Curious About Cannabis? So Was I, and It Changed My Life featured image of The Pineapple Expressionist Samantha Coogan

Curious About Cannabis? So Was I, and It Changed My Life

It’s truly remarkable to see how drastically times, and opinions, have changed when it comes to cannabis, more popularly known as marijuana.

Only a few years ago, marijuana use was seen like a scene right out of Boardwalk Empire – senseless, unnecessary prohibition for a botanical that grows directly from the Earth.

Have you been interested in trying cannabis or medical marijuana for yourself, but are either too scared, had a bad experience or just don’t know enough about it to take that leap? Then you’re in the perfect place.

Allow Me to Introduce Myself

Much like the powerful Mother of Dragons, everyone has an origin story, and this is mine. My name is Sam, and I’m on a wellness journey to educate and destigmatize the use of cannabis in all its forms.

And I truly believe that information is more impactful and trustworthy when you know a little bit more about that person and their personality. So before we begin, let’s back up a bit… 

What the Heck is The Pineapple Expressionist Anyway?

Once you join me on this journey, you’ll soon discover that I’m a fun-loving, jokey person who tends to incorporate a lot “me” into everything I do.

I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), specializing in sports dietetics, currently studying for my Holistic Cannabis Practitioner (HCP) credentialing exam, who also loves the very popular Pineapple Express strain of cannabis.

Put all that together, and voila! – The Pineapple Expressionist was born!

Be a Pineapple. Stand tall, wear a crown and be sweet on the inside. Quote by Jacqueline Wilson. Silhouette image of Sam Coogan holding a pineapple in tank top, yoga pants, sneakers and hair in a high bun.

For me, the pineapple means so much more than just a fun, catchy name (or my favorite fruit). Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a bit of a pineapple myself, and on this journey, I’m learning to stand tall, wear a crown, but be sweet on the inside.

On the flip the side of that, I’m also covered in tattoos and love my metal music…. and embroidery. Nothing like a little Slipknot on while I slipknot – life’s all about balance, right?

What Do Those Letters Mean?

In 2011, I earned my Bachelor’s of Science degree in Nutrition Sciences from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I then went on to complete my Master of Science (MS) degree in Exercise Physiology and dietetic internship in 2013, earning my RDN credential soon after, and have been a board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) since 2018.

In 2019, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) recognized me as a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (FAND) due largely to my leadership role as President for the Nevada Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (NvAND).

And now I’m on my way to earning my Holistic Cannabis Practitioner (HCP) credential through the Holistic Cannabis Academy so that I can best serve those looking for therapeutic and medicinal relief from various conditions.

Being a Sports Dietitian

I’ve always had a love for sports, and was a very active child/adolescent, and still am as an adult. Before I ran track and played basketball as point guard, I was a ballet dancer, and have always been very in tune with my own body.

This led me towards sports dietetics as my specialty area because not only do I love working with athletes and watching how nutrition can affect their performance, I’m an avid recreational athlete myself, and it’s a huge part of my life. 

And as a big part of my life, I’ve learned how instrumental cannabis can be for sports recovery and (recreational) sports performance (WADA & NCAA aren’t totally on board just yet).

Strength training is my true love when it comes to fitness, and I’ve always been a power athlete. I’m on the smaller side, and benefit much more from explosive movements.

In this profession, we do truly have to practice what we preach to be seen as credible, and this is a very easy lifestyle for me to live. And when it comes to cannabis use as an athlete, I also (easily) practice what I preach! 

Collegiate Football and Professional Hockey

Before I earned my CSSD credential, I had the best job in the world working for the UNLV Football team for two seasons as the team dietitian.

Those 90+ young men taught me so much more about myself, knowledge and abilities than anyone else has. They were patient, consistent, and most importantly, grateful.

I soon became “Team Mom”, and the coaches and players became my second family. We’d walk in together at 5:30am, and walk out around 6pm after dinner. Every game, every 100+ degree practice, I was there on the sideline, lucky as hell to be part of such an amazing environment.

