Queer entrepreneurs explain how CBD company is owed to Black, LGBTQ people for Pride

Unoia hopes to win as a black and LGBT-owned female company in light of the mass incarceration of Black people due to cannabis infractions

Danielle Gray and Brande Elise are shown in a promotional photo. (Credit: Unoia)

Pride month is a special time to celebrate the lives and rights deserved to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, ally, and plus community. However, in a time where marginalized folks’ realities are put at the forefront due to police brutality and systemic oppression, it is still important to recognize that we must unplug when needed to maintain mental safety.

“It’s still just as important to get to know who you are and not what you identify as,” says Danielle Gray, chief creation officer of Unoia, CBD lifestyle brand focusing on self-care, mindfulness, and mental health. Unoia was launched in April 2020 by same-gender-loving female entrepreneurs Gray and Brande Elise, the chief connection officer, to assist in healthy living and provide insight on how to be mentally sound. And luckily, customers couldn’t be more in tune!

“For me, it makes it special to us because within the CBD industry and the cannabis industry overall there are way too many Black and brown people behind bars,” Gray explains. “So for us, it’s almost owed to them that we can win as a black and LGBT-owned female company.”

RELATED: Southern University becomes first HBCU to launch CBD oil product ALAFIA

CBD, which is short for cannabidiol, is the second most prevalent of the active ingredients of cannabis that allows you to relax without psychoactive effects. Unoia focuses on CBD infused honey, agave, muscle salves, and tinctures for humans and pets to keep the peace within the mind and body.

As Pride comes to an end, we are well aware that the fight for equal rights under the law for the LGBTQIA+ community and Black and brown people is far from over. Luckily, we have some wellness products that can ease our mind and body along the way.

Check out what Unoia founders say about injustice and what pride means to them below.

Brande Elise is shown in a promotional photo. (Credit: Unoia)

So how did Unoia come about? 

Elise: Unoia came from wanting to infuse honey. I’m a cannabis user and I can’t smoke all the time. I do voiceover work and I don’t want to sound like a little boy or not myself and I’m already raspy. So I thought, “What could I do? Hmm, what if this was in tea? Then what if this was in honey?” So the first thing we did was CBD with honey. Now we have our facility in Boulder, Colorado, where we are producing honey and agave. It’s still unreal to say out loud. 

Gray: That’s where it started and then it quickly expanded by recognizing that everyone did not want honey and agave. That’s when we got the tincture, the soothing salve, and the pet treats.  

What interested you in CBD in the beginning?  

G: Being former athletes and college athletes, all of this stuff was a huge no-no. We were much older, both of us around 27/28 when we got introduced to CBD. From there, I was interested in a more holistic approach to things. I didn’t like the idea of getting ibuprofen and taking tons of them to feel better. I wanted to figure out a more natural way to go about being calmer. I believe both of us had pretty high anxiety at the time. The world inside CBD was just helpful for us to chill out. We have a topical CBD that directly helps with muscles. And then the anxiety way for us through what’s going on right now in the world with the Black Lives Matter movement. I have done webinars around race. These have been very difficult conversations. CBD helps me get to a place where I’m not in rage or upset about something. I can be in a calm space so I can articulate my point instead of letting emotions run me.  

Danielle Gray is shown in a promotional photo. (Credit: Unoia)

Can you explain the difference between CBD and THC, the two main components in cannabis?

G: In a philosophical way, THC is the component that makes you high. It gives you that high feeling. CBD does not. THC gets you high, it gives you something. CBD takes it away. CBD takes away anxiety. It takes away chronic pain. It takes away all of those voices in our head so we come to a calm space that we’re just not used to because of all the stimuli we have going on from the phones to the TV. CBD just brings you to a place of what we call beautiful thinking where you don’t feel anxiety. You can be very present and open and in a good space. 

E: Yeah, CBD does not get you high and our CBD is free of THC. THC gets you high. It’s another portal, but we can’t always go there. So the CBD is wonderful for being present and being focal and mindful. I use it for work, right before I workout. It’s nice to just be with myself. For all of my cannabis users that don’t think that CBD is for them, it’s really useful when you get too high sometimes. It can bring you down. I just don’t want people to think it’s not for them because it doesn’t have the psychoactive effect to it. 

Can we speak about marginalized POC and the LGBTQIA+ community and how your mental health has been affected throughout life in America? How has CBD helped this process?

G: I never really felt like I fit in. I never saw myself on TV. I didn’t think a little black girl could be nerdy while also not being, for me, thinking I had to be a boy because I liked more feminine women. That will mess with you a lot. You think you just don’t belong. I’m grateful for my parents. They helped me a lot with making sure I felt like I belonged, but I was an only child. I was not given an example. That’s why we believe in representation in being open about who we are because it’s so important. I think especially being in Atlanta right now we have been greatly affected. It’s tough because we want to be happy and excited about our brand launch, yet sometimes you feel defeated seeing POC, someone who is the same complexion as my father, killed on camera with no apologies. For me, it makes it special to us because within the CBD industry and the cannabis industry overall there are way too many Black and brown people behind bars. So for us, it’s almost owed to them that we can win as a black and LGBT-owned female company. We know the barriers of entry in this industry are very difficult so that’s another way we are helping. We created a certified “Beautiful Thinker” program to recruit 1099 independent sales associates. This allows us to grow within their stories. They also get a 10% commission on everything. With everyone who has lost jobs and unemployment going around, this is our way to also include a lot of marginalized people that may have not had the opportunities to enter the industry. As we grow, they grow. We are unapologetic. We’re just ourselves and don’t try to act like we’re anyone different from who we are, so we’re outwardly very proud to be together. We’re very proud to be Black. We are very proud to be female.

Danielle Gray and Brande Elise are shown in a promotional photo. (Credit: Unoia)

E: With the climate of our world, more communities have been open to speaking about the injustices. We haven’t had peace during this time. I think that showing people how to find it, showing people how to medicate, explaining to people the different ways that we deal with depression is helpful. It’s not just a quote on quote “white people thing.”  

And CBD has directly helped this process for you ladies? 

E: Absolutely, coping wisely. It’s just when you are living a healthier lifestyle and you’re creating that boundary for yourself you don’t want to put certain things in your body. You don’t want to put alcohol in your body. You don’t want certain people or energy around you. You just don’t want to do the same things. 

RELATED: Canadian study suggests cannabis could help fight COVID-19 

G: Overall, CBD helps us to look at things the way they are. We don’t take things personally in that space. We’re just in a good space where we can love ourselves no matter what anybody says. CBD is only an assistant to healthy living and going on walks and meditating. It helps POC that have a lot more voices going on to silence those so we can get to really who are you and not just what you identify as. 

How does CBD help in working with your partner?

G: It helps a lot. The main thing that we did first was take care of ourselves and love ourselves before we came into this relationship. We can say, “I don’t need to count on you for my happiness”. I have that already. Then in business when we are having discussions, especially if its conflicting ideas, emotions can be high, tension can be high. When we have CBD it lets us revisit conversations and we’re able to conclude. We can communicate with each other. CBD helps when we have to decide on opposing ideas. We articulate easier when our vibe is chill.