An Interview With: Kim Rael, CEO Of Inventive CBD, and Cannabis Edibles Brand, Azuca

I sat with Kim Rael for a few minutes at the Seed to Sale Show, held up in Boston, a couple days ago. I could immediately see the potential of her company, in between talking about everything else but her company. And then I forgot to give Kim my business card. That's not like me, sorry Kim! At any rate, I was conversing with Tom Weihmayr of the Toronto Drink Factory about flavors, the potential for flavor driven products like cannabis in beverages and the like. A flash of inspiration put a light bulb into my head, and it led me back into my recent chat with Kim Rael. Why not take this thing called cannabis and spread the philosophy and medicinal benefits around the globe? Why not indeed? Which brings me back to the conversation that enjoyed with Kim. She's whip smart, that's immediately obvious, and I saw her mind working, always thinking of the next sentence carefully before putting the words into the air. Kim is a studied business-minded visionary. A deeply pragmatic, highly talented business woman who is a force for change. Becoming CEO of a major corporation in the cannabis field is not usually the role that someone aspires to, especially when it's so risk filled. After all, there are certain regulations in every state, and of course the Federal Government as a bureaucracy to contend with. And of course the 'stigma' which is, quite simply the 900 pound gorilla in the room. That gorilla comes in many formats, be it regulatory, or more simply, the law of the land, or even a disapproving family member. It takes guts to be a success in the cannabis world and Kim Rael is, for all intents and purposes making a massive dent in the veneer of the traditional business model. She is living the experience of a metric-driven entrepreneur, but the successes are far more vital when you are using someone else's money. Sure it's cannabis, and this CEO role, running the top of the house is no less important than a Forbes Fifty list member in traditional business. Because traditional business is about to be overtaken by intellectual superiority and women like Kim Rael, who is going to be very well known. I have every anticipation that Azuca and Inventive CBD will become household names before long. They offer the finest culinary products,that are unlike anything else on the market. Culinarians should be equally charmed with Chef Ron Silver involved in the Culinary equation. Certainly, he is someone who knows his way around flavor, quality, and most importantly, class. These full flavored products that certainly, 'Raise the Bar' in the form of fun, intriguing flavors, and the simplicity of execution.  I'm honored to share Kim's story, and her entrepreneurial style, based in real, old-fashioned business-sense. The kind that you find in rational thinkers, and in working entrepreneurs. Real hard workers.

Kim is just the right fit for my column, and I'm honored to share her story with my readers.  Thank you Kim, you absolutely made my day, even if I did forget to give you my business card.

And for the record, it does say that I make you, hungry and thirsty.

This is something that I know you have experienced first hand. For success.

WB: Warren Bobrow

KR: Kim Rael

WB: Where are you from? Why Cannabis? Where do you see your company in six months?  One year?

KR: I grew up in the mountains of Northern New Mexico.  I’ve lived on both coasts and abroad, and happily returned to the Land of Enchantment after finishing my MBA.  I now live in Albuquerque, and commute to NYC where Azuca is headquartered. I would have never imagined myself in the cannabis industry. In fact, I often call myself the “accidental cannabis entrepreneur.” After a long career in tech, I decided to make a pivot.  I was looking for a new challenge that would allow me to leverage my startup expertise in the sector that I am most passionate about, and that is wellness. While I was looking in the other direction, cannabis came knocking on my door.  A former classmate and long-time colleague in the entrepreneurial world introduced me to Chef Ron Silver, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Azuca.   I was a skeptic at first, but after doing my due diligence and conducting thorough research on the industry, I came to understand the healing and wellness power of the cannabis plant. I knew that I was destined be a part of this new venture, and the cannabis wellness movement in general. Since then, Azuca has taken off, with hemp-derived CBD products available nationwide, and THC products available in Massachusetts, through our licensee, Mayflower Medicinals which is an iAnthus company.   We are currently expanding our licensee footprint to multiple states.  Six months from now, we will have launched our next product line expansion (Sneak Preview:culinary inspired tinctures and Stevia drops.) We will have grown our THC licensing business to multiple states and partners.   A year from now, I anticipate we will be one of the fastest growing cannabis brands in the United States, with an emerging footprint overseas.

WB: I see you are an accomplished business leader. I used to support (as an executive assistant for twenty years...really) a series of C-level, mostly female executives on their way up the C-Level and above ladder. How do you manage your company? Top down? Bottom up?  Business school?

KR: It’s all about the team, or as Jim Collins taught us in his classic book, Good to Great, it’s about getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats on the bus.  I like to surround myself with people who are smart, fun, ethical, self-motivated and hard working.  We have a highly virtual team so we rely on a everyone to “self manage” and exhibit strong personal maturity and “assumed ownership” of the business challenges at hand.

(Editor's note: Well said, Kim...)

WB: Do you cook?  If so, and if you have time.  What would be your favorite kind of cooking?  Who taught you? Mother? Father? Television cooking shows?  Do you have a favorite restaurant? Why?

