Ed Donnelley's mantra has always been "doing things right."
It's carried him through a successful career from a registered nurse to CEO of a medical device distribution company.
So when his wife began suffering extreme back pain a few years ago, the retired executive looked into the benefits of cannabidiol -- commonly known as CBD -- to help her find relief.
When she used a CBD ointment he found for her, "the results were tremendous," he said.
There were just two problems.
"The smell was terrible, and all the products contained at least trace amounts of THC," he said. "That made both of us uncomfortable."
A common chemical in hemp and cannabis plants, THC creates the mind-alerting effects that is often associated with marijuana. But Donnelley's medical background convinced him he could find a way to deliver odor-free CBD products without THC.
His research and work became reality with AmourCBD, a line of CBD-based products that contain no THC. The Oak Brook-based company's line of oils, tinctures, soft gels and gummies also includes a topical pain cream that is the only CBD product on the market registered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
All AmourCBD products are manufactured by third-party facilities that are FDA certified, Donnelley said. That certification helps assure they are being made to a specific level of quality.
"They're also making cough syrups and other things that are all FDA registered," he said,
As for the cream, Donnelley said the key to gaining FDA registration was using lidocaine as its active ingredient.
"It opens the pathway to the pain area where the CBD is delivered," he said. "Active ingredient -- those two words are a very specific and very important set of words to the FDA."
In addition, lidocaine doesn't have an odor, unlike other active ingredients used for pain medication.
Unlike the highly-regulated medical marijuana industry, the FDA has just started to look into CBD's health claims and it could be years before any standards, regulations or guidelines are in place. While there has been little clinical research on the medical effects of CBD, it's touted to treat certain conditions without providing the mind-altering high connected with THC.
CBD product sales have skyrocketed since Congress legalized hemp farming in 2018. Sales in 2018, the latest year available, was estimated between $600 million and $2 billion, and it could become a $16 billion industry by 2025.
Donnelley welcomes FDA intervention into the industry, noting the lack of oversight has created a "buyer beware" atmosphere in the industry. He pointed to a time when he walked into a suburban CBD store and the clerk said she could "make up some special CBD" for him.
"This represents what's wrong with CBD market," he said. "I asked where she gets her hemp and oils and she said China. Nobody's testing it for metals or pesticides and all those things."
Donnelley said AmourCBD, which launched in late 2018, is focused more toward providing "medical quality" products and doesn't see the company competing in the recreational market.
"My approach as lifelong medical device executive is that we were going to make a medical product," he said.
While consumers can purchase AmourCBD products from its website, AmourCBD.com, Donnelley said he and his staff have been marketing the products to health care and medical facilities, such as hospitals, physical therapy clinics and nursing homes.
"We're carving out a niche. We think it's a big niche and we think physical therapists and doctors will embrace this," he said.
And to assure his vision stays on track, Donnelley and one co-investor are funding the entire venture.
"By being self-funded, I can make sure I'm doing it right," he added.
His company's mission is a personal one, he notes, and it goes beyond his wife. The company's name is dedicated to his 9-year-old granddaughter, Olivia, who underwent her second heart transplant last Christmas at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago.
"I think of her often, and Amour and the old 'Amore' song about love and heart ... this is all for her," he said.
"We want to do CBD right and do it for the right reasons, and Olivia is the driving force behind this."