From patient to CEO: How Constance Finley became a pioneer of medical cannabis


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After being told she only had weeks to live, Constance Finley set off on a journey of trial and error using cannabis as pain relief. Fast forward to today where she is not only alive, but thriving as a pioneer in medicinal cannabis.

It wasn’t Constance Finley’s dream to become a cannabis entrepreneur. She just wanted to live. The year was 2008 and for 15 years Finley had been suffering from ankylosing spondylitis, a rare and debilitating autoimmune disease that had rendered her an invalid. The medication she was paying $4,000 a month for had nearly killed her and was going to dramatically increase her chance of a heart attack.  “I was out of options,” she says today from the headquarters of her San Francisco-based medicinal cannabis company Constance Therapeutics.

Doctors told her she had only a few weeks to live and suggested she try cannabis to relieve her symptoms. “I thought it was BS,” she says. “You have to remember that back then there were no concentrates, no extractions, no vape pens. Just hash and bud,” says Finley. “And you couldn’t know the strain, how it was grown, or the name of the grower.” Within weeks she felt incremental relief for the first time in years. This set her on a path of experimentation and discovery.

Building on the success she had with self-treatment, over the next few years Finley became a Bay Area pioneer in medicinal cannabis. “I wanted to be the Alice Waters of cannabis,” she says, referring to the queen mother of the farm to table food movement, with her emphasis on transparency, organic growing, and a less-is-more approach. Finley dove into extraction methods, studied plant genetics, sourced precise strains, played with the dosages, and focused on producing a highly potent THC oil, extracting just an ounce from one pound of cannabis. Finley experimented with balancing ratios of THC and CBD, and provided counsel and custom-blended extracts to hundreds of patients working with physicians. “We saw ourselves as a compounding pharmacy of cannabis products,” she says. Finley earned near-legendary status in the medicinal cannabis world for her help in providing cannabis extracts to supplement the conventional treatment regimen of 26 stage-four, second-occurence cancer patients who had a five percent chance of survival. Ninety-six percent of those patients went into remission.

Fast forward to today and Finley’s company Constance Therapeutics now offers a line of extractions and protocols targeted at specific illnesses. And her IP is making its way north. Canadian biopharmaceutical company Tetra Bio Pharma, the only North American company focused on cannabinoid clinical stage products, has licensed the IP to her extracts. And she’s in the process of finalizing a partnership with the UC Davis-funded immunotherapy startup ImmunoTess. One focus will be the development of drugs for women’s health with the goal that one day they’ll be available without a prescription. Finley’s hope is that more people will be able to access cannabis for any number of health and wellness issues, some equal to and much less dire than the condition that originally led to her career. “Who would have thought that clinical herbologists and the cannabis industry would be having discussions about what works best for eczema?” she says taking the long view of someone who was in the industry in its infancy. “On so many levels cannabis is changing the world.”


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