KR: I have loved to cook since I was a little girl.  My mother used to laugh because I would fall asleep at night reading the old red and white Better Homes and Gardens cook book.  (I knew I was going to get along with Ron the first time I walked into his office and saw that same beloved cookbook on his shelf.) Mom did not like to cook, so she happily let me run the kitchen at home, and I enthusiastically experimented on my brothers with all kinds of crazy recipes growing up.  Now I am very interested in tasty, whole food cooking inspired by the likes of Canyon Ranch and love to keep a fresh herb garden. Hands down, one of my favorite restaurants is Ron Silver’s restaurant, Bubby’s – but I’m not saying that because he’s my business partner! It’s truly the best comfort food around, with a successful 30-year track record in New York City’s competitive restaurant scene to prove it (not to mention seven locations in Japan!).  I like to say that Ron’s fried chicken is worth the calories!  (Funny story:  I learned after the fact that our lead investor ordered fried chicken from Bubby’s five times as part of his due diligence to see if it really was that good and consistent before investing in Azuca.)

WB: Tell me about your company?  What is your core customer? How has your company evolved in the leader it is today?

KR: Azuca is a technology-driven, culinary-inspired cannabis company.  Ron developed what we believe is the best cannabis edibles delivery system available.  Around that innovation, we have launched a line of fast-acting cannabis and hemp-infused edibles, sweeteners and ingredients. We have both THC and full spectrum hemp products based on our three-patent-pending technology that emulsifies the Full Spectrum/CBD and THC molecules in order to make them more water-friendly and therefore more easily absorbed. The end result is a consistent, predictable effect that takes the fear and guesswork out of edibles. Right now, our Hemp line consists of infused simple syrup, sugar and chocolate coins.  Our THC line consists of pâte de fruits (aka an exceptional gummie), shortbread cookies, fruit syrups, sugars and chocolate coins. The idea behind the brand is to provide extremely precise dosing, with unique, delicious ingredients and flavor options that allow consumers to customize to their unique needs, palates and preferences. This makes our brand broadly appealing, but in particular, we built our brand to accommodate novice CBD and cannabis consumers, who want to dip their toes into the water by micro-dosing and trying products that are in familiar, approachable form factors. After all, who isn’t accustomed to putting a spoonful of sugar in their coffee, tea or lemonade? As a result, we have garnered widespread interest in our brand very quickly- because it’s fun, original and it truly works fast. Think 2-15 minutes, versus 1-4 hours with traditional infused products.

WB: If you could be anywhere in the world, right now- where would that be? Doing what? With whom?

KR: I would be hiking with my family, anywhere we could be trekking yet see the ocean, like the Pacific Coast Trail or Hawaii.  (Or Acadia National Park, but it’s the wrong time of year for that one!)

Thank you ever so much, Kim for your time in a busy moment of your amazing story and of your success-driven life!


Why Is New York City Embargoing CBD Products?

Just like Los Angeles in late 2018, America’s other big trendsetting city, New York, suddenly outlawed CBD infused food and beverages in a seemingly backwards snap. Announced the same week as the federal relaxations on hemp from the Farm Bill, New York’s Department of Health decided to crack down on cannabidiol dosed prepared food items— not tinctures or manufactured foods, which they see as dietary supplements, landing under the purview of the Food and Drug Administration. This means those CBD cookies, brownies, and lattes are cancelled, for now.

According to local news site Gothamist, “The DOH apparently does not consider CBD to be a food item unto itself, but rather an additive. The DOH did not respond to a question about who would be considered a “qualified expert” in order to have CBD approved.”

This sudden and silly turn against the tide is not going to do anything to make CBD safer. If New York regulators really cared about safety, they would follow the lead of states that already have lab testing requirements and make pathways to safe products rather than banning them outright due to a lack of information and infrastructure.

New York food bible Eater writes, “This will impact an increasingly robust market in New York, one that’s following a national swell of CBD food and drink sales. Bars, coffee shops, restaurants, and bakeries have all jumped into the game.”

CBD is seemingly everywhere from the corner bodega to the boutique shop, and preventing small businesses from providing it to their clientele is limiting in a grossly unfair way. It would take a simple testing initiative and some guidelines to bring the city up to speed, plus training for the on-site executors, but Mayor Bill DeBlasio seems more interested in beating out Governor Andrew Cuomo to become the first Italian American President in 2020.

This Sicilian American writer would prefer they both focus on the betterment of their existing constituency, which includes reinvesting in New York communities harmed by cannabis prohibition before adding more bans to the long list of no-nos. CBD can help countless New Yorkers dealing with pain, inflammation, addiction, and more, but it seems until they can find a way to permit and tax CBD activity, they’d rather partially withhold it from the public.

It’s no secret that NYC is a deeply capitalist city, and CBD entrepreneur and restaurateur Ron Silverused this angle to plea to the better senses of the metropolis’ financial sector. He opinesfor Crain’s Business New York, “If New York wants to compete in the most exciting growth industry in our lifetime, we must adopt a robust and affirmative stance on hemp-based extracts and CBD in foods and supplements.”

There are few things cherished in NYC more than the mighty dollar, and ignoring this multibillion dollar pocket of growth that is happening right now— not just a projection— is done at the peril of those who can’t accept cannabis’ place in our future.

Silver continues, “The informed public wants this product. And will get it. The smart localities will welcome it and reap the rewards in their tax base (or lose out, period). The market is moving and it is up to the local regulators to decide if they want to thrive with the industry or not. Because the industry will thrive; it will just relocate to where it is welcome.”


