Shauna Levy Is Redefining Women’s Relationship With Cannabis

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Shauna Levy Photo: Madge and Mercer Modern Apothecary

After discovering cannabis to relieve the chronic pain she had suffered for years, Shauna Levy set out on a mission to revolutionize the world of cannabinoids for women with her line of products—currently available in Ontario and Alberta—but will be expanding nationwide in the future. We chatted with Levy about launching her brand, breaking the taboo surrounding cannabis and CBD vs. THC.

Where did the desire to launch Madge and Mercer Modern Apothecary come from?
“I was suffering from chronic pain and I feel that the stress and anxiety I was experiencing contributed to this. Women, in general, live under constant pressure as they carry so much baggage with their careers, their role as mothers, helping their aging parents—they have so much on their shoulders.

“For myself, I saw a number of doctors for almost seven years, without being diagnosed with chronic pain. The only solution was to take painkillers with horrible side effects that prevented me from working. At one point I was so desperate that I considered a friend’s suggestion to go to a practitioner who specialized in medical cannabis treatments. After a few trials, a winning formula was found that combined a high dose of CBD with a micro dose of THC, all without side effects. I was finally able to function normally, without the stabbing pain that used to pin me to the kitchen floor with a hot water bottle pressed against my stomach.

“On my journey, I have met many women of the same age as me [Editor’s note: Shauna is 53], who were going through the same thing. With the hormonal upheaval that starts in your late 40s, many women experience sleep problems, increased stress and anxiety, chronic pain, inflammation—all of which also leads to a general lack of energy.”

Your formulas combine a high dose of CBD with a micro dose of THC. Why did you do this?
“I firmly believe that CBD from hemp does not have the same therapeutic properties as CBD from cannabis, so you need a little bit of THC to activate the CBD in the formula. So all of our products contain CBD, THC and terpenes [the main constituents of flavours and odours, produced naturally by plant metabolism] because I believe in this entourage effect [when the ingredients are combined.]

“It also has an impact in the MM 004 CBD Meadowfoam Seed Facial Serum, which takes advantage of this entourage effect: it’s unique, because most of the other serums of this kind on the market right now are made with hemp CBD.”

What are the other characteristics of MM 004 Emollient Serum?
“The formula contains orange peel, which not only masks the smell of cannabis but also contains vitamin C. We also worked with squalane, a sustainable plant-based alternative to squalene. CBD is one of the best anti-inflammatories on the market. And the terpenes, which I mentioned earlier, have anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety effects.

“I massage a small amount – about a drop – onto my face morning and night, after washing my face. Personally, I don’t even need a moisturizer afterwards.”

You have also launched the ginger, lemon and CBD oil MM 001 La Calma. What are its special features?
“It was formulated by chef Ted Corrado, who has worked at The Drake restaurant, among others. He chose lemongrass and ginger because, in addition to masking the taste of cannabis, they have an additional anti-inflammatory effect. We chose coconut oil as the base oil. It was important for us not to use palm oil, out of a sense of sustainability.

“It contains 50 mg of CBD and 2 mg of THC per millilitre. I take it during the day to help me calm down and concentrate and many of our customers swear by it before going to sleep. Let’s just say it lives up to its name.”

What dosage should a beginner start with?
“Dr. Marni Brooks, who is part of the consulting team at Madge and Mercer Modern Apothecary, recommends starting with 0.25 ml and seeing how you react before increasing the dose. It’s also important to remember that everyone reacts differently and that other factors – such as fatigue, what you ate beforehand [that] affect the effect you get. If you are taking medication, it is always advisable to consult your doctor before starting, in case there are any contraindications.”

What is the difference with an MM 002 El Alevio Menta CBD Disposable Pen?
“The oil you ingest must pass through the liver, so it takes about 45 minutes to feel its effect. When you suffer from chronic pain, you often need immediate relief. This is what the pen spray does, because it goes directly into the bloodstream.

“I see the oil as a product that you take on a regular basis for your general condition and the spray as a tool when you need an immediate solution, something that works quickly.”

What response are you getting from your customers so far?
“At one of the brand’s educational events, an 83-year-old woman came up to us and said she had never slept so well! It was the first time she had used cannabis. And every time we get grateful messages on Instagram, I’m over the moon because I know how much these products have helped me and all I want is for other women to benefit.”

You are a lover of design, and this is reflected in every detail of the Madge and Mercer Modern Apothecary products. Why was the visual aspect of the products so important to you?
“I wanted products that were elegant and discreet, that you could easily carry around in your handbag or cosmetic bag. One customer even said to me about the spray: ‘It’s so beautiful that I want to display it on my coffee table, next to my vase.’” [Laughs]