How My Time as a Massage Therapist Inspired Me to Start a Cannabis Topicals Business

Dahlia Mertens is the founder and CEO of Mary Jane’s Medicinals, a leading cannabis topicals company practicing natural, whole-plant infusion at its Telluride, Colorado production facility since 2009.

What’s the best thing to happen to massage therapy in the last 10 years? Cannabis topicals.

As a seasoned massage therapist and entrepreneur who has grown a successful business over the past decade into a statewide empire, I can vouch for the fact that cannabis-infused lotions and oils can change people’s lives—I know, because not only have I seen it time and time again with my clients’ health and well-being, but infused topicals also fundamentally transformed my career.

I’d been working as a massage therapist for six years in the athletic- and artistic-minded Colorado mountain town of Telluride when I was first introduced to cannabis topicals. A dear friend had infused some grapeseed oil with cannabis, and offered it to help with some pain and stiffness in my neck. I was skeptical, but after I applied the oil I felt the tension in my neck release almost instantly.

That eye-opening experience inspired me to start infusing massage oil with cannabis in my kitchen, and I let my clients know it was an option to try if they were interested.

 This was in 2009—when Colorado voters had first legalized medical marijuana—and at the time there wasn’t much research evidence to explain how cannabis topicals worked. But my firsthand knowledge and the client feedback I received were unmistakable: My homemade infused topicals helped immensely.

Not only did clients experience deeper relaxation; they also reported a substantial lessening of their chronic pain, and improvement with other issues such as poor circulation, nerve damage and skin ailments. Cannabis topicals truly were taking my clients’ healing to the next level. And now we know why.

Cannabis Science: The Endocannabinoid System

In recent years, researchers have delved into the workings of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a network of chemical receptors located throughout the body. The ECS helps maintain homeostasis in a number of functions, including immune and inflammatory response; metabolism and digestion; and moods and memory, among others.  

ECS receptors are activated by compounds your body naturally produces called endocannabinoids; the cannabis plant contains phytocannabinoids, which are chemically similar.

What’s key for massage therapy is the ability of phytocannabinoids to provide pain relief and promote healing. A landmark research review by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine in 2017 determined there is conclusive evidence cannabis reduces pain; studies of animal models have demonstrated cannabinoids decrease inflammation and associated pain.  

It’s important to note that cannabinoids in non-transdermal topicals don’t cross the blood-brain barrier after application; hence, they don’t cause the “high” feeling or factor into drug tests.

The Trust Factor in Massage Therapy

I’ve often said topicals are the best possible ambassador for the cannabis plant, but massage therapists may very well be the next-best representatives for this alternative medicine.

People trust their massage therapists. It’s a unique bond between two individuals: When a client achieves relief from their aches and pains through the careful work of a massage therapist, it’s rewarding for both parties.   

When I did massage therapy full-time, I had clients from all walks of life, many of whom were quite conservative and would have never considered consuming cannabis. But when I offered to incorporate my homemade infused massage oil into their therapy sessions, the vast majority of them welcomed the chance to try it. 

The benefits aren’t just a one-way street; many massage therapists report their own bodies feel better after giving a session utilizing cannabis topicals. Massage therapy is a physically demanding job, so any modality that provides the therapist relief along with the client is valuable.

Massage therapists who want to add cannabis topicals to their toolkit should absolutely check the laws in their state to find out what’s currently legal and what’s not. That said, as laws change in state after state, and with cannabis massage and spa treatments fueling an actual tourist boom in California, Colorado and beyond, it’s clear that topicals are quickly becoming an accepted part of the massage therapy landscape.

My cannabis-infused topicals business kept growing until eventually I gave up massage therapy to make these products full-time. But it was the hands-on bodywork I did for years, helping people with injuries, tension and chronic pain, that led me down this fortuitous path.