These Guys Are Setting the Bar for Ethical CBD Brands

Photo by Sam Hillman

A company’s origin story is important. It is the product—even when it isn't. And as consumers become more savvy, that reality becomes harder to ignore, which presents quite an opportunity for some businesses. It’s like a north star for every decision made. It determines the company’s values, how the business is operated, who they hire, and how the products are designed and developed. Take Gabe Kennedy and Hudson Gaines-Ross, co-founders of the New York City-based CBD brand Plant People. They’re two friends who came by their obsessions with healing herbs and CBD honestly: they both experienced traumatic back injuries and subsequent surgeries, and CBD played a leading part in both of their recoveries. And so, somewhere deep in the Catskills in 2016, the pair made a pact to bring the magic of the plant to the people.

“People have no idea where to get CBD, but they want to try it. And that sparked us into motion,” says Gabe. “So how do we deliver access to it? And how do we also celebrate the power that these plants hold—and also celebrate people!—while building something with a mission to help people and to educate. We really wanted to bridge the gap between mainstream culture and cannabis culture.”

And that’s when the duo settled on food as the vehicle.

Gabe is a chef. He’s worked at some of New York City’s finest dining establishments, was the Visiting Executive Chef for Bon Appetit, the winner of Anthony Bourdain’s cooking show The Taste, and is currently the Director of Culinary and Innovation for The Little Beet + Little Beet Table. The guy knows what he’s talking about. (And as if more cred is needed, Gabe grew up in Colorado in a household of healers where herbs and adaptogens were the law of the land.) plant people cbd “As a chef, I hold the power to hold a safe space and drive toward it with integrity,” says Gabe, whose products include CBD dropscapsules, topicals, and more. “I love food because of its enormous potential for impact. And my goal is to ultimately use food as a catalyst for positive change. So the question becomes, can I present cannabis in a very familiar way that is also something—like cooking—that 99 per cent of the population does anyway? You don’t have to change people’s behaviour too much.”

Photo: Alex Jay

If you bother to peek under the hood of other businesses, you realize quickly that many are very removed from their product. By the time their product hits the shelves, it’s circumnavigated the globe a few times and run through the hands of countless disconnected cogs. A lack of regulation in many industries—CBD, for one—further compounds the issue as lines of accountability get crossed. Who’s to blame when questionable ingredients find their way into a topical, for instance?

But then there are the origin stories that are honest and true—and that stay that way: the yogi who opens a studio, the beauty editor who starts a beauty brand, the holistic chef who makes an olive oil.

“We really worked on creating our own supply chain and owning the product,” explains Gabe, who says their farmers use ladybugs to keep the plants healthy. “And so what people experience with Plant People is not replicated anywhere else. We really put a lot of time around creating formulations with a focus on quality ingredients, quality plant matter, and quality extractions.”

Want to cook like Gabe? Summer’s your moment to shine. It’s all about leaving the food to do what it does and not fussing with it too much. Get his recipe for Summer Fruit with Honey, Black Pepper and Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Or one of our faves, the Cucumber + Tomato Salad with Labne.