She is the co-founder of her own cannabis company, Aunt Zelda’s, but just a few short years ago, Mara Gordon was happily retired after a successful career in the dot-com world.
For her, there was no financial motive to enter the cannabis industry, as so many others have done, drawn in by the allure of dollar signs.
Instead, her decision to enter and ultimately serve as a pioneer in the cannabis industry had a much more personal motivation.
Searching for Alternatives
“My husband and I are both chronic pain patients,” Mara tells Green Flower.
She suffered a back injury and bacterial meningitis, which left her with severe damage to her spine.
“I was on a fentanyl patch,” she explains, referring to the notoriously addictive opioid. “And at least 26 pharmaceuticals.”
The final straw, however, came when it was clear that her husband badly needed surgery on his back, and doctors warned that without it, he would find himself in a wheelchair.
A sober alcoholic, he refused to take opioids for fear of relapsing, and at this point, Mara and her husband began researching alternative medicine.
“We did some research and found that cannabis was being used for pain control. He did a test to see if cannabis would trigger the phenomenon of craving and it didn’t!”
Although she is now a highly-respected figure in the cannabis world, she laughs at her naiveté at the time. “It cracks me up to think about it now, but I didn’t know anyone in California who grew cannabis. Well, people I knew were growing, but I didn’t know they were growing.”
Aunt Zelda’s Carrot Cake
So she set off on a journey, procuring an ounce of XXX Chemdawg in Oregon. But with no instructions on how to administer cannabis, it was time to experiment with what would become the focal point of her future company – medicinal cannabis dosage.
“I made some oil and I stuck it in my Aunt Zelda’s carrot cake recipe,” she says, referring to the namesake behind what would become her own cannabis company.
During her husband’s hours-long surgery, she brought the cake to the hospital with her, and it was there that, as she describes it, “the light bulb went off.”
“Why give people the house when you can give them the lumber?” she says, referring to separating the cake from the oil and marketing the result as a medicinal alternative.
Disappointment With the Early MMJ Industry
Eager to begin her foray into experimenting with cannabis, Mara and her husband applied for and received medical marijuana certifications and she got to work.
“I went to a large dispensary, but the choices were a joke! They couldn’t help me,” she laments. “And that was the start of it all.”
“I was on all of these pharmaceuticals with very serious medical conditions, and the kid behind the counter was offering me Rice Krispy treats and brownies, with no idea what’s in them or how to dose them.”
At this point, it became clear for Mara that dosing was going to be her biggest challenge, and ultimately one that she would spend years working to correct in the medicinal cannabis industry as Aunt Zelda’s continued to grow and make a name for itself with quality products and patient support.
The Challenge of Cannabis Dosing
“I’ve discovered that there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all for dosing,” Mara says. In fact, she uses approximately 300 different data points in patient profiles when determining the correct dosage for a patient.
Contrary to popular belief, the weight of the patient doesn’t really play a factor when calculating dosage amounts. “I would say there is a far greater correlation between the age of the patient and the dosing [than weight],” she says. “Children can take on much higher doses, they are always the exception.”
When I express surprise and incredulity at the thought of children being able to take higher doses than adults, she quickly supports her statement with her own experiences in medicinal dosing. “Children can take enormously high therapeutic doses and go about their lives where others would not be able to function.”
That pointer is one of many Mara has learned in her experience with medical cannabis and continues to teach others today.
Moving Forward in a New Cannabis Industry
Although it may be tempting for some entrepreneurs to focus on more lucrative opportunities such as branding and marketing, this isn’t the main focus for Mara Gordon and Aunt Zelda’s.
“This is about saving lives and making quality medicine, not just about how many sales I have; this is about helping patients,” she says. “Our ethos and mission is about alleviating patients’ suffering.”
The plan moving forward is to insert her own oil into other companies’ edibles and cannabis products.
“Several companies have come to us saying ‘please help us out. We would rather have a healthier choice,” she explains. “And we want to provide the intel, the oil inside, the missing link.”
To meet this need for quality cannabis oil, Mara has formed a licensed company called The Oil Plant (TOP).
Her passion for getting this medicine out there continues to roar on all cylinders. “How can I not work this hard and this much when I know how many people are suffering and don’t have access to quality medicine?” she says.
“I can’t do anything about Syria, but I can do something about someone with a brain tumor.”
As for her immediate plans, Mara is hoping to introduce a new system for patient intake that involves a number of different variables and data to collect for a more precise diagnosis, an intake form she calls the Cannabis Desk Reference (CDRMed), but she has faced challenges within the cannabis industry.
“I want this very badly to make CDRMed available to doctors and dispensaries and pharmacies and patients, but I have been unable to move forward due to some predatory agreements,” she explains.
Not one to be deterred, she refuses to back down.
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