Could there be a more beloved-by-San-Francisco concept as a cannabis brand created by a drag queen? What about one with its ethical foundations based firmly in providing queer medicine, that offers a flagship balm ideal for both top surgery recovery and soothing post-stiletto foot aches? One that is Black and queer-owned, locally-sourced, small-batch, organic—must we continue? With no further ado: Bay Remedies.
The newly founded wellness brand is the brainchild of CFO Paul Walker and CEO John Xavier, who is known around town for gigs in Nikki Jizz’s Reparations show and Juanita MORE’s Pride Party under their alter-ego, the Miss Golden Gate-winning Newoncé Gazelle. The two found their cannabic motivation in the aftermath of an injurious car accident that left them weighing the risk of opioid addiction against their need for physical recovery. Walker and Xavier hit the books to find a less pharmaceutical avenue to health, even utilizing knowledge gleaned from careers in editorial photography (Xavier) and massage therapy (Walker) in the quest.
John Xavier (left) and Paul Walker of Bay Remedies
The result was The Bay Balm, a coconut-oil-and-beeswax-based salve made from full-spectrum cannabis extract and essential oils. Offering it to the larger community seems like a lovely way for the BR team to care for San Francisco—or really, anyone looking to tap in to the powerful anti-inflammatory properties of the Bay’s favorite flower.
But it’s safe to say that Bay Remedies is hardly entering the game at the height of the green rush. The last few years have been a rough ride for small Californian cannabis brands. After all, they’re dealing with the police sitting by while dispensaries and warehouses are raided (the Bay was sadly a trend-setter in what is now a coast-to-coast robbery spree of cannabis businesses) and exorbitant tax rates on commercial weed at every level of production and distribution that have had the state’s industry on the brink of revolt.
You have to root for the baby Bay Remedies in the face of such odds. Particularly, since three percent of the brand’s sales currently go to the Q Foundation, a San Francisco non-profit founded in 2003 (under its original name AIDS Housing Alliance/SF) that provides people living with HIV/AIDS with housing support. Particularly, given the disconnect between the high number of Black individuals harmed by the racially-motivated War on Drugs and the low number of Black cannabis business owners who have been able to gain a foothold in the licensed marijuana industry. (Even Oakland, site of the world’s first and one its largest cannabis equity programs, hasn’t been able to fully correct this dire inequity.)
Proactive supporters of weed-related justice and soothing muscle balms can aid and assist Xavier and Walker’s entrepreneurial process by financially backing the brand. They’ve made such contributions extremely accesible by signing up with a micro-investment site. Perhaps you’ll be even more inclined to be a part of their rise after reading our interview with the Bay Remedies co-founders, who were kind enough to answer our questions about health, wealth, and Bay cannabis legacies via email.
48HILLS Tell me a little about your personal journeys with cannabis, pre-Bay Remedies. Were there any major events that shaped your relationship with the drug/plant?
JOHN XAVIER We’re both California boys at heart, myself being from San Francisco and Paul out of the Central Valley. Our relationship with cannabis was shaped by activists like Denis Peron and Brownie Mary, both of whom helped establish some of the foundations of medicinal marijuana today. We are also influenced by current industry leader [and co-founder of San Francisco-born international cannabis company Cookies] Berner. Things such as Prop 215 allowed for medicinal cannabis to be used for anxiety, insomnia, and many other ailments. We applied for medicinal cards on Haight Street back in 2014 and the rest is history. The car accident in 2020 highlighted how necessary a new approach to wellness was for us.
48HILLS Where did the knowledge of plant products that allowed you to found Bay Remedies come from?
JOHN XAVIER A combination of previous familiarity and in-depth research. I was working with an organic beauty brand as the director of photography, and thought to utilize some of the same beauty concepts to create a line of cannabis-infused balms. Selecting the most healing ingredients and aromatic oils was simple, as Paul had a background in massage therapy. We realized that most products on the market were missing elements that the beauty market has been capitalizing on for years. Through this process, we developed The Bay Balm.
48HILLS Where is the cannabis from which the products are made grown?
PAUL WALKER We source our cannabis from a family owned farm in Santa Rosa.
48HILLS Have the current issues over the Californian government’s lack of support for small weed businesses, predatory taxing, etc. given you pause about launching your own cannabis business at this time?
PAUL WALKER Uncle Sam can make or break a small business when it’s starting up. Banking is a huge issue for cannabis businesses. Equity grants offer a small piece of stability. There are very few crowdfunding opportunities as well. Heavy taxing makes it almost impossible to come out in the clear, in addition to the operational and regulatory costs. We’re waiting with baited breath to see California stand up and do right by its Black and Brown communities impacted by the War on Drugs.
48HILLS Where are the products currently available? What has your experience been like in the search for retail options for Bay Remedies?
JOHN XAVIER Our anchor product, The Bay Balm, is a 5:1 THC:CBD. We plan to expand on the profile ranges of THC and CBD as we grow. We have found retailers to be very interested in featuring our product, which is why we launched an investment campaign on Mainvest to accelerate our expansion into a CBD-only version for retailers who don’t carry cannabis.
48HILLS What kind of support have you found as Black and queer entrepreneurs in an overwhelmingly white field?
PAUL WALKER Being based in SF has helped tremendously, as QBIPOC initiatives have a great community base to start with. People want to donate ands are generally excited about the brand and to support a black and queer owned business, we just need the support of the media to help us reach a larger LGBT population and promote our Mainvest investment campaign.
48HILLS What do you love the most about Bay Area cannabis?
JOHN XAVIER We love that Bay Area, and California in general, are pioneers within the cannabis industry. There are third and fourth generation growers here who’ve gone to war over this plant for it to be as readily available as it is today.
48HILLS What do you think could be better when it comes to Bay Area cannabis?
JOHN XAVIER More compassion programs. We work with a social justice group out of Oakland, Blk Canna Joy, that hosts compassion events for low-income cannabis patients. Cannabis is a medicine first and foremost.