Impress Your Valentine With Chocolate-Tasting Tips From A Chef

I've been tasting chocolate — lots of chocolate. And let me begin by saying, as jobs go, this is a good one. Let's start this lesson by taking a minute to learn some very basic information about this sweet, nuanced treat.

This is not the milk chocolate you grew up eating, which is loaded with sugar. This is sophisticated, craft chocolate — what's often called "bean to bar."

These chocolate bars are about the unique flavors that emerge when cacao beans — found on cacao trees, which can be grown up to 20 degrees above or below the equator — are transformed into chocolate. The cacao pods have 20 to 40 seeds inside that are fermented, dried and then roasted into what we know as chocolate. Chocolate makers then add sugar (or not), spices, nuts, fruits and/or herbs.

If you want to further hone your chocolate know-how, Eagranie Yuh, a former chemist and pastry chef-turned-chocolate educator, wrote "The Chocolate Tasting Kit" (Chronicle Books.) It's a fun, informative book, with tasting notes meant to teach you not just all about chocolate, but also the best way to taste it.

Tips For Tasting Chocolate Like A Pro

You're probably asking, "There's a best way to taste chocolate?" Yes — like wine, like cheese, there is a correctway to do it.

  • Look at color and texture: These are all dark chocolate bars, but there's dark — and then there's real dark. The percentage you see on the label tells you how much cacao mass is in a bar. If a bar is labeled 70 percent, that means the chocolate bar contains 70 percent cacao mass (or cacao liquor) and 30 percent other ingredients. Also, is the bar shiny? Smooth?
  • Aroma: What do you smell? No need for pretension here. Earthy? Winey? Floral? Herbal?
  • Taste: Chocolate can be incredibly complex. Bite it in half and let it slowly melt on your tongue. Observe the flavors: wine, berries, citrus, floral?
  • Sip room-temperature water between each tasting.

A Few Of My Favorite Chocolates

  • Enna Chocolate, La Mosquitia, Honduras 75%: This 75 percent dark chocolate made in Epping, New Hampshire, is handcrafted from bean to bar in microbatches, from ethically sourced cacao, sugar and organic ingredients. Tasting notes: sweet almond, sugar biscuit, dried fruits, porcini, milk, bright, delicate, earthy, floral.
  • Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate, Black Fig: Made in Humboldt County in Northern California, this chocolate is made from cacao and cane sugar. This bar is 72 percent dark with black California mission figs and cacao from Madagascar. Tasting notes: The figs add a chewiness to the chocolate and give it a very earthy flavor.
  • The Good Chocolate, Himalayan Salt 65%: Made in San Francisco, The Good Chocolate people say this is the first bean-to-bar chocolate made without sugar. It's 65 percent dark chocolate, 100 percent organic and made with Himalayan salt, which adds a great flavor. The mint-flavored bar is also excellent. Tasting notes: When you taste a chocolate without sugar, do you miss the sweetness? Not really. It's made with Stevia — a sweetener and sugar substitute extracted from the leaves of the plant species Stevia rebaudiana, native to Brazil and Paraguay — instead of sugar.
  • Azuca CBD, Chocolate Coin: This small, coin-shaped chocolate wrapped in gold foil is 61 percent cacao with 25 milligrams of hemp extract. The chocolate doesn't have a cannabis smell, but contains CBD. Tasting notes: I found that the chocolate ever so slightly relaxed my body (one coin is a tiny dose) but did not get me high or make me feel "weird." The reaction time is about 2 to 5 minutes — and it tasted great.
  • Waialua Estate Chocolate, 55% Cacao Hawaiian Cocoa Nib Bar: Made from American-grown cacao, this chocolate is rich, offers a great texture with crunchy cacao nibs on top, grown in Hawaii's nutrient-rich volcanic soil. Tasting notes: dark, fruity, semi-sweet.
  • Haute Chocolate Brooklyn, Salted Rosemary 80% Cocoa: These Brooklyn, New York, chocolates have great designs, are 80 percent cacao, and according to the label, "100% sexy!" Truly interesting flavors made by women for women, all from organic ingredients.
  • Fine & Raw Chocolate: Another chocolate from Brooklyn, these are made with organic beans from, according to the label, "sustainability-focused purveyors," and is produced "without dairy and uses unrefined coconut sugar to extract caramel notes."

Need Chocolate-Themed Recipes?

Here are three recipes you can turn to if you have a chocolate fix that just won't quit: Alice Medrich's best cocoa brownies, a dessert-like bread made with cocoa powder and semisweet chocolate and a dark-chocolate tart with sea salt.


Hudson Yards Gains a Fine Dining Restaurant Called Zodiac Room

Williamsburg pizzeria shutters

Pizza restaurant Fornino closed its Williamsburg location after 15 years in the neighborhood. It originally opened on Bedford Ave. but relocated to Kent Ave. in 2017. Locations remain in Greenpoint and seasonally at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6.

More Hudson Yards developments

The Neiman Marcus store planned for the Hudson Yards development project will also contain a fine dining restaurant called the Zodiac Room. It is slated to open March 15. Below the restaurant, there will be a bar called Bar Stanley, and on the fifth floor, there will be a coffee bar with prepared foods called Cook & Merchants, which will also have a cooking class kitchen.

