Interview with Maya Elisabeth, Founder & CEO at OM
How were you first introduced to cannabis and by who?
My parents have always smoked weed, and they still use cannabis to this day so it wasn’t abnormal for me to smell weed growing up. Even though they were kind of covert about it, the first time I ever smoked weed was when I was 11 with my brother, out of a Super Mario fruit punch can, but I didn’t get high. The first time I got high was when I was 13 and it was the beginning of a serious love affair because I loved the way that it made me feel – loved it.
Eventually, I started smoking weed with my mom and I know it’s just because she didn’t have any weed and she knew I did it; it wasn’t like she wanted to bond or anything. It’s kind of been a part of me for a long time. Since I was 14, I’ve been smoking heavily and habitually. High consumption every day. Now I think it’s special that I used to smoke with my mom when I was young. Back when I would smoke weed with her, everybody else was getting DUI’s, losing their virginity, and doing all kinds of wild stuff and I was literally at home with my mom watching a funny movie, eating ice cream with the munchies. It was so innocent.
You’ve been at this since long before Prop 64 went into effect, how do you think the industry has changed for the better and/or for the worse since then?
Even though there were challenging times during prop 64, we still legalized it. I have to say, OM, just like everybody else, has gone through challenges. Right now, as a whole, the industry is going through a challenge and I’m going to just keep pushing because I’ve come this far, and so I didn’t come this far to come this far -I just need to keep going. There’s a lot of room for improvement. I see a lot of people spending a lot of time knocking the legacy market, but the truth is the legacy market didn’t turn into what it was until the taxes came into play. The super developed legacy market that we have here in California is reflective of our cannabis culture. A lot of them are people that tried to do it the right way and couldn’t do it because of the tax model. We’ve got to remember not to put the cart before the horse; correlation does not equal causation. I’d like to see us get to the root of the problem (pun intended) and fix some of these taxes, so our businesses can survive. So I knock on wood, it’s a miracle that many of us are still here.
Do you see the cannabis space as having equitable representation between men and women in terms of ownership and leadership?
You know it’s interesting because, about four years ago, I remember everything was about women in cannabis. It was such a sweet renaissance, but as reality set in, I realized cannabis isn’t going to be some pretend work; it’s hard work. I witnessed and still am witnessing another huge uptick of black owned businesses, people of color in the industry, as well as supporting women in the industry. I have to say, there hasn’t been as much focus on that in other industries. Cannabis seems to care a lot more. I still think we can do a lot better, I think we need to do a lot better. There’s still a lot of injustices in cannabis.
You’ve won a ton of awards and you have a ton of accolades, what accomplishment are you most proud of?
I think a lot of women can get this imposter syndrome. I catch myself all the time having to remind myself that we make quality products here and we should be able to feel confident sitting on that. Last year was actually our best Emerald cup ever. We had eight entries and we got eight placements and five of them were first place; First place edible, first place topical, and first place CBD topical. That was the best. Sometimes I have to pinch myself – that was a really big moment for us. I also have to say, bringing back our bath bomb was a special triumph for me, because we created it in 2013 and, as far as I know, I had never seen anyone put cannabis in a bath bomb before us.
What is hydrotherapy and why should we all be doing it?
I thought you’d never ask! I need to spend my time just educating people on this consumption form because it’s really special. These captures of terpenes and cannabinoids are like snapshots of time where genetics and environment meet personal attention and human interaction and then there’s process and preservation. Epsom salts are just a simple mineral compound and people have been using them for thousands of years. In addition to that, cannabinoids are antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory. I made a huge batch of Epsom salt and added weed olive oil in there. My friend used some in her bath and afterward she was like, “I’m actually high right now”. I tried it too and noticed the same thing happened to me. I couldn’t figure out why and it wasn’t until months and months later that I realized that it’s because it goes into our colon and our womb. Our womb actually has more cannabinoid receptors than anywhere else in the whole entire human body. Is that not God’s way of saying put this there?!
What’s your process for developing new formulations?
I’m definitely the most passionate about formulation. I swear, every morning I wake up and there’s always 10 more ideas in my head. I like to take things that are already health beneficial and I consider cannabis a superfood. I noticed that when we combine cannabis with other superfoods like nutrient dense ingredients and healing herbs, superior effects can be achieved.
For me, my output is only as good as my input. Everything we make is full spectrum, it has to be delicious for OM to be dealing with it. If you asked me, “are you a lab coat or an apron?”, it’s almost a draw, but I’m gonna have to say I’m an apron. I am a little bit more of a foodie than I am a scientist, but I love the science, and you can’t participate without science. You’re only going to get out what you put in. So it all starts with a farmer, obviously, and then your supporting ingredients. We think the supporting ingredients are just as important as our cannabis.
I know education is really important to you, what’s one thing you wish more people understood about cannabis?
