“The depth and strength of a human character are defined by its moral reserves. People reveal themselves completely only when they are thrown out of the customary conditions of their life, for only then do they have to fall back on their reserves.”– Leonardo da Vinci
For two Bay Area women, the impetus to find that inner strength da Vinci was referring to was physical pain. In an effort to highlight some of the many amazing and inspirational people United Patients Group comes in contact with daily, we sat down with two remarkable cannabis entrepreneurs – Didi Davis, president of Strictly Topical, and Annie Holman, founder of Derby Bakery – to learn more about their unique journey that led to developing products and services that are helping and healing.
President Didi Davis’ path to medicinal cannabis wasn’t from her own physical pain, but instead from the severe pain a family member was enduring after a horrific car accident. “We tried everything – acupuncture, cranio-facial, physical therapy, alternative medical modalities, as well as narcotics, “Didi explained. The negative side effects from the narcotics and the desperate need for pain relief led them to the cannabis industry. They wanted to find a natural treatment for her family member’s chronic pain. Looking for a solution that could be topically applied, they were given a tar-like product at the dispensary. “The smell, the consistency on the skin. All of it was less than ideal”. They decided right then and there that if they couldn’t find something that wasn’t better, then they would simply have to make it themselves. They poured over all of the information they could get their hands on and started experimenting with extracting cannabis trichomes from the cannabis plant. Successful at the extraction process, they then infused it into coconut oil, and blended other essential oils that gave it a more aesthetically pleasing scent. The end result was their original Sweet Releaf body butter.
“This product was the result of necessity. Necessity is the mother of invention. It was important to have a natural, organic product that provided chronic pain relief without getting you high,” states Didi. Creating a medicinal cannabis product that provides pain relief without a psychoactive side effect was very important to Didi. Her family member had already experienced the mind and mood altering affects from narcotics, and she wanted something different; thus her company’s tagline, “Help where it hurts without the high.”
Realizing that most people’s perceptions of marijuana is you smoke it and you get high, Didi says her products strike a chord with users who don’t want to be unnecessarily altered by a product to where they wouldn’t be able to function normally. “The new user, no matter what age they are, but particularly seniors, who are typically just being introduced to medical cannabis products, are often very concerned about how they will personally be affected by its use. They worry that it might get them severely high,” Didi explains. For baby boomers who comprise a large and growing part of the population contemplating using medicinal cannabis, Didi states that when it comes to smoking marijuana, “most Grandma’s if they could’ve, they would’ve. If they haven’t by now, they don’t want to smoke.” Topicals don’t affect a person’s mind, emotions or ability to function normally in their day-to-day lives. “Pain goes away; the area loosens up, and you genuinely feel relief where the product is applied,” Didi emphasizes. She continues, “It’s comforting to know that you’re not going to be altered when using this product. It’s much more intuitively sensible to be able to take something and put it on a part of your body that hurts, rather than eat or smoke something to affect a part of your body that hurts. It’s just human nature that we’re used to being able to apply something to a spot and help it.”
Strictly Topical is women owned and operated and now comprised of several family members, all of which are particular sources of pride for Didi. In addition to her original Sweet Releaf topical, she has developed an unscented option and an extra strength butter for those with severe chronic pain. She plans to expand her product line eventually, but for now she is very proud to continue focusing on the core products. In fact, in November 2015, their topical won 1st place in the Humboldt County Cup.
Calling medical cannabis ‘intelligent medicine,’ Didi feels strongly about bringing a professional face to the medical cannabis world. From her long history of helping others in need (in 1974, she helped found a non-profit called Plenty International) to her current goal of eventually seeing her products on the shelves of such mainstream drugstores as CVS and Walgreens, Didi is very excited about her company’s future. Her products are currently carried in dispensaries from Los Angeles to Humboldt County, and she has seen her sales steadily increase as the communities of patients using her topicals are getting the relief they seek. Her products are generating their own following, and there’s no doubt that her company and the dispensaries that carry her Sweet Releaf are benefiting.