Another Instagram food stunt is coming to the city

Tickets for the sixth annual Dessert Goals — a ridiculous dessert festival that of course promises many “Instagrammable” moments — go on sale at noon today. The festival takes place on March 23 and 24, and $17 general admission tickets come with access to a free candy bar at the event, as well as some beverages. More than 20 dessert vendors this year include Oddfellows Ice Cream and 10Below Ice Cream, though those desserts must still be purchased. And there will be an “Instagram garden” for maximum selfie potential, with a “Party Animal” theme.

Other openings and coming attractions

Chef Hong Thaimee opened a new location for her Thai concept Thaimee Magic at Urbanspace at 570 Lex. It serves traditional dishes like pad thai, tom kha soup, and curry. Mexican bowl spot Oxido is plotting a new location for Bryant Park at 1450 Broadway. When it opens on February 19, it will offer $1 burritos and bowls. And in the East Village, signage has arrived for the previously announced Harry Potter-themed coffeeshop.

Rocco DiSpirito’s restaurant comeback is now critic-approved

After a lengthy break from NYC restaurants, celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito took over the kitchen at the Standard Grill earlier this year, and critic Steve Cuozzo writes that under his leadership, the restaurant “is serving the Meatpacking District’s best American dishes.” He approves the takes on poached black sea bass, beef short rib, dry-aged steak, and the vegetables, too.

An NYC chef speaks out on the city’s CBD crackdown

Ron Silver, chef and owner of American comfort food restaurant Bubby’s, penned an op-ed calling out the Department of Health’s recent crackdown on cannabidiol, or CBD, the additive that cafes and restaurants have been lacing treats and drinks with increasingly over the past year. Silver writes that CBD “reduces stress, alleviates pain, prevents seizures, helps with migraines and is a known antidote for opioid users.” He argues that the policy is especially “senseless” since marijuana legalization seems to be on-track in NYC.

NYC.


Marijuana yes, CBD no? City's senseless cannabidiol crackdown

A sample of cannabidiol (CBD) oil in a jar.

If I were a betting man, I would bet my restaurants that New York will legalize cannabis in 2019. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and a majority of New Yorkers are on board. “We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get a historic issue right for future New Yorkers," de Blasio said in a recent report. "Legal cannabis is coming to New York state."

A state Health Department study released last July determined that the benefits of legal marijuana outweigh the risks. The department determined that legalizing the drug for New Yorkers older than 21 would not significantly raise smoking rates and could help reduce racial disparities in police enforcement.

The benefits are clear: cannabis sales would feed our tax coffers, there would be a reduction in unnecessary arrests, and the black market would eventually be eradicated.

So then why is de Blasio allowing his Department of Health to crack down on coffee shops and restaurants for selling cannabidiol? CBD is a non-psychoactive chemical compound that contains less than 0.3% of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). A quick Google search fully explains the clear difference between hemp-derived CBD—an ingredient that has been safely consumed by millions—and cannabis. Among its countless and versatile applications, CBD reduces stress, alleviates pain, prevents seizures, helps with migraines and is a known antidote for opioid users. And it does not make you high.

The Department of Health’s crackdown happened, by the way, less than two months after passage of the new Farm Bill, which affirmatively removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act. In other words, it made hemp-derived CBD legal. We understand wholeheartedly that the Health Department officials want to protect New Yorkers and “are not permitting restaurants to add anything to food or drink that isn’t approved as safe to eat,” but how do they know it is not safe?

The agency is saying eateries to sell it as an additive but not put it in food. Now the conversation is getting murky. Restaurants have received no guidance from the city on the legal requirements of using CBD as an ingredient, despite requests by numerous small business owners and the New York City Hospitality Alliance.

In light of the shift toward legalization in New York and across the country, this aggressive approach of issuing fines and confiscating food containing CBD is irresponsible and unnecessary—and creating massive confusion among consumers who use CBD to combat a myriad of mental and physical health issues.

If New York wants to compete in the most exciting growth industry in our lifetime, we must adopt a robust and affirmative stance on hemp-based extracts and CBD in foods and supplements.

The informed public wants this product. And will get it. The smart localities will welcome it and reap the rewards in their tax base (or lose out, period). The market is moving and it is up to the local regulators to decide if they want to thrive with the industry or not. Because the industry will thrive; it will just relocate to where it is welcome.

New York City must take a deeper look at the Farm Bill as well as the myriad benefits of hemp-based products. Let consumers have what they have been promised and what was federally legislated. And for goodness sake, don’t turn back the clock on CBD when adult-use cannabis legalization is already on the docket—and, for New Yorkers, a sure bet.


How to Use CBD in Your Daily Routine

As many countries and several states in America start to legalize and welcome marijuana and hemp products, it’s no surprise that CBD has made its way into everything from grooming products to yoga studios. If you’re curious but not quite schooled on the best practices for implementing CBD goods into your routine, it can be intimidating to get started.

First things first: What is CBD? Founder and CEO of Ojai Energetics Will Kleidon explains that CBD products are those that contain the compound cannabidiol (CBD for short) that’s produced from the cannabis plant. There’s a huge variety of options and levels, but the most important differentiator is that CBD products should contain less than 0.3 percent THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol.