I witnessed hurdles being overcome, growth and maturity, and just overall smarter decisions being made. And there is no prouder moment than when one of your collegiate rockstars becomes a professional rockstar in the NFL.

In addition to that unforgettable period of my life, I’ve also been lucky enough to conduct performance testing with the Vegas Golden Knights. Talk about a surreal experience, and what the true definition of “professional” is.

What a fun way to implement my exercise physiology skills while witnessing team pranks set forth by Marc-Andre Fleury while his teammates were on the Wingate bike.

Fun fact: the right professional athlete is just like us! Never have I met a team of such respectful individuals who were genuinely grateful for our time with them. I had some of the most genuine conversations in my life when working with these guys, and then got to watch them play live!

 A “Plant-Based” Approach to Cannabis & Nutrition Therapy

You might be asking yourself, so what’s the point of all of this? What does one have to do with the other? As you’ll soon discover, there are so many beautiful benefits of this healing herb for chronic pain, sleep disorders, recovery, plus so, so much more! We’re just getting started.

I want to educate anyone who will listen about the powerful properties of this plant, and luckily, many more people are adopting this mindset. We are doing ourselves a disservice by not taking advantage of this botanical beauty, but education (and nutrition) is key! 

Cannabis and Food. Wooden cutting board with egg in shell, pile of cashews, cannabis buds, cannabis grinder, pink Himalayan sea salt, ceramic succulent, succulent in vase, and teal wellness book.

Wait a second, nutrition has an impact on the effects of cannabis? Well much like nutrient absorption, our own, unique endocannabinoid systems (ECS) function in conjunction with dietary properties to give you a better overall benefit, whether that’s more euphoria or more healing.

Much like how certain nutrients can enhance or prohibit the absorption of other nutrients, specific types of foods can do the same for cannabinoid activity within the body. Lots more to come on this topic, so be sure to stay tuned for my next blog!

>>> Listen up! Get to know me a bit better on this fun & energized episode of the Dietitian Side Hustle Podcast: DSH 051: The Pineapple Expressionist <<<

What Led Me Here

Through another amazing dietitian with very similar goals and mindset as myself, Leslie Schilling, MA, RDN, CSCS, CEDRD-S (definitely give her a follow!), I was introduced to Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RDN, FAND.

When I was president of NvAND, I invited Janice to speak to our members about cannabinoid therapy at one of our statewide meetings back in 2019 since recreational usage had very recently been passed here (pre-pandemic – remember what that was like?), and what a hit that meeting was!

Janice was so well-received by the NvAND members, and widely opened our eyes to the benefits of cannabis, how much it’s changed over the years, and she had such an impactful story to tell, one that really hit closer to home that I’d even realized at that time.

Her dad was a driving force behind why she now does what she does, and much like Janice, my dad is also a driving force behind why I now want to do this. We’ll get to him later.

Janice owns Jannabis Wellness, and educates individuals on the therapeutic properties of cannabinoids, and is also a professor at John Patrick University. After hearing Janice speak, I was much better informed about cannabis, and always hoped that we’d reconnect again some day.

Well that day came when I finally had an epiphany about the direction my life was going, and new ventures I wanted to pursue to find my true happiness. I reached back out to Janice, over a year after she spoke to NvAND, and what an amazing woman she is.

The things that she’s accomplished in the field and in life, plus her notoriety as a public speaker and cookbook author, are so inspirational, and I’m lucky to call her my mentor and friend.

The Joe Rogan Experience

I’ve been following Joe for years, not just for his stance on cannabis, but as a comedian, athlete and entrepreneur. Everything that Joe does is exactly what I want to do.

I love his podcasts because they’re so genuine, but actually educational. They’re fun and entertaining yet informative. They’re casual without being too casual, and he just creates an open-minded environment.

