Spotlight Series: Constance Finley, Founder of Constance Therapeutics
Constance Finley, founder of Constance Therapeutics, has been leading the industry with her medicinal cannabis company for nearly 10 years. As a female executive that came to cannabis as a last result because of an autoimmune disease, Finley is happy to be part of a shift in the perception of cannabis, especially among women.
How did you get involved in the cannabis industry?
Against my own better judgment! I was more than a little afraid of using cannabis regularly. I wasn’t conservative but I didn’t BUY cannabis; I saw it as a party drug that could be addictive! My desperation to have a life back was the impetus for my opening my mind to the science of cannabis. In 2008 when I started growing and extracting medicinal cannabis legally in California, there was very little but stoner culture, regardless of the supposed medicinal nature of the law. For more than a decade, I was an invalid who couldn’t leave the house except for doctor’s appointments. Then, prescription drugs almost killed me. I was on my own: out of options, like most of the people later referred to me by their doctors.
Tell us a little bit about your product or service
Constance Therapeutics is nearly 10 years old and we've been pioneering cannabis technology, specifically whole female plant cannabis extracts created using proprietary extraction and compounding methods. These standardized extracts offer an alternative care choice for the many patients that are in need and out of options with traditional medicine.
What time does your day typically start and what does a normal day look like to you?
My days are busy! I travel internationally a lot to give keynote presentations at various industry/technology/health/government conferences and meetings. Educating people about cannabis and the hard science behind its re-emerging use is a priority for us at Constance Therapeutics. When I'm not traveling a typical day might be waking up at 8am. I’m a night owl and often work until 2 or 3 a.m., so I am not an early riser. I tend to work until 10am at home. I stand at my kitchen counter and read, sort and answer emails. Usually, my personal assistant and I check in then, as well as my EA and my Director of Legal. Conference calls tend to start at 10, so I may do the morning commute while on a conference call or two. Since my company entered global licensing, calls from around the world keep us busy most days. I check in with my lab team at our San Francisco permitted manufacturing facility in SOMA and then head to our executive offices a couple of blocks away - usually by 11am - 12pm. My assistants and C-level team members and I work usually until 6pm. We are kept busy with licensee meetings, calls with our attorneys to keep abreast of the rapidly evolving CA regulations, conducting media interviews, and meetings with people wishing to collaborate, work here, or provide services. Meetings with our Branding/Marketing and PR/Social Media teams revolve around pushing forward various long term projects such as achieving GMP status for manufacturing, exploring new genetics with our farmers, opening up wholesale distribution in California, booking and prepping for conference speeches, and disseminating important education and messaging throughout our brand channels. I meet with our R&D team to direct their efforts probably once a week as we bring on new products.
About ⅓ of the time, business dinners take up the early evening and then I head home. If I don’t have evening plans, I go home, take a walk with my dogs, fix dinner and go back to work for a couple of hours. I spend my down time hiking up steep mountains with my dogs in the Bay Area where I live, watching Colbert Report or Mozart in the Jungle, catching up on news about our President and of course, news about cannabis science and legality. I read Science, ICRS publications and other cannabis research on the weekends and some evenings.
What is your vision for your company going forward?
We are looking to expand production, move into wholesale distribution for the first time, continue to add global licensees who take our IP and brand into their countries and other states, and grow the business so that we can continually get product to more people in need. We’re now moving beyond strictly medicinal in the availability of our products. We want all people to be able to get really high quality, standardized product. The more research that is done, the more we are seeing how much cannabis can do. There are so many different disease states, but also just lifestyle factors that can be greatly improved with the use of cannabis, according to international research. Tetra Bio PHarma of Canada licensed our compounds into FDA approved research in Canada so that is the most important thing we envision and continue to work towards in the future.
What would an ideal post prohibition society look like to you?
I see cannabis entering three tracks in a world based on science rather than the economically motivated stigma we’ve lived with for decades. First and most importantly, there would be FDA-approved research underway with our standardized compounds. Whole plant, botanical, FDA-approved prescription products need to be available through regulatory channels, prescribed by physicians and hospitals so that the seriously ill people have full access to cannabis and all it has to offer. Second, the herbal/supplement/nutraceutical/symptom management and health prevention category would embrace and be able to offer a suite of products that could be bought at health food stores or through a naturopath or osteopath. Lastly, recreational is a valid channel for pleasure and euphoria delivered by tastemakers - and it’s one that should be kept separate and fills a totally different want than the other two categories listed above. That being said, recreational users should also be able to get quality formulations and standardized products. So, to recap, prescription medicine for the seriously ill delivered by traditional practitioners in the health care system; symptom management through alternative and integrative practitioners and lastly, legitimate pleasure and relaxation, like a very well made glass of wine that contains resveratrol and polyphenols but is assessed primarily for pleasure.
What was your first experience with cannabis like?
I was well educated and fairly sophisticated, and I really didn't think cannabis was for women like me. It was only because of a debilitating autoimmune disease that I finally came to cannabis. And this was after trying literally over a hundred pharmaceuticals that nearly killed me. It was tough to put the stigma aside. Of course once I did, I started to feel better and better and there was no turning back. There were no products or extractions or anything really but anonymously grown and unbranded flower to smoke in joints or bongs. There were no vape pens or shatter or standardized compounds from known genetics - our story. My concern about what I was consuming and the growing methods applied, the lack of potency from smoking to treat a condition such as mine, and my concerns about the health risks involved in the crude process that was all that existed at that time - RSO or Rick Simpson Oil - that eventually brought me to create Constance Therapeutics. But to answer your question, my first experience was smoking bud through a Volcano vaporizer, which irritated my throat so much. I rapidly added a bong with ice to the Volcano bag. Then, I invented and patented our proprietary viscosity agent as soon as vape pens became available for our compounds.