Why does this matter? THC is what gives you that high feeling when you smoke pot or eat a weed brownie. This is partly what makes CBD products so widespread and accepted, since they can target a whole slew of issues without feeling out of control. “All vertebrates — including humans — have endocannabinoid systems and they are fueled by full spectrum CBD-rich extracts. The endocannabinoid system’s job is to make sure every other system of the body is working properly. CBD can help!” Kleidon explains.

From helping you zen out to treating skin issues, here are effective ways to use CBD products, recommended by the top experts.

Balance and Normalize Your Body

You’ve likely never thought much about your endocannabinoid system’s functionality, but Dr. Jacqueline Nguyen, founder of Ensohara, explains that these receptors for cannabinoids promote our balance for overall health and wellness. These include CB1 and CB2, and are definitely worthy of your attention.

“CB1 receptors are located in the brain, lungs, nerves, muscles, vascular system, and gastrointestinal tract. CB2 receptors are present in the immune system, bones, spleen, colon, pancreas, and liver,” Nguyen explains. When we use CBD products, either topically or via supplements, we actually work to stabilize and normalize all of these various areas, helping to make daily life — from thought to movement — that much smoother.

Anti-Inflammatory for Acne and Redness

Sadly, there’s no age limit on acne, since plenty of people suffer from flare-ups well into adulthood. Other folks may battle redness or other abrasions, and often find themselves searching for answers. You might find a solution in CBD oils, according to Mills Miller, founder of MINERAL Health. He explains that a dime-sized amount to your problem area uses the plant-based anti-inflammatory benefits of CBD to work its magic. Just make sure you’re mindful of how you apply to avoid any irritation, especially if you have sensitive skin.

“Most CBD oil products use a fat-soluble carrier to increase bioavailability in sublingual applications,” he states. “Applying a sublingual topically can be as effective, but the excess oil should be removed after the skin has had an opportunity to absorb the cannabinoids.”

Start or Enrich Meditation

Some people (read: many) are guilty of not being able to fully relax in a yoga class, before they nod off to dreamland, or well, any time. Miller says a few drops of CBD oil under your tongue followed by 30 seconds of absorption and deep breathing can result in a near-instant flood of relaxation. While you should definitely check the laws in your state before you pack the drops into your yoga bag, this little addition to your flow could allow you to reach deeper — both in your body and in your mental capacity, Miller adds.

Strengthen Your Heart

Nguyen explains men especially face a range of health issues that includes high blood pressure and cholesterol, and when left untreated or ignored, they can cause potential debilitating effects. In addition to maintaining regular visits to your trusted physician for heart scans, calcium score, and CT angiograms, Nguyen says men might also see a dramatic difference in this all-too-important organ with the use of CBD hemp oil.

“CBD has receptors in all these parts of the organs, and after one to three months of use, my patients noticed that blood pressure, blood sugar, prostate, and cholesterol levels went down,” she explains. Though, sure, everyone’s experience is different and every body is unique, if you’re worried about your heart, it could be worth looking into.

Fight Stress, Anxiety, and Depression

Whether your 9-to-5 is more like a “until your eyes bleed,” or you’re a new parent, or both of the above, nearly everyone battles seasons of increased stress. Though some people are able to get through the rocky periods without the assistance of prescriptions, Nguyen says far too many people become dependent on antidepressants or other medications.

She explains when meds are used long-term, the side effects can impact every part of your life — from sexual performance to increasing your likelihood to develop other issues. As a natural alternative, Nguyen says CBD oils and products have been clinically proven to fight against mental illnesses from depression and anxiety to PTSD and so on. When implemented into your routine, you may feel more at ease, your heart rate could slow down, and your mind clearer to face whatever comes your way.

Improve Your Public Speaking

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Social Anxiety Disorder impacts an estimated 15 million adults — or nearly 9 percent of the population. In fact, Nguyen says public speaking is a grave fear of many people — even leading executives. If you want to get a step ahead in your career or finally be able to talk in front of a crowd without breaking out into a sweat, Nguyen suggest using CBD.

“Research shows that pure CBD tincture makes SAD patients more comfortable with speaking in public, even with a better reaction from their audience,” she says. It makes you more confident thanks to its effects on the limbic and paralimbic brain areas, making it unnecessary to picture everyone naked before you open up your speech.

Promote Healthy Hair

Losing your hair may be an inevitable truth for many men, but there are ways to promote collagen and elastin in your locks while you have them. Steven Looi, director of strategy and investments for White Sheep Corp, explains that when a CBD oil formula rich in amino acids is applied to your scalp, it may result in stronger, thicker hair. And it can go a step further, perhaps even protecting your color, based on certain ingredients.

“Tyrosine, one of the amino acids found in CBD oil is responsible for melanin, the absence of which can cause your hair to go gray,” he explains. “The antioxidant properties of CBD oil also help reduce environmental and other oxidative stress and damage to hair.”

Ease Stomach Ache or Digestion

The use of medical marijuana has been allowed in many states and countries far before legalizing was ever a discussion. For those in chronic pain, and more specifically, those going through chemotherapy, this drug can make it easier to manage. As Looi explains, CBD has been shown to have anti-nausea and anti-vomiting properties, helping cancer patients to rest and heal more comfortably.

If you’re suffering from a stomach ache or a digestive issue, CBD can restore your gut health and keep you from running to the bathroom over and over again. It can be so effective for those who suffer from autoimmune struggles, says Jonathan Teeters, general manager of the CBD division for Azuca, noting, “Many people with sensitive digestive tracts consume CBD daily.”