The Universe rewards calculated risk and passion. Quote by Joe Rogan on photo of hand holding a real pineapple and copyright The Pineapple Expressionist.

And then when the Kill Cliff CBD Flaming Joe was released, it felt like the universe was giving me a smack in the face (or a “sign” like most normal people think, but I am who I am).

I’d already established my brand name, and then to have JOE ROGAN put out a cannabidiol (CBD) product that was also pineapple flavored, I thought I was just way too stoned to process it all! Nope, it was just a nudge in the right direction.

Why I Use Cannabis

Despite how often I now use cannabis, my introduction to marijuana wasn’t in high school like most people. I was 27 years old when I tried it for the very first time, and at that point, I really only did it here and there around friends.

It really wasn’t until about three years ago when I turned 29 that I started to use it daily for sleep. I’d developed pretty bad insomnia over the years, and stress management is something I’m always working towards improving. 

After years of having an uneducated and ill-informed mindset about marijuana, the blinders came off and I started experiencing firsthand the beneficial ways in which it was improving my sleep, quality of sleep, and overall stress.

No, it wasn’t curing my stress, but it was helping me feel less anxious about it, and enlightened me enough to realize that there are just some things that are out of our control.

My recreational curiosity led me to my medicinal, daily usage, but I still use it in the recreational sense to “high”-ten (see what I did there) enjoyable experiences, such as food or comedy (everything is 10x funnier when you’re high!).

More than anything, cannabis has helped my mental health and clarity. So despite the fact that I’m primarily a recreational user, I also experience all the side benefits of the medicinal properties of CBD, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and the other cannabinoids.

And that’s really my goal for all of you. I want you to feel empowered to talk about cannabis for whatever reason fits best for you

Image of Sam Coogan's hands placing cannabis buds into cannabis grinder over wooden cutting board with CBD balm and potted succulent.

Take it from me, if your main priority is not medicinally-related or you don’t have some chronic disease or condition you’re trying to treat, you can still benefit from terpene profiles, trichome levels and cannabinoid activity within this plant.

And there are SO many different ways to administer and consume cannabis. Each person reacts differently to different strains and delivery methods.

Side-Benefits, Not Side-Effects

As I mentioned before, there are far more side-benefits than side-effects when it comes to cannabis.

While there are can be some discomfort for cannabis-naive users, such as dizziness, paranoia and nausea (usually when over-consumed), those effects tend to subside allowing the other benefits, such as euphoria, heightened sensation, pain relief, anti-epileptic relief, or simply relaxation without some intense “hangover” sensation.

Image of meme about edibles, which states: Every story about edible weed: 1. Not high, 2. Not high, 3. Still not high, 4. Not high, 5. Please drive me to the emergency room. Meme and photo credit: https://en.dopl3r.com/memes/dank/every-story-about-edible-weed-1-not-high-2-not-high-3-still-not-high-4-not-high-5-please-drive-me-to-the-emergency-room/694270

Now a lot of these sensations above will be affected by each user’s tolerance, and much like anything, the more often you use or increase your dose, the higher your tolerance may become. 

For example, when I first started using cannabis, it took VERY little to make me nearly black out (I’m talking less than a 5mg edible paralyzing me for 12 hours minimum).

Whereas, now my daily dose is a bit higher, but I have a much better understanding as to how to properly dose to get the best benefit.

The only true “downfall” I’ve seen with cannabis is that if you do keep increasing your dose, over time, it won’t really have much effect at all, which is like having a natural coupon built right in!

I’ve learned that I get the best benefit with a lower dose (which I will teach you all for yourselves), meaning that I consume less  AND SPEND less money on cannabis. Who isn’t trying to save money nowadays? Luckily, there are easy ways to reset your ECS, which will be discussed in the future, so stay tuned!

Why I Believe in Cannabis

While the stoner in me loves the euphoric and calming effect cannabis provides, the healthcare professional in me truly believes that cannabis is too often overlooked as a treatment, and preventative, tool.

