How Aunt Zelda’s is Bridging the Gap Between Cannabis and the Medical Establishment
By Gooey Rabinski (Credit Emerald Magazine's 2017 Women of Cannabis Issue)
Photo by Beth Schlanker
In a world increasingly focused on cannabis as a profit commodity, one company — and one woman — stand apart. In 2011, after having successfully treated herself and her husband using cannabis oil, Mara Gordon decided that not enough was being done to educate doctors and medical professionals regarding the efficacy of cannabis.
In response, Gordon, along with partner Stewart Smith, founded Aunt Zelda’s, a small company in Sonoma County, California that frames itself as “a pioneering, data-driven developer of cannabis-based plant medicines.”
The crux of this cannabis company’s approach is accurate titration (dosing) and the production of pure organic medicine using only the cleanest, safest processes. Gordon’s company also develops therapeutic protocols used by physicians and medical specialists around the world. She and her staff work closely with doctors and practitioners to gauge the real-world efficacy of various treatment protocols based on her company’s cannabis oil.
Aunt Zelda’s medical protocols involve only sublingual consumption of its proprietary cannabis oil, not smoking, vaping, or ingestion of edibles.
The company employs ethanol extraction and also produces an infused olive oil topical. According to Gordon, sublingual administration produces the highest bioavailability of all consumption methods.
Gordon recently gave the Emerald Magazine an exclusive interview, explaining her passion for the medical efficacy of the cannabinoids and terpenes in cannabis and her effort to educate medical professionals.
Emerald Magazine: Why did you start Aunt Zelda’s in 2011?
Mara Gordon: We started Aunt Zelda’s as a response to the fact that there was no available accurately dosed, lab-tested cannabis medicines available at the time. And it wasn’t because we saw a market niche that we were going to fill to make a lot of money… we saw a patient need that had to be filled.
There were really sick people who were getting very bad directions and inferior products. We thought, this is ridiculous, let’s just do this ourselves. That was the mind set with which we approached starting the company. The days of the rice crispy treat in a dirty baggy are behind us. It was supposed to be five to 20 doses, whatever a ‘dose’ meant… that was the level of professionalism in this industry when we first became aware that there was medical cannabis out there, because we were patients, both my husband and I.
I had been on many pharmaceuticals and was in very severe. Cannabis has replaced all of my pain medicines. My husband, who had a broken back that required surgery, did not want to have surgery and then be addicted to opioids the rest of his life. He had over 20 years of sobriety and he wasn’t going to risk it. So we started researching cannabis as a viable option.
Emerald: So the Aunt Zelda’s journey began as a personal experience?
MG: It was a very personal experience. The funny part of it is that I didn’t know anybody in California who had any cannabis, so I didn’t know where I could get it. After obtaining a 215 recommendation here, I went up to Oregon and got a license there and bought two ounces of XXX Chemdawg. I came back to California and made my first infused oil with it. I put that oil into the carrot cake recipe passed down to me from my Aunt Zelda, thus the name of the company, and started dosing. From the first time that we tried cannabis, [….] I began taking notes. I started weighing every piece and noting how long it took to take effect. I documented the effects and after effects.
Emerald: How did you transition from self-medicating with your husband to helping others get clean cannabis-derived medicine in accurate doses?
MG: When doing research, I located a patient who had a double lung and heart transplant. I was able to work with her. We weighed every piece and measured it and she was giving us very good feedback. We thought, there’s gotta be a way to accurately and consistently dose this and I’m gonna figure it out.
Emerald: In an industry and a culture dominated by recreational use, what is a dose? Some young people in Humboldt County dab 25 or 30 times a day. They eat edibles, in a single sitting, that contain between 250 milligrams and 500 milligrams of THC.
MG: And they don’t have cancer? They don’t have some serious disease?
MG: That to me is just completely […] unnecessary. The average person’s endocannabinoid system does not require 200 milligrams of cannabinoids to have a response. If they do, they need to go through a reset, because that’s just absurd.
Emerald: You’ve been lecturing internationally on a regular basis. What are you trying to achieve?
MG: To enlighten the medical community and legislators around the world that cannabis can be accurately and consistently dosed. Because the biggest obstacle to the acceptance of cannabis as a medicine, in my opinion, is the popular perception that it cannot be dosed, that it can’t be consistent or accurate.
But this is just not true. It takes work. But it can be done.
Emerald: What is your opinion of extractions of particular cannabinoids and terpenes versus ‘whole plant’ medicine?
MG: It’s complex, but I believe that whole plant is far more effective. My goal is to take the fear and uncertainty out of it, so that we can get more generalized acceptance of cannabis as medicine.
Emerald: It’s about a lot more than a single molecule called THC.
MG: Absolutely. Or CBD. Or CBG. Or CBC. Or THCv. It’s the whole thing. It is the entourage effect. In fact, we’ve done some pre-clinical studies using our medicine and comparing whole plant medicine to single molecule…what’s called ‘isolate.’ Whole plant has shown to be far more effective.
Emerald: Is there a message you’d like to leave readers?
MG: Cannabis is not a panacea. It’s science. It’s a beautiful, amazing plant and I’m so grateful that we have it, but I don’t pray to the cannabis plant any more than I pray to my thyroid medicine. It’s all chemistry.