Dahlia Mertens, Founder of Mary Jane’s Medicinals, originally from New York, set off to study theatre in Boulder, where she discovered the Colorado lifestyle. After getting her BFA, she returned home with her college sweetheart, to work in film and television. As time passed Colorado was pulling at her heartstrings, particularly Telluride. Mertens and her sweetheart plotted to scrape together their funds (which equaled $1000) and move for the winter. The college sweetheart didn’t stay, but Mertens found a new love, the city of Telluride.
Mertens’ life took a turn, moving her toward her life purpose, Mary Jane’s Medicinals. “I’ve always been interested in natural healing, holistic lifestyles, and herbs. There was a massage school there, and I thought: maybe I’ll get certified in massage and go down that path for a while and see where it leads me,” Mertens says.
Mertens did not think massage was her end game, but it felt like it would lead her somewhere. After about five years in the field, she saw an opportunity to create overall body products, nice massage oils with arnica and wildcrafted herbs, and unique healing tinctures.
“I’d never made body products before, so I didn’t know exactly where to go, but it just started. The seed was in my head. And then one offseason I said, what can I do to make a little extra money? I ended up going out to California to a cannabis farm owned by a friend. I went out to help trim. We ended up driving the epic long drive. We pull in to a beautiful sunset in the Rolling Hills of Northern California, and they invite us to go see the Valley of the giants, which is what they called their garden,” Mertens says.
“And it was harvest time. So these plants were beautiful, ready for harvest. They were laden with big buds covered in resins, glistening in the warm light of the sunset. It was a very powerful experience seeing these plants. These plants are really special. As that thought went through my head, a five-fingered fan leaf gently caressed my cheek as if to say, yes, we are special. I thought, what? Did you hear me? I got the chills.”
That was the beginning of her new appreciation for the marijuana plant. While at the harvest, one of the girls had infused grapeseed oil with cannabis. She gave Mertens a neck massage with this oil after a strenuous 12 hour workday in the woods of Northern California, immediately the pain subsided, she didn’t feel high, but her muscles were completely relaxed.
The Green rush hit in 2008/2009, and dispensaries were booming, with new ones popping up every day.
“It was before there were any regulations, so it was pretty easy to get into the industry. When I got back from weed camp, as I like to call it, I started mixing this stuff up in my kitchen. I got online and did some research on how to make massage oils, and I just started experimenting in my kitchen,” Mertens says. “I came up with a blend that I liked. I was still doing massage at the time. So I thought maybe I could create a little spa line, cannabis-infused products. Start with the massage oil to create a more relaxing massage. But I had no idea the potential of what topicals could do at that time.”
As she grew the line, integrated it more and more into her practice, and used it on more people, she started getting the most amazing testimonials. Health issues across the spectrum, circulation issues, nerve issues, skin issues, arthritis, migraines, and more, were being reported healing. She, herself, was amazed at all of the benefits people were having from the products. Marijuana has been so regulated that we know only a minuscule of what it can do. She was on to something.
“I expanded the line. I didn’t have a lot of money at the time. I had about $1500 in my bank account, but I paid my best friend $500 to do my branding. And then I put the rest into containers and oils and just started,” Mertens says. “I just built it from the ground up. I bootstrapped it. And back then, people didn’t know that you could use cannabis topically.”
Mary Jane’s Medicinals has a whole-plant approach to creating their products. A lot of companies in the industry use concentrates or extracts to infuse their products but Mertens is a real proponent of the whole plant. There are so many synergies in cannabis. Not only does cannabis have THC and CBD, but it has about 400 other cannabinoids that all have healing capacity. Different plants have different levels of these, but they’re in trace amounts in the cannabis plant and when all the cannabinoids can work together, THC, CBD, CBG, and CBN. They worked better. It’s called the entourage effect.
Mertens says, “We need more research, but over the last ten years, what I’ve seen, what the cannabis plant can do for people, supporting health and quality of life is incredibly compelling.”
One of the success stories is the Mayor of Telluride. He shared an image of his scarring from brain cancer. The Mayor treated his injury with Mary Jane’s Medicinals. Stu Fraser after a week of salve. Photo provided by Stu Fraser.
Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser served as Mayor of Telluride for 14 years. Stu had brain surgery. After the surgery, he started applying Mary Jane’s Medicinals salve. The healing is astonishing.
Mertens devotes her time 100% to growing her business. She is not currently pursuing theatre or massage, but she gives back to the local arts in Telluride and maintains her healing line, Mary Jane’s Medicinals.
The list of awards and accomplishments grows every year as people discover the healing properties in her products. The business is a success. Mertens went from a one-woman show with $1500 to a thriving independent team developing a line of healing products that change people’s lives.
“I think people search for their whole life to find the thing that makes their ailment just a little bit more manageable. And once they find something that works, then they’re spreading it far and wide,” says Dahlia.