Mara Gordon specializes in the development of cannabis treatment protocols for seriously ill patients. She is the co-founder of Aunt Zelda’s™, Octopi Wellness, and Zelira Therapeutics (previously Zelda Therapeutics). Prior to Aunt Zelda’s™, Mara worked as a process engineer, helping Fortune 500 companies create intelligent software. This experience has enabled her to take a detailed and scientific approach to medical cannabis.
Recognizing a need for patient focused software, Gordon created Octopi Wellness, a platform specially developed for the healthcare community. Physicians are able to make treatment recommendations based on the latest validated and highest-quality data.
Gordon sits on numerous boards of directors, including North Bay Credit Union where she has been instrumental in helping cannabis businesses and their employees access safe banking. She has presented at medical and business conferences around the globe. Her pioneering work in the field of medical cannabis has been chronicled in films such as “The Medicine in Marijuana”, “Mary Janes: Women of Weed”, and “Weed the People”.
When building the cannabis industry from the ground up, why is gender parity (having at least 50% women) so important?
Because the cannabis industry encompasses every sector of the economy – food, medicine, energy, textiles, etc., and each of these sectors has the potential for enormous growth. There will be no need to break into these industries if we are there at the beginning. It is far more difficult to shatter barriers than it is to avoid their creation – less negative momentum to counter.
What social justice and/or criminal justice reforms do you want the US to make around its drug policy, particularly around cannabis?
There should be no new prison sentences and expungement for those convicted of cannabis-related crimes. Also, there needs to be a way for those lacking financial resources to have access to quality medicine (insurance, community chest, etc.). It is unfair to have uneven access based upon state lines and finances. As was deemed with same-sex marriage, each individual—regardless of geography—should have access to safe medicine without risk of prosecution.
Why are environmentally sustainable business practices essential to the future of the cannabis industry?
The earth is going to hell in a hand basket, and there is no point in creating further damage while producing a life-sustaining medicine. We must ensure that growing and manufacturing are done in a sustainable manner in order to be good citizens, and to avoid creating problems where we wish to be seen as a solution – jobs, food, fiber, medicines, etc. Excessive packaging requirements by states is adding to the problem.
How do you incorporate gender parity, social justice, and environmental sustainability into your work and the growth of your business/organization?
We hire the best qualified candidate for each position, remaining gender and race neutral. Several women have asked me to mentor them, and I take this responsibility seriously. Working to influence future leaders is part of my personal mission. I’ve witnessed women in other industries roll the ladder up behind them as they ascend. Fortunately, that does not seem to be as common in cannabis. There are amazing women (and men to choose from) throughout California. We are in Sonoma County, and it is over 75% racially white, so the pool is not as diverse as we would like. Fortunately, many positions can be filled remotely, so geography doesn’t need to be a barrier to inclusive hiring. On the sustainability question, we require cultivators to conform to the highest level of organic conditions. Every product that comes in and out of our door has had lab tests performed before accepting it for our medicine. This encourages compliance.