When James Ryan’s mother holds a piece of paper, it trembles lightly in her hands.
“Helping her is what got me going,” Ryan said, opening up about the experience of his mother, Linda San Juan, with a mild neurological condition, and ways it pushed him to find an entrepreneurial solution that could help ease her suffering.
“She was always curious about marijuana — but she didn’t want to smoke it,” he said, stressing his mother’s hesitance to try the sticky substance — despite knowing the reported positive impact it could have on her health if used as a treatment.
Medical marijuana is legal in Missouri, but not neighboring Kansas. And attitudes about THC-based products are slow to change even as the substances are being decriminalized across the country.
CBD (now sold legally on both sides of the state line) offered San Juan an alternative — and presented a blazing business opportunity for Ryan.
“I wanted to provide a safer alternative to smoking marijuana,” he recalled, detailing a trip to Colorado where he first encountered a potential solution with CBD edibles.
“After [visiting] numerous times and testing out the edibles that they had out there, I figured I could make them better,” explained Ryan, a chef with more than 15 years of experience in the kitchen.
“I started pumping out [CBD-infused] butter and pumping out cookies and dispersing those between friends, and they just flew.”
High times followed for the effort, as demand for the treats soared, prompting Ryan to found Higher Love KC — now a CBD bake shop that’s found a niche through pop-ups and private dinners.
“It started out with mostly baked goods like brownies and cookies, but I’m [currently] working on infused oils, so people can make their own [CBD] infusions at home.”
Finding just the right balance of CBD has been key in establishing the Higher Love brand as a different kind of bake shop; one Ryan bluntly believes has the potential to be Kansas City’s best.
“I use the highest quality ingredients and I take pride and passion in everything that I do,” he said. “Being in the kitchen is a lot of fun and I feel like that definitely comes out in the food that I produce.”
His mother and a rapidly growing customer base are in agreement, Ryan added.
“She loves them and they help her calm down when it comes to her shaking,” he said. “There are some [well-known] musicians who have told me that they’ve been all around the world and my edibles are the best they’ve ever had.”
“Hearing that is really rewarding and it puts me on the path to knowing what I’m doing is the right thing.”
Check out a photo gallery of Higher Love KC creations below, then keep reading.
While success in sales delivers brand-building results (and health benefits at home), emergence within the cannabis space hasn’t come without setbacks for Higher Love KC — most recently in the form of a deleted Instagram account, Ryan explained.
“Almost a thousand followers — gone. [Instagram] didn’t give me any warning,” he said of the ordeal, which has greatly diminished Higher Love KC’s marketing efforts.
Instagram’s community guidelines state users are prohibited from promoting the purchase of or selling illegal or prescription drugs on the platform — even if they’ve been legalized in a particular state.
[Editor’s note: Instagram and its parent company, Facebook, also limit the reach and promotion of news stories related to CBD and marijuana, like this one, even when posted or shared by verified news outlets.]
“Instagram doesn’t allow people or organizations to use the platform to advertise or sell marijuana, regardless of the seller’s state or country,” the social media company said in guidelines posted to its website, which don’t explicitly address CBD.
“Our policy prohibits any marijuana seller, including dispensaries, from promoting their business by providing contact information like phone numbers, email addresses, street addresses, or by using the ‘contact us’ tab in Instagram Business Accounts. However, we do allow people to include a website link in their bio information.”
Click here to read more about the differences between CBD and marijuana.
In an effort to overly-comply with Instagram’s guidelines, Ryan didn’t even include a link to his website, he said.
“All I was doing was posting pictures of what I was making. They [seemingly] can just straight up delete your account for no reason,” Ryan added.
“They give you an option to appeal their decision and to try and get your account back. But there’s no one that you can actually talk to. There’s no one that you can send an email to. There’s no phone number that you can call.”
Ryan assumes his appeal has been denied, he said. A representative from Instagram could not be reached for comment.
“Stigma still surrounds cannabis as a whole,” he continued, acknowledging such a perception doesn’t surprise him — noting San Juan’s own bias surrounding its use — but it does disappoint him.
“I would like (social media companies and people in general) to do some more research or reach out to us who work with CBD and with cannabis and get educated on the benefits that it provides,” he said of his ultimate hope as the cannabis space evolves.
“Everyone has an endocannabinoid system in their body — so CBD and cannabis is actually made for humans. It’s beneficial in so many ways. … If they were able to reach out and talk to us about what’s going on and how they can help out, that would be incredibly beneficial to us.”
Click here to connect with Higher Love KC on its new Instagram page.