There is a subset of medical cannabis companies established by people who healed themselves with their own plant-based medicine, then went into business to serve others. Obviously it takes more than a compelling personal experience to get a company off the ground. It helps to live in a state such as California that has a relatively long medical marijuana history. Essential also are business acumen, access to resources, and tenacity to overcome a steady stream of obstacles.
Constance Finley, founder of Constance Therapeutics, checked off all those boxes. But she also brought something more to the mix. As a trained chef, she had a deep appreciation of quality ingredients and a disciplined approach to handling them. So when she set out to concoct medicine to treat her chronic autoimmune condition, her culinary sensibilities guided the process.
This was in the early 2000s, when Finley, a California-based businesswoman and social activist then in her late forties, was housebound with debilitating pain. After a battery of pharmaceuticals only exacerbated her condition, friends recommended that she try cannabis. Smoking provided some relief, but given her delicate condition, inhaling dried flower was simply unsustainable.
To maintain full control over the ingredients and process, Finley cleared out her wine cellar and converted it into a space to grow her own plants under highly controlled, organic conditions. She also researched the cleanest approaches to plant extraction, steering clear of harsh solvents. These precautionary measures were critical since, after the extraction process, any pesticides, mold or other toxic residues would be present in more concentrated form. Only by monitoring every step could she be absolutely sure that the medicine she created would not do her more harm than good.
As a child, Finley grew up on a farm as it made the transition from producing raw to homogenized milk. While her grandfather was proud of the new, modern methods, Finley came to realize the harm resulting from over-processing, particularly for those who are lactose intolerant. This experience instilled in her a deep appreciation of the importance of a light touch.
Like a true chef, Finley was challenged to transform her ingredients without impairing their integrity. And that, she states, has been the essence of her work for the past 10 years.
At the time Finley was experimenting with concentrates, the standard procedure was to save the best flower buds for smoking, and use the “trim” and other byproducts of cannabis plants for processing. But with the sensibility of an herbalist who understands that the richness of terpenes and cannabinoids are concentrated in the buds, she only used the finest, premium flower to produce her concentrates.
Over seven years, with the urgency of someone whose life depended on it and the precision of a laboratory-grade test-kitchen, Finley perfected and documented her extraction technique. And when she finally took her oils to a Bay Area testing lab, the results were astounding. “I remember the lab people coming back to me, asking, ‘Who are you?’ They had never seen CBD levels above the single digits and I brought in 68%, along with THC at 86%.It was unheard of.”
Fast forward a decade. Finley founded and leads Constance Therapeutics, one of California’s veteran medical marijuana companies. Since 2008, their high quality, high cannabinoid-content extracts have changed the disease courses of thousands of patients. The company now sources its plants from carefully-vetted artisanal growers in northern California. Their proprietary extraction and compounding methods are now patent-pending. And Finley is excited about the company’s global expansion plans.
“In another life, I might have been a scientist,” she muses. “Instead, I focused on kitchen sciences and creating businesses. And bringing people back to plant-based medicine is my destiny.” But it is her appreciation of working with the finest ingredients that ultimately changed the course of cannabis extraction. “Cannabis is too often considered a commodity. But like grapes for fine wine, cannabis reflects the conditions under which it is grown. In my mind, the terroir of Northern California is unparalleled for producing the quality and cannabinoid profiles our patients’ lives depend on.”