Manage Pain or Soreness

Nagging headache that won’t go away? Exhausted muscles from yesterday’s workout? Teeters says his No. 1 recommendation for managing pain so he can exercise and stay fit is none other than CBD.

“CBD is the reason I no longer take 800 to 2,400mg of Ibuprofen every day. I vape CBD or consume high-CBD flower before workouts to reduce pain and inflammation in the short term,” he explains. “This helps me work out harder and longer. Pain and stiffness post-workout is mitigated with CBD, which keeps me in the gym and on the trail.”

Add to Lube to Last Longer

Most CBD oils use coconut oil extracts or other all-natural, gentle ingredients, making it a solid alternative to lube. Though you’ll want to be mindful of any sensitivities, Teeters shares that it can reduce inflammation on sensitive tissues, you can go for longer, and have a more pleasurable experience for everyone. If you’re part of the one in three men who sometimes finishes a bit too quickly, CBD expert and author Brandon Nolte recommends allowing this all-star ingredient to get you out of your head and into the bedroom.

“I've found that many men report using CBD to help them calm down if their mind is worked up or stressed,” he says. “This helps them get out of their head and more into their body, which puts them in the mood and makes sex more enjoyable.”

Sleep Better

Allowing you to stop cycling through the day’s to-do list and to let go of any anxiety lingering in your mind, CBD can help you catch those Z’s faster and sink into slumber more deeply, according to Nolte. It’s one of his go-to tools for insomnia or sleep ailments.

“Especially if I'm working late on a project and I try to go to sleep, it’s hard to turn my brain off. That's where CBD comes in. I keep a CBD tincture by my bed, and 10 to 15 minutes after use, I can feel a calming sensation in my mind that really prepares me to sleep,” he explains. “I try to use it only as needed, but when I do use it, it works quickly and doesn't leave me feeling drowsy in the morning.”

With all the uses of CBD we know about, it only makes sense that its popularity is climbing. Remember to check your state laws and availability and to ask your doctor before making any big CBD additions to your daily routine.

Ready to start shopping for CBD oil and other supplies? Buy them at MedixCBD.com. (Use code ASKMEN at checkout to get 15 percent off sitewide.)


Azuca Puts CBD Into Sugar So You Can Put It In Coffee (or Literally Anything)

While walking the Fancy Food Show floor this week, I was curious to see how many companies would use one of the trendiest products of 2019: cannabidiol (better known as CBD). While the number was surprisingly few (no more than three or four), I did see a few companies incorporating CBD into things like tea and chocolates.

Azuca wasn’t exhibiting at the show, but the startup was certainly there to make a splash. Started two years ago by Ron Silver, a chef at NYC’s Bubby’s restaurants, the company turns CBD (and THC) into water-soluble dry flakes that can be easily incorporated into any sort of food or drink product. They do this through a process called “dehydrofractalization,” (DHF for short), which allows them to put oil-based CBD molecules into water.

“Fundamentally, our products are a technology,” Jonathan Teeters, General Manager of Azuca’s CBD Division told me. In fact, they have three patents pending on their CBD technology.

This tech gives Azuca a few benefits. First of all, it allows them to infuse CBD into a wider range of products. Traditionally, THC and CBD (which are fat-soluble molecules) had to be dissolved into oil, which limited the ways they could be consumed. By making the molecules water-soluble, they can go into pretty much any food or drink item imaginable.

Secondly, Azuca’s products take effect much more quickly than edibles of the past: usually within 15 minutes, as opposed to several hours. And lastly, Teeters told me that their products are consistent and easy to dose (each serving contains 25 milligrams of CBD).

So far, Azuca has several CBD-infused products on the market: chocolate discs, granulated sugar, and sugar and stevia syrup. The company’s decision to put CBD in sugar/sugar syrup is interesting. It makes it super easy to add a hit of CBD to any sort of baked good or beverage, without worrying about dissolving it into baking oil (which is how edibles have been traditionally made in the past).

Azuca sells their sugar products wholesale to other edibles companies and direct to consumer online, but is also working with coffee shops who offer the CBD syrup as an add-on to everything from lattes to mochas. You might wonder why people want a hit of calming cannabidiol with their morning jolt, but it’s actually quite popular — I’ve even seen it in a few coffee shops in Seattle.

The products retail for roughly $5 per serving. That’s certainly more expensive than straight-up CBD tinctures, or other chocolates on the market. But according to Teeters, “you’re paying more for taste and tech.”

With so many new competitors in the market, taste and technology are the two main ways that brands can differentiate themselves. Azuca isn’t the only company making water-soluble CBD meant to give people a high-end edible experience — far from it. Companies like Tarukino and Stillwater have also developed technology to put both THC and CBD into everything from teas to wines to chocolates.

There’s still the teeny, tiny issue that CBD isn’t approved as a food ingredient by the FDA. But that hasn’t stopped dozens and dozens of companies from producing and shipping cannabidiol-infused products around the country. Teeters says that Azuca is just trying to stay as compliant as possible, though they have clearly taken a few steps to not rock the boat: for example, their labels read “hemp extract” instead of CBD. While technically true (as long as they use hemp-derived CBD), it could also be slightly confusing for those not in the know. But it all just goes to show how tricky it is to navigate the murky waters of CBD as edibles. Eventually, Teeters guessed the FDA might label CBD a supplement and regulate it as such.