For example, in clinical settings, Marinol® (dronabinol), a synthetic version of cannabis, is often used as an appetite stimulant in cancer and HIV/AIDS patients experiencing severe muscle wasting, yet there is hardly any negative stigma attached to its use. 

Why? Just because it’s prescribed in a hospital suddenly deems it more “appropriate” versus going to a local dispensary and purchasing flower in its natural, unadulterated form? That’s the exact mindset that I want to correct.

The Man of the Hour

I mentioned earlier that much like from Janice’s story, my dad was a driving force behind why I’m doing this. My dad is one of my absolute favorite people on this planet, and there is no doubt that I am my father’s daughter. We are so alike in so many ways – music, movies, personalities.

About 11 years ago, he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and I was still a baby in the nutrition world and hadn’t graduated yet, nor was engaging in any type of cannabis therapy or regimen.

It was definitely tough on the family when we first heard, but both my parents were committed to treating this, especially since my mom made, and still makes – 35 years later, all of his meals.

My dad will forever be my “perfect patient” because not only did he take every measure possible when he was first diagnosed to lose weight and improve his blood sugar numbers, 11 years later he’s still going strong with strength training and cardio (he can run far longer than I can!).

Both he and my mom listened to, and still do, every piece of advice that I gave him, and I’m confident that I’m a more competent health professional because of him. 

Image of Sam Coogan and her dad standing side by side in front of a "Vegas Born" sign inside Vegas Golden Knights' City National Arena.
My dad and I at the Vegas Golden Knights’ City National Arena. Go! Knights! Go!

Now when it comes to cannabis, there is so much emerging research related to its therapeutic effects for diabetes management.

At the moment, my dad currently works for the County in which randomized drug testing is still implemented, and despite it being recreationally legal here, the County still has every right to penalize for failed drug screens related to THC. 

Well I can’t wait for 2023 because my dad will be retiring after over 30 years with the County! He’s the true definition of starting at the bottom, and climbing the ladder due to his strong work ethic and competence.

AND he’ll get to start smoking weed with me! While I’m joking in my demeanor, I can’t wait for him to start using cannabis to help his diabetes management. 

We’ve started him, for now, on CBD-only (hemp-derived since it contains less than 0.3% THC – stay tuned), but as you’ll soon find out, you get the most benefit from cannabis when using the whole plant instead of just its individual parts, also known as the “Entourage Effect”.

Once he retires, we can start incorporating more THC into his cannabis therapy regimen through microdosing.

An Exit Herb, Not a Gateway Drug

Another driving force and new development in research is cannabis’s effect on opioid dependency.

For years, this budding little flower has been demonized as a precursor to more illicit drug use, yet now it is being touted more and more often for its ability to help opioid addicts transition off of opiate use.

Another benefit, you won’t go through withdrawals if you don’t engage in cannabis use for a day or more (in fact that’s a great way to reset your ECS), even if a daily user!

If anything, you might get addicted to the feeling of feeling happy, not a true physiological addiction, and how much more refreshing would the world be if everyone was addicted to happiness??

I’ll say for myself, the first time I tried cannabis, and after using it more often, I still have never had any desire to try any other types of drugs, even prescription drugs!

I’m very lucky that I’ve found an enlightened doctor who believes that it should be federally legal, and actually prefers my use of cannabis over other synthetic prescription drugs that would pass through my liver everyday. There is so much power in education!

There’s an incredible doctor named Dr. Sulak, co-founder of Healer, who is doing incredible things related to this topic specifically if you’re looking for more information. Be sure to check him out at healer.com.

Pot for Pets 

So maybe you’re not interested in cannabis for yourself or a loved one or friend. Is Fido breathing a little heavier than usual? Does Garfield have super dry skin? As pets age, just like humans, daily activities become harder and harder for them as well. Your pets can easily benefit from CBD. 

