Chem Tales: The Legend of Aunt Zelda’s

Mara Gordon has a vision for medicinal cannabis, and it’s already saving lives.

If Mara Gordon made herself available to sit down and speak with everyone who harbored doubts about the viability of medicinal cannabis, the issue might cease to exist. To say that Gordon, an activist and local cannabis manufacturer, is a compelling speaker is a bit of an understatement. Her passion and belief in her mission are palpably electric — even when speaking via telephone from Calgary.

As she explains, the reason she’s on the road during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is to educate a local group on the benefits of embracing a whole plant approach when it comes to using cannabis as medicine.

“On Wednesday, I’m leaving for Quebec,” she says, “where I’m meeting with an oncology group. We’re finishing the final touches on a protocol for doing a clinical trial for women with breast cancer. Then I go from there to Boston, where I’m speaking at an event being held at MIT. The reason that I’m doing all of this is because education is how we’re going to effect change. It’s actually the only way that we’re going to effect change.”

No one could accuse Gordon of having too much time on her hands. Since she first discovered the medicinal benefits of cannabis nearly a decade ago, she’s cultivated a data-driven approach to how the plant interacts with our endocannabinoid system. She’s also worked diligently to share her findings across the globe.

Currently featured as a central subject in the documentary Weed the People, Gordon comes across on-screen as a no-nonsense yet genuinely compassionate guide to a handful of parents all dealing with extremely sick children and running out of options. While she never frames cannabis as a cure-all or substitute for more standard treatment protocols, the results in the film speak for themselves. Once gaunt-looking faces are suddenly rosy and full again. Smiles escape lips that had long been curled up in prolonged pain and anguish.

Recalling how she once judged a friend staying with her for smoking bowls — the friend was forced to toke up in Gordon’s garage — she laughs at how differently she sees things today.

“Now I’m like the poster child of cannabis consumption,” she notes. “I give it to bald babies. The irony is unbelievable.”

Gordon’s work with sick children is a story unto itself — consider this your official notice to see Weed the People when it arrives on Netflix on April 20 — but her presence in the cannabis industry has taken a myriad of forms.. First came Aunt Zelda’s, a business run out of Gordon’s kitchen and named in honor of the relative whose carrot cake recipe became Gordon’s go-to option for infusing cannabis oil. Things started rather organically, with friends and family asking if Gordon might be able to make them some of the cannabis treats that she had initially created for her husband, who was slated to undergo back surgery but refused to become reliant on opioids in his recovery.

She agreed to provide carrot cakes. Eventually, she made the choice to offer the cannabis oils at the heart of the confection instead — with the proviso that everyone who received them would promise to track their experiences. She wanted details on the effects they felt, the duration they felt them, the time from consumption to onset, and more. Gordon then paired this information with extensive intake data, ranging from people’s full medical histories to their ancestors’ countries of origin.

“If you talk to people of Asian heritage in the San Francisco area,” Gordon explains, “they really like Blue Dream. A lot of people of Central American descent like OG Kush. Is it because that’s what they’re exposed to more, or is it because there is a propensity genetically? I wanted to see if that was just random or a pattern. The only way to find out was to ask the question.”

She went on to open an oil manufacturing plant in Santa Rosa and launch the consultation clinic Calla Spring Wellness in Bodega Bay. In the course of her work, Gordon has made some truly fascinating discoveries. For one, her team has found zero correlation between a patient’s weight and the amount of cannabis required to treat their symptoms.

“It’s shocking,” she says, “and it also makes it more complicated for doctors, because that’s how they’re used to working.”

Another revelation was a correlation between a patient’s age and the dose of cannabis required, with younger patients requiring more cannabis than older ones. With the recent legalization of cannabis on a federal level in Canada, Gordon is hopeful that more research will now be possible. Her mission remains the same: thwarting misinformation by educating as many professionals in the medical world and beyond about how we can best integrate cannabis into the fight against cancer and other illnesses and conditions.

As Gordon readies herself for the next meeting, the next flight, and the next patient in need of her help, she takes a moment to reflect back on the humble origins that birthed her unexpected role as a vital advocate for medicinal cannabis.

“I just hope nobody thinks I’m still making oil in my kitchen in an electric pan,” she laughs. “It’s been awhile.”

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