Heylo / Phil Donley

Laurel Friesen graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in environmental chemistry, and her plan was to go to medical school. However, she realized cannabis had healing properties that scientists had not explored, and that working with traditional medicine was not going to allow her to explore them either, so she charted her own path.

She went to work for a cannabis-extraction equipment manufacturer, and then she founded her own extraction company, Heylo Cannabis. It is best known for producing flavorful, high-quality, all-natural vape cartridges. In light of the coronavirus crisis, we talked about uncertainty in the industry, what the near future looks like, and the product she creates that she's using herself day-to-day right now.

You are an environmental chemist who created Heylo in the spirit of health and wellness. In terms of health and wellness, is this an okay time for people to be consuming cannabis?

I think it's a very good time for people to be consuming cannabis. I think our mental health is at risk, and it's important to maintain your mental health in order to keep your immunity strong. But, that said, listen to the advice of your physician.

But COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, and we're talking about inhaling things.

You don't have to! Edibles are picking up in terms of popularity. I think people are trying to minimize their risk to their respiratory system. You would think that smoking would go down, but flower purchases are going up. I think it's people buying in bulk as opposed to just buying joints, so they don't have to go to the store as often. But yeah, edibles are rising in popularity. And I would say vaping is a healthier way [than smoking], as long as it's a safe product to use. Obviously I endorse Heylo products and low-temperature vaping, which a PAX device allows you to do, for example. But yeah, it's really interesting to see the trends in the market right now.

People are wondering how to mitigate risks in the environment of a pandemic.

There's lots of ways. Washing your hands. Using hand sanitizer. Keeping your distance. Wearing masks. But they do say: "Don't drink alcohol." That reduces the efficacy of your immune system. And we came out with our hygiene products, I don't know if you saw that?

What's that?

That is our cannabis-infused hand sanitizer.

Wait, what? You make hand sanitzer?

Yes! So, we have ethanol as a side product of our extraction process, and we usually reuse it, because it stays 190 to 195 proof, but we were like: "Wait a minute. Hand sanitizer is sold out everywhere, and we have this as a byproduct. Let's put it out." Legally we're not allowed to give anything away to consumers, and I'm working with the Liquor and Cannabis Board to find ways for us to be able to donate our ethanol to hospitals. Meanwhile, another rule is, we can't sell anything into stores that doesn't have cannabis in it. So what we're doing is infusing the ethanol in with cannabis-derived terpenes, to make it smell good, and aloe, to make your hands feel good. And we're selling it at cost to all of our retailers. We've been asking our retailers to do as little markup as possible, because this is really just about creating access to hand sanitzer.

Does it get you high?

No. It just smells good.

We were like: Wait a minute. Hand sanitizer is sold out everywhere, and we have this as a byproduct. Lets put it out.
Heylo's hand sanitizer "has cannabis-derived terpenes, to make it smell good, and aloe, to make your hands feel good." Courtesy of Heylo

In addition to your extraction company, you're also a consultant for other weed companies. Where do you see the industry going in the near future?

I would say what the future looks like is a little bit uncertain. I think people are going to continue to buy cannabis, but I think they're going to focus on value buys, what's going to last them, and it's going to be about price point because a lot of people have lost their jobs. They don't have the expendable income that they used to have to allocate to their splurge weed or their favorite products. So you're going to see a lot of lower-priced products come on the shelves. I think it will be lower prices and maybe a little higher quality than what's on the shelf right now. And fewer of the premium products.

You mentioned people are turning to edibles. I know Heylo doesn't make edibles, but are there any you recommend?

Well, Heylo actually supplies oil to a number of edibles companies.

Oh yeah?

So that's really great for us. Botanica Seattle makes Journeyman cookies, Spot edibles, and Mr. Moxey's Mints, so I love them. Their mints are lavender-flavored and so good. Botanica and the Spot and Moxey's crew—they're all just really great people and they've been in it a long time and have always been moving forward in the right way and helping progress this industry, so I'm very grateful to be a partner and supplier of theirs and cannot recommend them enough. And Wave Edibles is another one. They are relatively new and it's just incredible chocolate. And the variety! It is so good. I can't even... I couldn't have dreamed that there could be an edible this good.

What's your favorite of their chocolate?

I don't remember the names of them, but there's a peanut butter one, there's a caramel nut one, there's a toffee one... She is a third-generation chocolatier and just such an amazing woman. It was a no-brainer for them to start doing cannabis products, and they have really figured it out.

What helps you get through the day-to-day and not go crazy in self-quarantine?

Our CBG Blend!

What is that?

It's a product that we created. It has 16 percent CBG, and CBG-A is like the grandmother of all cannabinoids. CBG-A is the cannabinoid that the plant makes, and then based on the genetics of the plant and the environment, the plant releases these enzymes that convert CBG-A into the other cannabinoids, whether that's CBD-A or THC-A or THC-VA, and so some plants genetically produce more CBG-A because they don't have as much of the enzyme, or they finish later and people harvest it before it fully converts into THC. In any case, CBG mitigates most of the negative side effects of THC, and it's known as CBGiggles because it brings you so much joy. It's especially beneficial when you have Seasonal Affective Disorder. Personally I use it all the time.

It's not even Seasonal Affective Disorder—right now it's more like The World Is Ending Disorder.

Exactly. It's what you need for the apocalypse.

Find more great cannabis articles just like this one in the Mercury's Cannabis Guide 2020!