Until then, he’s pushing to get the word out about Azuca’s CBD products and make them as consistent, reliable, and accessible as possible. “If it’s not accessible, it’s easy to take away,” he told me.

So far, Azuca has raised a seed round for $1 million. They gave me a bottle of CBD-infused simple syrup to try out, which I haven’t cracked open (yet). But maybe I’ll put a few drops in my morning coffee.

Interested in the fast-growing CBD edibles market? Join us TODAY from 10:30-11:30am PST for a Slack Chat (think Slack AMA) about all things CBD. Sign up here!


Trendy hemp compound CBD set for big boost from U.S. farm bill

The status of cannabis component CBD as a trendy new superfood ingredient may be cemented this week by U.S. President Donald Trump.

The US$867 billion farm bill, headed to the president for his signature, would remove industrial hemp from a list of federally controlled substances, a major step as weed culture pushes into the U.S. mainstream. That would create a legal market for CBD that could be worth more than US$20 billion by 2022, according to research firm Brightfield Group.

“This is nothing short of seismic for the cannabis industry,” said Kristen Nichols, editor of the trade publication Hemp Industry Daily. “All the obstacles that cannabis faces stem from it being federally illegal.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, championed the hemp provision, aiming to boost farmers in his home state who are looking for another cash crop as tobacco consumption wanes. Congress passed the farm bill last week, and the president’s signature would legalize hemp-derived CBD, a chemical compound that doesn’t get you high but whose proponents say can be used for relaxation and to treat insomnia and inflammation.

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is the lesser known cousin of THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana. Found in pot and hemp, CBD is also the key ingredient in Epidiolex, a seizure medication that is the first cannabis-derived drug approved by the FDA.

Cocktails, Creams

The easing of marijuana restrictions in several states and Canada has put CBD on the map in recent months, with the suddenly buzzy ingredient, virtually unheard of until fairly recently, showing up in drinks, beauty products and tinctures. Around New York, cocktails and baked goods with CBD have been appearing on menus to draw in customers curious about cannabis.

Until now, regulations around CBD have been murky. The 2014 farm bill allowed industrial hemp production in some states. Still, hemp, which can be difficult to distinguish from marijuana, has been considered a federally controlled substance, a major obstacle for large companies seeking to use the ingredient in its products.

The formal signing of the current legislation would change that, potentially giving companies like Coca-Cola Co. a legal way to experiment with cannabis in the U.S. Next year alone, sales of hemp-derived CBD in the U.S. are expected to rise almost 10-fold to US$5.7 billion, according to Brightfield.

Coke has specifically said it’s interested in CBD as a potential ingredient for “functional wellness” drinks, a corner of the beverage industry that has drawn increased focus as consumers turn away from sugar. As it stands, hemp oil commands a premium price: The Colorado cannabis brand Toast sells a one-ounce bottle with 500 milligrams of CBD at a suggested retail price of US$100.

Still, it’s not clear how CBD’s use as an ingredient will be regulated by federal and state authorities and it could be months before details are ironed out. And while drinks and face cream with hemp-derived CBD will start hitting shelves in short order, larger public companies will most likely wait until the regulatory dust settles, Nichols said.

Latest Superfood

But that won’t mean a dearth of CBD products. There are scores of companies ready to flood the market with what’s viewed as the latest superfood, akin to kale or acai berries. Azuca, a New York-based company that makes CBD chocolate, simple syrup and sugar plans to sell its products wholesale to bars and restaurants around New York. They’re also pitching natural food stores.

The company was co-founded by Ron Silver, the owner of Bubby’s restaurants in Manhattan, where CBD drinks have been on the menu for the past few months. Kim Rael, co-founder and CEO of the company, expects the CBD market to get “very noisy” in coming months. And while it could be more than a year before there’s regulatory clarity, it’s only a matter of time before cannabis products are on the shelves of national retailers like Target Corp. and Walmart Inc., she said.

“It’s just a question of when,” Rael said.


The Cannabis Lover’s Holiday Gift Guide

Don’t know what gift to buy for the holidays? We’ve got you covered. Our gift guide covers CBD, THC, smoking accessories, skin care, storage and other unique cannabis products.

CBD

JuJu Royal CBD-Infused Rosemary Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Each bottle of JuJu Royal CBD-Infused Olive Oil contains 250 mg full-spectrum CBD. This is top of the line CBD oil that taste incredible. The fresh rosemary herbs are pressed together with hand picked olives to create this delicious tasting herb flavored oil. The oil has a very strong rosemary taste with a hint of CBD. Pour it over pasta, dip crusty french bread or drizzle onto fresh fruit.


Ardent Sweet Quartet Caramel Infusion Kit

Ardent, makers of the NOVA Decarboxylator, discovered that the NOVA can be used as an infuser, with over 90% efficiencies. They released their DIY edible kits just in time for the holidays. The Sweet Quarter Caramel Infusion Kit comes with four flavors of caramels to turn your cannabis or concentrate into delicious gourmet treats. The kit comes with everything you need for infusing edibles.


