In a world where plant medicine is still stigmatized, Gina Vensel has emerged as a pioneer in advocating for the benefits of cannabis and psychedelics. Through her work, Vensel has become a voice for change and a symbol of hope for those who believe in the healing power of plants. She has shown that it is possible to build a successful career while staying true to one’s values and beliefs, and that advocacy and community building can go hand in hand.
Gina Vensel is a woman with a mission, and she’s accomplishing that mission through every avenue available to her. A plant medicine educator and activist, she is also a marketing and PR professional with a thriving career in Pittsburgh. The Senior Marketing Manager at Momentum Events and the event organizer for MAPS Psychedelic Science 2023, The Mushroom Summit, Horizons Northwest and Horizons New York, Ms. Vensel is also the co-founder of Plant Media Project (PMP), a women-owned boutique agency specializing in plant medicine education and advocacy. PMP hosts the Vine: A Plant Media Project podcast with weekly content discussing the changing landscape of cannabis and psychedelics.
To say that Vensel is a mover and shaker would be an understatement – and her hard work and get-it-done attitude are certainly making waves in the city and beyond. With her extensive experience in media and events production, she has dedicated her career to fighting the stigma around marijuana and other plant medicines.
Her mission of education and advocacy has not always been an easy one to undertake, though. She recognizes that there is still a lot of stigma surrounding both medical and recreational use, and that laws are slow to change.
“Pittsburgh is still, in many ways, new to the idea of medical marijuana, let alone the idea of what pro-cannabis could even mean,” Vensel says of the challenges she’s faced in her career. “I asked myself, how can we begin educating others to end the stigma around cannabis and begin to build a community in both the cannabis and non-cannabis arenas?” Vensel says.
Vensel, who grew up in Pitcairn and attended the University of Pittsburgh, says that she believes cannabis is “a basic human right and medical for everyone.” Ultimately, she’d like to see it legalized for everyone. “This is a treatment for anxiety, depression, chronic pain – so many things that the public deserves to be educated on.” (In fact, the Department of Health lists over 20 conditions approved for medical marijuana treatment.)
Part of Vensel’s mission surrounding cannabis reform also includes justice for those incarcerated for cannabis-related offenses. “Now is the time for us to get all of the non-violent cannabis offenders out of prison,” she states.
Currently, 38 states, three territories, and the District of Columbia have some form of legalized medical marijuana, while 22 states, Guam, and D.C. have recreational marijuana laws. Only 22 states have decriminalized the plant.
According to NORML.org, (the National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws) police arrested over 13,000 people for marijuana possession in 2021 – all while state-run dispensaries were legal and thriving. Depending on how much is in your possession, a simple possession charge can mean up to one year incarceration on a first offense in Pennsylvania. Vensel is determined to change this through education, advocacy, and community building.
Community is central to Vensel’s core philosophy and that is evident when speaking with her. She truly finds joy in bringing like-minded people together: “I’ve always been obsessed with bringing different people together, especially for mission-based organizations. Events are such a powerful tool for community building.” Vensel has been instrumental in organizing countless events not only in Pittsburgh and throughout the state, but nationwide as well. An upcoming event (MAPS Psychedelic Science 2023) in Denver this summer is being billed as the “largest psychedelic gathering in history,” with attendance expected to be over 10,000 – during which attendees can learn about the latest research and developments in psychedelics. “During my time in cannabis advocacy, I found that some people were suffering in ways that cannabis alone couldn’t help. That realization led me to explore psychedelics as a tool for deeper healing, especially for people who were treatment resistant and needed to reach a place of wellness.”
Gina Vensel is a powerhouse in the world of plant medicine advocacy. She is making a significant impact on the plant medicine space in Pennsylvania and beyond. For more information on her work and upcoming events, visit PlantMediaProject.com.