Like Didi Davis of Strictly Topical, Derby Bakery’s founder Annie Holman’s entry into the medical cannabis industry was initially for pain relief. “My entire body was hurting so much from sitting in front of my computer – my back, my hips and so on,” Annie describes. She started researching medical cannabis as an alternative to traditional medicine to relieve the ailments she was facing. Describing herself as being Advil and sleeping aides, Annie realized that heavy pharmaceuticals weren’t working for her. Dissatisfied with the side effects, Annie decided she no longer wanted to take these types of medicine anymore. She started using topical
Believing that cannabis has healing properties and that “as human beings we have the right to choose what type of medicine we use,” Annie happily stopped using traditional pharmaceuticals and began replacing them with cannabis products as needed. She now uses either a very small amount of a vaping pen to sleep or a very small amount of an edible with a low dose of THC, and she wakes up feeling much better and rested. She doesn’t wake up groggy and she no longer has to deal with the negative side effects (i.e. memory loss) that the other medications were causing.
Her other motivation was more on a spiritual level. As someone in her early fifties, she was at a point in her life where she wanted to do something worthy. She yearned to do something that was service-oriented and would allow her to reach out and really help the community. Annie approached a client/ close friend in December 2014 with the idea of going into the medical cannabis field. A partnership was born, and they spent the first year researching and figuring out what products they wanted to develop, sourcing the right baker, etc. Putting together a kitchen, handling the legal issues, etc. took a lot of time. “We threw a lot of darts, and eventually landed on four products,” Annie explains. The delicious results are the Jackpot Caramels, the Triple Crown Cookie, the Lucky Lemon Cookie, and the Daily Double Peanut Butter Cups. Their non-medicated Lucky Lemon Cookie swept Double Gold at the 2015 Sonoma Harvest Fair, and their Triple Crown Chocolate cookie took Gold.
What’s in a name?
Lucky Lemon? Triple Crown? Daily Double? Sounds like a horse race. The name Derby Bakery is in fact tied to the most famous of horse races – the Kentucky Derby. Annie’s partner won their seed money at the Kentucky Derby in 2015. From the four leaf clover symbol on the packaging, to the names of her edibles, Derby Bakery’s tagline is ‘It’s your lucky day.’
Fun aside, Annie and her partner take the medical cannabis industry seriously. They intentionally chose not to put stereotypical symbols, such as a marijuana leaf on their packages. “I wanted to do something that wasn’t so scary. I didn’t want to intimidate people,” Annie explains. As a liberal, open-minded person, she felt intimidated the first time she went into a dispensary, and she didn’t want her customers to feel that same intimidation. Dosing and intelligently consuming Derby Bakery’s products are a high priority. Included in each double-wrapped, food grade, re-sealable package, is a “how-to eat the edible” card and Annie’s contact information so anyone with questions can contact her.
Annie’s outreach goes far beyond the dispensaries that carry her products. In addition to supporting statewide and Marin County focused organizations such as California NORML, The Sonoma Country Growers Alliance (SGGA) and the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), Derby Bakery supports Mercy Wellness of Cotati, Magnolia Wellness, Sonoma Patients Group, Peace in Medicine, and Weed for Good. Derby Bakery also donates to three veteran groups. Saddened by the alarming rates of suicide and PTSD among veterans, Annie has a soft spot for vets. Often dependent on heavy pharmaceuticals, as she once was, veterans have been in a bind because medical cannabis was not allowed to be prescribed or recommended for them by any physician employed by the U.S. federal government. Happily, there is currently an amendment that recently passed which will now allow veterans to access medical marijuana. By donating products, as well as time and energy to causes close to her heart, Annie is certainly fulfilling her mission to help communities and their members in very meaningful ways.
We are continuously astonished at the passion and commitment of the people that make up the cannabis industry. We’re proud to share their stories. Do you have an interesting product, service or business that is making a positive impact in the medical cannabis world? Let us know!