There’s a million things but I think that one of the things I wish people understood about cannabis is actually how closely related we are to cannabis. We have more than 200 cannabinoid receptors on and in our body and we only have eight opioid receptors. It’s just so sad that they only discovered the endocannabinoid receptor system, I think it was 30 years ago and really no attention has been paid to it. Doctors going to medical school don’t learn about it. I wish people would understand a little bit about our design, because they start under our tongue, they’re all over our skin, they’re all over our brain, they’re everywhere in our body except directly on our heart and there’s the most concentration of them in our womb space. The ECS is actually how your body speaks to itself, and it governs all of our most vital human functions: our mood, our memory, digestion, reproduction, sleep, our immune system.
I hear you’re a new mother, how has that changed your relationship with cannabis?
My rigs are just really dirty! I mean actually it’s interesting because I’m already thinking about the conversations I’m going to have with my son. I know he’s going to ask me someday and I’m going to say, “It’s mommy’s herbs, and when you’re old enough to enjoy this kind of herb, we’ll talk about it.” And when he gets good enough grades and he’s old enough to try it, we can talk about it. I want to teach him that this is an herb that can show you different parts of yourself, so sometimes it might feel scary and it’s a powerful medicine that is sometimes used for fun, but even when it’s used for fun it’s still a medicine.
Do you see your products as by women for women?
We didn’t mean to, but I can’t deny there’s a focus in OM for women. But they’re really for everyone, like dudes use our topicals and a lot of guys like our gummies and our chocolate. I would say we’re kind of for the refined consumer who appreciates cannabis and natural products. For women and really just anybody who’s trying to maintain during these times. Like how tired are we? I feel like everyone could use a bath.
When are you most happy and content?
I’m a morning person, I love mornings. I like to study my intentions for the day, I’m really working on doing that before I look at my phone. I feel like when you look at your phone first thing, you can let whatever’s going on influence you before you take ownership of your day. I like to set myself up for a good day. I write a thank you letter for the day I’m about to have just so I can vibrate towards that. I feel like hoping, wishing, and praying is so important and it’s also so important to create your own good day. I’m just happiest when I’m doing that and creating and anchoring myself and doing little creative things and then, of course, when I’m with my baby and in nature.
You run one of the first female owned and operated cannabis companies in the country, how has that driven your vision and decision making?
I wouldn’t be where I am without my partners. I’m super grateful that I’m lucky enough to have surrounded myself with good people that care about OM. I think we’re kind of at this point now where my job is not to micromanage people, because a lot of people are going to problem solve in a different way than you, and that’s how you know you’ve made the right hire. There comes a point when you have to let things go and hope that you’ve done enough of the foundational work and chosen the right team to take you where you’re going. I’m super grateful.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given on running your business?
My gosh, that’s a good one. Well, one of them was to always write your divorce when you’re on your honeymoon; it’s good advice. When you’re starting a new business and you’re with new people, it’s like you get high off endorphins and off all of the possibilities. You might say to yourself, “We’re never going to have a divorce, why would I write a divorce now? We’re having the most fun honeymoon”. Right? The truth is, after work and cannabis variables start to get involved, you’re going to want your money. It’s better to figure it out on the honeymoon when it’s nice and fair and you’re not super attached to each other so you can just be business people. Now this piece of advice is a little more heartfelt – Success in business is a series of small triumphs, so you have to stop and enjoy and celebrate the small triumphs or else you won’t enjoy any of it.
What are your greatest hopes and also fears for where this industry is headed?
Ah, well that’s a no brainer for me. My hopes are that the people that truly care about this plant, who have rowed the boat this long and are taking the risks, can find their seats at the table. Directly coinciding with that is a prayer for terpenes. I don’t know if you know this, but there’s a crisis going on where people focus too much on potency instead of terpenes. We’re in this economic time where counting milligrams is super important but when you open the jar, it’s terpeneless, odorless, flavorless, chemy weed that turns into a powder when you touch it – I’m not down with that. So yeah, a long heartfelt prayer for the terps.
OM harnesses the restorative power of plant medicine to create superior products that enhance self-care, wellness, and enjoyment for everyone. The female-founded company was born in the Bay Area in 2008, the center of California’s Cannabis culture. They’ve been at the forefront of holistic wellness for over a decade, and central to our mission is the belief that Cannabis is a superfood. Everything they do honors the plant as a nutritionally dense, earth-born resource that has been used for millennia to relieve pain, soothe anxiety, and elicit pleasure.
OM believes in the respectful use of our planet’s resources to help supplement a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Their formulations combine sustainably grown full-spectrum Cannabis with other curative botanicals, oils, and little else. Simply put, they believe that if you can’t put it in your mouth, it doesn’t belong on your skin.
Every ingredient they select is intentional, and nothing they wouldn’t use themselves. The result? Formulations that feel, taste, and smell luxurious.