From Compassionate Use To A Corporate Buyout: 24 Years In California Cannabis, A First-Hand Experience

By Mara Gordon, founder of Aunt Zelda’s.

I entered the cannabis space as a collective under the 1996 Compassionate Use Act (often referred to as 215). This allowed me to provide medicine to collective members, and take in taxable donations to pay for the cost of the medicine. This model also allowed me to do research and development (R&D) on the medicinal benefits of cannabinoid-based medicines, and chart the doses required to achieve maximum therapeutic results. The patients we cared for (under medical doctor supervision) had serious illnesses that often were not adequately addressed by allopathic protocols. This information was used to establish both the profile and dose for pre-clinical and clinical trials that have been conducted in Spain and Australia. 

Once Prop 64 was the law in California, we were no longer able to operate under the collective model. In its place was a series of license types for each step in the supply chain – testing labs, cultivators, manufacturers, distributors, transporters, retail – both storefront and delivery. The micro-business and shared appeared initially to be promising for cannabis artisans. However, there are not many that can afford to operate with these limited license-types. 

Also licenses were further divided into ‘recreational’ and ‘’ without any requirements that patients have their medical needs met. Pushed to the side were the tinctures, extracts, and salves, and in their place were mass produced, white-labeled products with large marketing budgets to pay for shelf space. These newcomers to the space were often out of state investors looking to cash in on the cannabis economy with ROI (return on investment) and stock share prices the sole focus. Creation and protection of intellectual property, and producing fancy pitch decks was now the heart of the cannabis industry. 

See also: The Evolution Of Capitalism: A Cannabis And Psychedelics Investor's Proposal

The new model required me to go from an R&D model to full-scale manufacture if I wished to continue …

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