In 2000, Cindy Capobianco was a seasoned public relations executive who had just uprooted from New York City to San Francisco for a VP position at Gap. With a cool elegance and chic wardrobe reflective of her early career as an editor for elite fashion glossies like Vogue, she looked right at home against the backdrop of uptown social life. But when Capobianco and husband Robert Rosenheck touched down in Cali, they set out in search of the one place they couldn’t find on the East Coast: a weed dispensary.
Capobianco, and her cannabis-loving contemporaries, share no resemblance to the basement-residing, bong-smoking ghosts of Kelsos past. Her approach to the marijuana plant is one of enthusiasm — but in a manner befitting a wellness guru, not a Phishhead. Capobianco respects the plant and how it enhances her life experiences; she’s always considered it the stuff of ancient medicine.
And yet, that first California dispensary experience, which she describes as “dark, dingy, dodgy, and underground,” left much to be desired of an industry that naturally tilts toward health and wellness. “We found a gigantic cookie on the shelf in a plastic bag with a staple, and there was no transparency about what was in it or how it was made.” As a low-dose user, Capobianco says figuring out just how much of the mystery-milligram cookie to eat was like playing Russian Roulette. “I’d have a tiny piece of the cookie and I would have a great experience,” she says. “Then the next time, I would take another piece and end up in the corner for 36 hours, praying for it to end.”
She vowed to build a brand that THC (the chemical compound in marijuana that gets you high) and CBD (the one that doesn’t) consumers could actually trust. And just as soon as the law allowed it, she did exactly that with Lord Jones. Perhaps the most stylish cannabis brand on the evolving market, it offers edibles, oils, and lotions containing CBD and soon to contain THC in Colorado and California. By operating with full transparency, Lord Jones quickly earned the loyalty of wellness-minded Californians and, increasingly, celebrities. Plus, the products are chic. No more unmarked plastic bags and crumbling brownies. Lord Jones lists exactly what you’re eating or massaging into your sore muscles.
Now that nine states have legalized the green, the FDA has approved CBD for epilepsy treatment, and CBD oils are transcending California dispensaries to apothecaries and coffee shops across the States, Lord Jones is ascending in a market expected to hit a reported $57 billion in worldwide sales by 2020. “Our mission is to de-stigmatize, normalize, and educate people around the world as fast as we possibly can,” Capobianco says. ”At the end of the day, even though CBD has become trendy, this is not a trend — it’s not even a movement. It’s a revolution.”
The secret sauce: CBD or cannabidiol — the not-so-secret ingredient in Lord Jones products — is non-psychoactive, meaning it can’t get you high like its sister chemical THC. The products use a “full-spectrum blend” or “whole-plant” CBD extract, which, more than other extracts, efficiently and effectively opens pain receptors in the brain, in addition to relieving anxiety, stabilizing moods, and promoting a sense of calmness, says Capobianco. “The whole plant extraction’s basically the extra virgin olive oil of the cannabis or hemp plant,” she explains. Lord Jones’s CBD products are widely available online, including its lotion, which sports a natural cooling agent to treat sore muscles, joint pain, and skin conditions; a 5-ingredient gumdrop; dark chocolate espresso chews; and lemon and peppermint-flavored tinctures, which alleviate menstrual cramps and migraines. The brand also deals with THC, which will be available in California and Colorado soon, but the two offerings are kept separate.
Career high-lights: Before delving into the cannabis biz, Capobianco worked as an editor for Marie Claire, Vogue, and Allure, then as a PR executive for DKNY and Banana Republic, eventually becoming the Vice President of Global Marketing for Gap inc. In 2003, she left her VP position to open a namesake marketing agency, and after a decade, Capobianco and her husband decided to shut down the agency to focus solely on incubating their cannabis business.
The biggest surprise: To operate in California, where marijuana was legal for those with medical cards, Capobianco and Rosenheck opened the Hollywood Hills Wellness Association in L.A., a collective under the medical system in 2015. That same year, through the collective, they launched the Lord Jones brand. “We assumed we would have cannabis enthusiasts like us: low-dose users interested in transparency and consistency who wanted to know exactly what was in the product, how it was extracted, how it was grown, and who also wanted an elevated experience with non-cannabis ingredients as exceptional as the cannabis ingredients.” Many of those people came to the collective, but many more came desperately seeking the plant as alternative medicine to relieve pain and anxiety. “As soon as we started working with patients” — people with chronic pain, cancer, AIDs, migraines, endometriosis, auto-immune diseases, and more — “our lives changed,” Capobianco says. “It shaped everything we understood about how the plant could help people with so many ailments, and we became caregivers and believers in ways we never imagined.”
Toughest part of the job: Navigating the legal landscape is complex as municipal, state, and federal laws change regularly. While Lord Jones’s lawyers stay on top of everyday changes in cannabis law, Capobianco and Rosenheck focus on what they do best: shape and communicate their mission. Capobianco hopes to educate customers about cannabis on a molecular level, empowering users to understand what they’re putting into their bodies. “We just want to share our knowledge through our products and continue to make sure that they’re helping people.”
Up next: On December 31, 2017, recreational cannabis became legal in California, meaning anyone age 21 or older would be able to walk into a collective or dispensary and buy cannabis, much like alcohol. Since then, Lord Jones has applied for the licenses necessary to open its first retail location that would also offer THC products — potentially in the lobby of the Standard Hotel in West Hollywood.
Badass behavior: Building a successful, respectable, and legal business in an industry that until recently was better known for its underground market is no easy feat, even for a media and marketing professional. “We are on a mission to de-stigmatize and normalize this ancient medicine,” Capobianco says of the beginnings of the company. “Having a sense of purpose and being on a mission lends itself well to being considered a ‘badass.’”
They’ve pivoted to create something much bigger and mainstream, but it wasn’t easy. “Everyone comes to this conversation with their own preconceived notions and their own experiences,” Capobianco says. “We’re asking people to take a gigantic leap of faith with our products.” But you don’t get unsolicited celebrity support from the likes of Busy Phillipps, Jessica Seinfeld, Olivia Wilde, and Amy Schumer without a good product. “We keep it real. All the attention we’ve received is earned. No celebrity has spoken on our behalf for any reason other than they use the product and they love it.”