Now pet formulas really shouldn’t have THC, and should be purely CBD-based and derived from hemp oil. So no, Fido won’t be “stoned”, although it’s fun to commentate like Mystery Science Theater 3000 when he’s passed out “in da couch” after his CBD dose.

The dosing for animals is very low, and you’ll notice in most pets, especially aging pets, the effects fairly quickly. In fact, my parents’ dog is almost back to his younger, more lively self after they started him on his CBD regimen.

All Are Welcome Here

Image of wooden cutting board with potted succulent, succulent in clear, pink glass vase, cannabis buds, cannabis grinder and CBD balm.

Regardless of whatever your reason might be for using cannabis, I really hope you have fun while you’re here with me. Whether you actually laugh at any of my jokes, my wish is that you enjoy the learning process, and if we can’t make fun out of learning, then what is the point?

While I’ll always provide evidence-based information, I am also a big proponent of cannabis usage for recreational use, not just medicinal use. 

I’ll be discussing CBD, but also THC and the other cannabinoids, and not only ways to enhance its medicinal properties, but also ways to enhance its euphoric, pleasurable properties as well.

And if that is your main reason for using it, then I hereby grant you permission to allow yourself to feel ok with that decision.

No one has the right to determine your level of “appropriateness” except you. Be the responsible decision-maker in your own life, I’ll help guide you there, but I also hope you discover your own strength and purpose along the way.

This is Only the Beginning

I’m so excited for some fun products and services I’m planning to develop for each of you! This blog article is really meant to serve as an introduction as to who I am, why I’m here, what my goals are, and for you to trust that you can always visit here for reliable, evidence-based information. 

With that being said, be sure to look out for these products and services in the future: 

  • Fun, educational blogs
  • Cannabis-infused recipes
  • Cannabis-free recipes
  • Newsletters
  • e-products/educational materials that you can take to your doctor or local dispensary for assistance
  • An online, self-paced course with “How To” videos (i.e. making edibles at home)
  • Podcast 

Everything I offer will be fun, engaging and light-hearted because that is just me and my personality. My hope is that whenever you visit this site, you’ll smirk at least once.

I’m also writing these down here to hold myself accountable to follow through on the services I want to offer each of you, and an incredible dietitian, mentor and business coach, Katie Dodd MS, RDN, CSG, LD, FAND, taught me the power of writing down your intentions.

So this is my promise to you, and myself, that I will follow through on these products and services, it’s all about your mindset.

And in addition to the fun that we will have, you will learn about the whole plant, its origin, psychoactive properties, responsible use, and so, so, so much more! There are tons of new laws being passed everyday, and emerging research that supports the advantages of cannabis use in your daily lifestyle.

You may have heard a lot of incorrect, exaggerated and unbelievable information over the years when it comes not only to cannabis, but also nutrition (probably even more so), but I will be here to help you navigate through those murky waters of misinformation.

Final Thoughts

Well I hope that by the end of this that I’ve gotten you just as excited about cannabis and nutrition for health and wellness as I am! If I’m not passionate and excited about this venture, then why would you be?

I’m very much looking forward to also learning from YOU along the way, so I truly hope that you join me on this euphoric adventure to get you to your best self mentally, emotionally and physically.

Image of Sam Coogan leaning on counter behind Be You sign with a small vase and leaves popping out.
Thank you for being here, and until next time, go Pineapple Express yourself!

Until next time, go Pineapple Express Yourself!

2 thoughts on “Curious About Cannabis? So Was I, and It Changed My Life”

  1. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am about your new venture. Who knew when I agreed to speak to your NvAND members it would be the start of a future collaboration and friendship?! I look forward to seeing all that you cook up with The Pineapple Expressionist! 🙂

    1. Samantha M. Coogan

      Oh thank you so much, Janice! Right?? Who knew at the time? And I couldn’t be more grateful for both, nor would be here without your guidance! Let’s have some fun! 🙂

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