days we were set up, signed, paid and done.”

The show was founded in Chicago, IL. in 2009 by burlesque performer Michelle L’Amour. It is exactly what it describes: naked women onstage reading.

Due to the literal naked nature of the show, many of the first readers in Calgary were pulled from the burlesque community.

“My reader clientele was 95 per cent burlesque performers for the first couple shows, and then around the six-month mark we started getting more non-performers signing up,” said Schneider.

While the show was originally built on titillation and tease, in line with its burlesque roots, Schneider quickly saw how powerful the experience of participating in the show was.

“I didn’t read until the fourth show I put on in January of 2017,” said Schneider.

“You don’t know until you do it just how vulnerable you are up there. It was very unique, and I felt very powerful.”

The show now boasts a list of more than 80 performers, and there are new readers signing up every month to bare all onstage. It accepts any female-identified person, regardless of age, size, or sexuality. The show attracts a host of different readers, ranging from burlesque performers, nurses, and students.

“I originally heard about it because my friend had done it, and I attended to support her,” said former Mount Royal University student Bethan McBreen.

“I thought to myself that it seemed neat, but I would never do that.”

McBreen did eventually perform in the show not once, but three times.

“I was looking for a performance to do, something unusual as part of a personal challenge,” said McBreen. 

“It gave me a ton of confidence in myself. There’s a certain kind of intimacy with the audience you get, when you’re naked and reading a text that you chose for that moment.
“The audience looks at you, but they also listen and it was the most acknowledged and visible I’ve ever felt as a performer.”

For some people, the show is a healing process as well as a performance opportunity.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that being that vulnerable in front of a crowd can give you back your power,” said Schneider.

“To go on that stage in a room of strangers and strip down onstage is such a powerful moment.”

Naked Girls Reading Calgary is currently ramping up for a show themed around loving yourself on Feb. 12, taking place at Twisted Element nightclub.

They are also planning a charity show to celebrate International Women’s Day at the Wildrose Brewery on March 8, including raffles, draws, and a silent auction. All proceeds go to the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter.

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