Mira Costa grad launches hemp-based product for aches and pains
by Ryan McDonald
Garrett Greller stood inside a room teeming with pot plants. Next to him was his companion and “caregiver:” his mother.
You could say he felt a little paranoid.
Then a senior at Mira Costa High School, Greller was at a medical marijuana dispensary in search of a CBD topical salve. Greller’s past attempts at relieving his arthritis pain had been so regularly frustrated that he began to doubt that a cure existed. After trying some out for the first time, the cream worked almost too well.
“I put it on, walked around a little, and 15 minutes later the pain was gone,” Greller said.
“I thought, ‘Placebo, placebo, placebo! This has to be in my head.’ I’ve tried everything, there’s no way this is working.”
A few years later, Greller is not just convinced; he’s made a business out of the stuff. The Manhattan Beach native has launched Uncle Bud’s, the first CBD-based topical pain reliever to be legal, over the counter, in all 50 states.
Cannabidiol or “CBD” is a non-psychoactive compound found in marijuana. Unlike THC, a more well-known cannabis component, CBD does not produce the “high” typically associated with the drug. And although ongoing federal legal restrictions limit the research that has been done on the CBD — and the health claims that herbalists are permitted to make about products containing it — the compound has recently been used to treat everything from aches and pains to epilepsy.
Uncle Bud’s occupies a curious niche in the healthcare industry. The treatment of pain is in flux, with regulators and physicians questioning the use of pharmaceutical opiates. Meanwhile, marijuana is becoming increasingly accepted, with an initiative to legalize recreational use in California slated for the November ballot. But the embrace of cannabis is tilted toward younger people, while the demand for pain relief slants demographically older.
“There’s what I call the ideological dividing line. If someone is under 35, they don’t have the baby boomer mentality, they’ve been exposed to cannabis products without any real issue at all,” said Howie Greller, Garrett’s father and business partner in Uncle Bud’s. “Then there’s the people that could have gone to Woodstock. They’ve done it all, they’ve tried it all, but as they get older and have kids, they become a little bit more careful. Yet they’re the ones who most need the product.”
For Garrett, the way to bridge the gap has been his personal story. He discovered CBD after suffering from severe pain in his back, hips, knees and ankles. It got so bad that he was forced to abandon his final season on the Mira Costa tennis team. A rheumatologist eventually diagnosed a severe case of juvenile arthritis, likely brought on by a rapid seven-inch growth spurt. But determining what caused the pain was just the beginning; relieving it was another matter entirely.
His tried everything in search of a cure: pills, injections, acupuncture, even a gluten-free diet. And nothing seemed to work. Finally, one of his mother’s friends recommended CBD.
Greller and his family were skeptical at first.
“We thought, ‘What, medical marijuana? I’m in high school, that’s ridiculous,’” Greller said. But, fittingly for an entrepreneur-in-the-making, he did some research and presented his mother with a four-page report on CBD. She agreed to help him give it a try.
The relief was instantaneous, and for a while Greller thought his problems were solved. But after graduation, he headed off to Indiana University. Indiana has yet to legalize medical marijuana, and carrying the products across state lines is against the law. So he was forced to endure pain once more.
But while back in California for Thanksgiving last year, he began discussing ways around the problem. A family friend connected them with a lab in Texas that could process industrial hemp. The result was a product that had high concentrations of CBD, but fell well below federal regulations for THC content, and can be legally sold without a prescription, even in states that have not approved medical marijuana. They combined the hemp with other natural ingredients, including coconut oil and wintergreen oil, to produce the topical salve.
In the tradition of Russell Simmons and Mark Zuckerberg, a dorm room business was born. After receiving the first batch from the lab, Greller was eager to put it to a test. So he headed to the track at Mira Costa and ran a “Mustang Mile,” consisting of four laps around the track, plus all of the stadium stairs.
“By the end, my knees were literally shaking,” Greller recalled. “I thought, ‘Well I’ll really get to see if this works.’ And in 15 minutes, the pain was gone.”
Last week, Greller launched a his product campaign on Indiegogo, where his product was a top feature on the Health and Fitness page, and with a month remaining, he is already 70 percent of the way to his fundraising goal.
The first thousand samples of the product arrived from the lab in May, and Greller began handing out little branded tubes of the stuff to family and friends. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.
Anne Sandera, owner of retailer Super Sports in the Manhattan Village, has known Greller since he was a child. Like Greller, Sandera is an avid tennis player, had recently been experiencing a classic case of tennis elbow.
She was skeptical when she first heard about Uncle Bud’s, but quickly became convinced after trying it. She now keeps a tube on her bedside table, and one in her purse, and plans to stock the product at Supersports in the future.
“It literally saved me from having to take so much Advil,” Sandera said. “It’s given me a lot of relief.”
As he prepares for his product to hit the market, Greller has designed a series of ads featuring extreme sports like surfing and snowboarding — sports he once thought he would have to give up, but is now able to enjoy again. It’s a subtle nod to his overall plan: by getting young people interested in his product, he hopes to enlist them in changing the hearts and minds of those with more “rigid” ideas about medical marijuana.
“I’m not trying to market medical marijuana, I’m trying to teach people,” Greller said. “I want to use this as a way for kids my age to teach their parents or their grandparents.”