Liquid sunshine, sustainability, sourcing locally, and CBD special effects.
Sandy Bernier is the owner of Irie Bliss Wellness, a CBD-focused holistic health and wellness lifestyle brand. In 2018, they opened their first shop, and now have locations in Rockland and Weymouth.
How and why did you decide to get involved in cannabis?
Cannabis is part of my family’s lifestyle, as a child many of the adults in my life smoked and grew it. I was taught that the Native Americans passed around a peace pipe containing it. My mom and dad had the “adult” and “children” brownie distinction and I surely knew which ones were meant for me. It wasn’t hidden, it wasn’t seen as a bad thing to be involved with. So that is how it was, I was born knowing about it.
The first time it really dawned on me that this could be a career pathway was when I attended the Patients Out of Time conference in 2009. A very dear friend of mine was fighting cancer so we went to the conference together to try to find a cure and hope. I remember going in furiously taking notes and writing words down like titration, decarboxylation, and bioavailability. It dawned on me that there was so much more to the plant. I already knew a little bit about the medical benefits of cannabis and of course the sustainability of hemp. When my friend successfully beat her cancer, I was inspired, and … wanted to help people more than ever.
I decided to go to Oaksterdam University in 2010 to study the plant and also went to wellness coaching school so that I could learn about other modalities for healing.
When do you start Irie Bliss Wellness? How did that go down?
I started the business as a humble kitchen witch, cannabis food blogger, and wellness coach unofficially in 2011. It was my side hustle since carrying, nursing, and raising my babies was my full-time job. The idea to give the business a name came in 2016. I realized that I wasn’t going to have any more kids, and so I named my business “Irie” and called her my third baby. She is finally walking and nearly potty trained.
What’s your mission?
To end the stigma associated with cannabis and all life sustaining plant medicine. In 1991, at age 13, I wrote my first five-page paper on the history and uses of hemp for sustainability. I was extremely upset by the fact that the adults all around me had a renewable resource which could be used for paper, energy, food, fabric, and even building material. And that they had made illegal yet I had friends whose brothers and sisters were going to war in Iraq over oil. It is still my mission to wake those grown-ups up.
How has COVID-19 impacted your business?
Just like everyone, we have spent extra time and money working to keep everyone safe. We have had to put a halt on organizing social and educational events. But we feel as though it has also given us more time to connect with our customers on a one-to-one basis. It has also given me great hope that we not only stayed in business but I hired more help and expanded our operations.
You’ve just opened a new location, tell us about that.
Our new location is at 63 Washington St. in Weymouth Landing under Open Door Yoga Studio. At one time the building was a bank, so our products are super secure in the old vault. Behind the store you will find a surprise. A work in progress, and progressive concept space which we will unveil soon. We are also partnered up with Green Network Providers and will continue to support patients during this time. We have a safe space to learn about consumption and will be open for pop-ups and events once we are able to run at full capacity. Stay tuned for more announcements as the winter progresses.
What are your best selling products?
Gummies and tinctures. We have a new line called “Special Effects’” which pays homage to the entourage effect and the idea that when we combine cannabinoids with other herbs and essential oils, magical effects take place within the body and mind. Our liquid sunshine tinctures are our best-selling full-spectrum CBD product. They taste a bit hempy, but they naturally contain minor cannabinoids and terpenes that are so beneficial to the body that you can feel the difference.
You have a full and unique dog care line, what’s the feedback on the products from pet owners?
We get amazing feedback on our 150mg and 450mg pet tinctures. They are in a salmon oil base, so it’s actually designed to be used for cats and dogs, for anxiety, pain and to help seizure disorders. Many pet owners decide to try CBD on themselves only after seeing how effective it is for their pets.
Who designs the products?
Originally, I was making all of my own products, but it became too much while also consulting, running the store, and parenting. I could say my customers design the products since they are all born out of a need. I simply listen to people, and now having a decade of experience I help figure out what else we can add to make the CBD more effective and valuable by adding things like vitamins.
We test ideas on a small subset of people, and if most are getting the desired results, we put it into production. I work in collaboration with a local product manufacturer so I am able to taste test things, ask for changes, and always have the ability to customize ingredients like ratios of terpenes and minor cannabinoids. I did all of my packaging design for the Goddess line and worked closely with an artist now who helped me with the look and feel of the Apothecary Care line as I wanted to pay homage to the old herbal apothecary shops.
Where are Irie Bliss products produced and where is the CBD sourced?
We source from several small local farmers. Our favorite of course is Blackhorse Hemp in Vermont. I pre-invested money to secure the land and love being able to visit the farm and the plants during the summer. I am very adamant about sourcing from New England and my products are also made in Connecticut so everything is a true New England collaboration. I believe the energy and the loving care that goes into the plants and our products is what sets us apart. I also use a few other awesome manufacturers like Janet McCallister from Hippie Chick Natural Solutions who makes our bath bombs and pain sticks. Another Mainer, Scotty Ouellette of Alternative Rx Consulting, has helped me with extraction. It isn’t easy finding an extractor that will do small batches for you but he always finds time to fit me in between larger projects.
What is on the horizon for 2021?
This year I hope to help other brands create products and have partnered with Ocean State Blends to start Blissed Blends, which is our product manufacturing/dream weaving company. We can help with label compliance, art direction, and blending in our licensed and insured facility. So if you have a CBD dream, I would love the opportunity to help you make it a reality. I am also hoping to see my products end up in some dispensaries, now that MDAR and the CCC have allowed us to work towards that. We have a big wholesale push planned for the new year, so hopefully you will be able to find Irie products in lots of other places.
Mike Crawford is a Massachusetts medical cannabis patient and founder of The Young Jurks and midnightmass.substack.com. You can listen to The Young Jurks on iTunes or wherever else podcasts are streamed. This article was produced with support from Midnight Mass and The Young Jurks, where your contributions are greatly appreciated and help us deliver more local coverage.