Tell us about some of the challenges you face working in the cannabis industry
Patchwork legality. Ignorance about the wealth of hard science growing around the world, though suppressed here in the US. The FDA harboring what appears to be a bias toward GW Pharmaceuticals and against other legitimate pioneering science in cannabinoid discoveries. Escaping the Black Market, Stoner culture. Puritanical and restrictive influences throughout the world working hard to limit our choices to CBD only from Hemp, just another set of rules made by those who don’t believe individual freedoms extend to our choices in health care - (not just to the right to possess guns!). Not being able to travel with cannabis for treatment. Rapidly changing regulations; massive disruption; not being treated like a legitimate business in many cities and counties in CA coupled with exorbitant and crippling excise taxes imposed only on cannabis... As a woman CEO, continually running into “me, too” and ageist nonsense - assuming male members of my team are the CEO and extraction scientists rather than honoring my pioneering work and the company I created. Even serious investors attracted to my company and work assumed I was not the CEO, but my male subordinate was. It gets really tiring and old for most women CEO’s, scientists, engineers, etc. but it’s time for that to change in cannabis and unfortunately it’s still rampant.
What are some solutions you've found?
Honesty, articulation, persistence, having high quality allies, speaking outside of cannabis culture; for example, I've participated in South by Southwest, worked with the California Academy of Sciences, and have a speaking event with the Sorbonne in Paris coming up in June of this year; 15 excellent attorneys in multiple specialties; professional accountants, being responsible for what occurs in our company to a high degree and never breaking the law.
What is one thing you wish everyone knew about cannabis?
That whole plant extract from known genetics is superior to isolates, distillates, synthetics and “clear” or “gold” commodity oriented products. Isolates are the new commodity in cannabis, a race to the bottom.
What is one thing you wish everyone knew about your product or service?
The passion, honesty and intense scrutiny my team brings to our products and our continued “restless innovation” to bring better solutions to people using cannabis medicines or adult-use products. My team and I care about the people we serve more than the money we make.
If you could go back in time and do it all over again, what (if anything) would you do differently?
I would realize change was coming faster than I could have ever predicted; and that “taking cannabis seriously - since 2008” would be a much faster track to FDA approved research and an internationally known company than I thought possible. I would have maybe been even more stubborn about doing what I did to a fanatical degree of scrutiny and standards.
What is your favorite way to consume cannabis?
Ingesting it directly at night an hour or two before I go to bed. I do not use edibles because we treat our patented compounds as serious medicine with serious consequences and we want to monitor its effects. For instance, I like to monitor the way cannabis is cumulatively more and more helpful with less and less of a dosage over time, especially when the inflammatory process is involved. I take a capsule or put extract measured precisely from a standardized dosing bottle into my mouth in the buccal area, like chewing tobacco but with much better results!
Concentrate or flower? Why?
Flower gave me an indication of what cannabis was capable of in my disease state, but flower isn’t nearly potent enough to help my condition significantly. I created medicinal extracts, the first after Rick Simpson’s toxic process, because potent methods of ingesting it didn’t exist except for Morrocan hash oil, which was mainly used recreationally.
Do you think cannabis legalization will change the world for the better? Why?
Of course it will! Simply to quiet the puritanical and repressive control of people would be a bonus in itself. My vision at CT is that the gravitas, the immense polyphasic benefits of cannabis, can bring new attention to Plant Based Medicine in general, moving past the burned out allopathic model of double blind clinical studies on mice rather than a modern methodology utilizing Super Computers and focusing on human response. Cannabis is known as Generally Recognized as Safe, after thousands of years of mammalian use. I would like to tell Mr. Sessions that “nice people don’t promote opioid use” and that allowing legal states to choose non-addictive options for pain such as cannabis could be life changing for the tens of thousands stuck on suboxone or methadone and the immanent risk of using again.
What advice would you offer to another woman who is looking to get into the industry?
Be careful to not just jump into the industry but into a position in it that fits your skill set, temperament and goals. Finding a company that meets your values and what you want your life to be about is important. I can’t dedicate this many hours to something that doesn’t possess deep meaning for me. You might not be able to reinvent the wheel, but where can you truly add value? Maybe it’s better to be a first rate bookkeeper if you’re good at accounting, at a cannabis firm that you respect, than to be a cannabis grower, for example. I also personally prefer work that involves constant learning and critical thinking - cannabis R&D and business provides me with that but the average person might like more free time than running a cannabis business typically allows. I find that it is an ALL IN sort of industry at this level. However, there's a place for everyone and we need more women in cannabis. So lastly, DO IT! Cannabis may end up being bigger than tech. It can transform health care and so many people's lives if we are persistent. It may even bring about a nicer, kinder world - maybe as soon as the midterm elections! :)
Connect with Constance Therapeutics
Instagram Handle: @constancetherapeutics
Twitter Handle: @CACannabisOil
Facebook Page Link: https://www.facebook.com/ConstanceCBD/