Episode #51: Russell Markus


With a mother dealing with the physical and mental struggle of arthritis, fibromyalgia & sciatica, (former Director at Spike Lee’s agency, Spike DDB) Russell Markus, founder of Lily CBD, sought out healthy alternatives for his mom. The journey through chia seeds and sensory deprivation tanks ultimately led him to CBD and launching Lily CBD. Before starting Lily CBD, Russell spent over 15 years in the music and marketing world, focused on strategically helping brands thrive.

Growing up, Russell Markus didn’t understand what his mom was going through. She dealt with chronic pain from a combination of medical issues (including fibromyalgia, arthritis, and sciatica) and the physical pain sometimes resulted in mental pain as well. While Russell admits he didn’t “get it” when he was younger, a bout of severe knee pain made him realize the reality of what his mom had been experiencing for decades. On today’s episode, Russell and I talk about his shift in awareness about his mom’s experience, and the ways he introduced natural alternatives to help her manage her pain. We also talk about his fascinating career path, and how he chose to start Lily CBD before CBD was the trend it is today. Finally, we talk about the complexities of the cannabis world, the impact of pharmaceuticals, and what people should know if they’re ready to explore CBD, but have no idea where to start.

We have to believe people in the issues that they’re going through, and try to help them to the best of our ability.

Here are some of the things Russell and I chatted about:

  • Working at Spike Lee’s agency, and the re-education about privilege he experienced there

  • Realizing how similar he and his mom are, but not having a close relationship growing up

  • The health repercussions of the car accident his mom was in the week before her wedding

  • The challenge and complexity of having physical issues that many don’t even believe are real

  • How his own physical pain, about eight years ago, created an “empathy link” with his mom 

  • Wanting to help his mom, and asking his friend for a pound of “mom-to-mom cannabis” 

  • Introducing his mom to natural alternatives for pain management in the place of prescriptions

  • A birthday dinner on the West Coast, and drinking CBD cocktails while friends drank THC ones

  • Why asking a company he worked at to fire him was one of the best decisions he’s ever made 

  • Starting to learn about CBD, even though the world of CBD was nothing like what it is today

  • The entrepreneurial spirit that was always a part of him, and his need to get out of agency life

  • Figuring out all the aspects of his business, from sourcing to branding to marketing to funding

  • The challenge to find the right product bottle and to create a logo with the right aesthetic  

  • The friends and family who bought the first 50 bottles produced by Lily CBD

  • The history of cannabis, and what we know and don’t know about the benefits of the plant

  • The impact of the pharmaceutical industry as well as cultural factors on cannabis research

  • The book he buys for everyone who works with him: CBD: What You Need to Know

I need my family to be able to safely take it. And I’m not willing to impact the quality of the product so that I can make a quick buck.


Learn more about Lily CBD: Website / Instagram / Facebook


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Amanda Guerassio