Lazarus Naturals

To start the new year right, Lazarus Naturals has conciously crafted CBD products like their delicious tasting French Vanilla High Potency Tincture and their Cedar Citrus CBD Balm. It’s all natural, vegan, third party tested and non-GMO. More importantly, their hemp-derived CBD extracts are all made in-house.


Foria Awaken-Natural Arousal Lube with CBD and Kava

This gift is perfect for women who are CBD lovers. Foria Awaken is formulated wtih broad-spectrum CBD, kava kava extract and aromatic oils. The ingredients are all natural and organic. Foria has created the first intimate massage oil and aphrodisiac for women. The Foria Awaken enhances pleasure and at the same time decreases tension, dryness and uneasiness.


The CBD Jotter by Goldleaf

This is no ordinary pocket journal from Goldleaf. The high quality CBD Jotter comes with a lot of information for the CBD patient. Inside is a dosing guide, infographics and guided entry pages. It also has a patient-focused layout where you can list down the CBD products that you have tried, the potency and what CBD has best worked for your body. Great gift for the new CBD consumer.


Colorado Bath Company’s Bath Bombs

The Colorado Bath Company has blended lavender and sweet orange into their bath bombs. These essentail oils promote deep sleep. The scent is very noticeable when you take it out of the box. There are no artificial dyes or scents and the 100 mg CBD is placed in the center of the bath bomb preserving its freshness. Give this as a gift to someone who loves to relax in baths.


Azuca CBD-Infused Simple Syrup

This is a one of a kind gift. Azuca made a fast-acting cannabis sweetener, the 2 oz. CBD-Infused Simple Syrup. In one tablespoon, you get 10 mg of CBD. It is water friendly and blends easily into both hot and cold beverages. The syrup can be used in coffee, tea, hot cocoa, cold lemonade and more. Another awesome idea is to add it to your cocktail or mocktail. Plus use it as a syrup or glaze on baked goods; drizzle on fresh fruits, pancakes and waffles or add it to smoothies, oatmeal and juices. The possibilities are endless!


CBDFive Refillable Vape Pen Kit

The CBDFive Vape Pen is designed for the CBD users. It is styled with a rainbow metallic finish. There are two refillable CBD cartridges included in the kit: .5ml for CBD oil and 1ml for both CBD Oil& CBD Wax. It is equipped with pre-heat function, 400 mAh battery and 3 heating modes (3.4V/3.6V/3.8V).


Felix and Ambrosia’s CBD-Infused Water-Based Flavored Lubricant

Banana Cream Pie, Rainbow Rider, Not a Virgin and Humpking Spice. These are a few of Felix and Ambrosia’s Sweet Love CBD lubricants. They have 5 flavors plus a seasonal one. This is a water-based formula CBD-infused lubricant. Each 2.5 oz bottle contains 40mg of active CBD along with sugar-free organic flavoring.


THC, Vapes and Accessories

Kassi – World’s First IoT Cannabis Storage Hub

Kassi is a patent-pending smart hub for your stash. Kassi’s Israeli developers won 3rd place in Canna Innovation given by Raphael Mechoulam. It’s voice-activated with Alexa or Siri and has a ton of smart features like the mobile app tracks usage and regulated humidity.  The hub can receive alerts from dispensaries and reorder meds. It also has a digital scale and an electric grinder plus a dual storage chamber.


My Bud Vase, Deceptively Clever and Stylish Bongs

My Bud Vase just won Top Bong in the 2018 Canadian Cannabis Awards. This is a great gift for the cannabis smoker. It can be displayed as a vase in the kitchen or anywhere in the house. Gift their newest Signature Collection, The Cayote or for your closest girl friends, give them the porcelain vase Friends Collection – Monica, Phoebe or Rachel.


DaVinci MIQRO Vaporizer

The MIQRO by DaVinci Vaporizer is 31% smaller than its predecessor the Da Vinci IQ. It also has an adjustable oven size so the user can choose exactly how much herbs to use under the same ideal heating conditions. The MIQRO is ultra portable and is one of the best dry herb vapes we have ever tested.


Heylo Pods for PAX Era Vape

Heylo has always been reputed to have the best tasting pure CO2 vape oils in Washington State and is founded by Lo Friesen, an awesome environmental chemist. The company has been awarded four first place awards by Terpestival, was recognized by Leafly as a one of the “People’s Favorite Concentrate Brands”, and received a 20/20 nod from the Northwest Leaf. Heylo then created about 12 high quality strains and placed them in a pod to be exclusively used for the PAX Era vaporizer. Our favorite is their high CBD strain vape pod.


Q-Cup Globe and Q-cup, Vape off the Quartz, not off the Metal!

The Q-cup Globe is for use with 510 MOD batteries. An ejector tool and a Q-cup is included. The Q-cup is an awesome delivery system for concentrates. With the Q-cup Globe device and the Q-cup in the device, you get more cleaner hits, better flavor and lesser residue left behind.


The Beboe Box – Inspired Sativa Blend Vape and Pastilles & Downtime Indica Blend Vape

This 3-piece set is the perfect gift for someone who loves THC and CBD. The gift box is luxurioiusly packaged in a rose gold design. In this Beboe box you will find Beboe Sativa Blend Cannabis Pastilles and two types of vapes: a Sativa blend vape and an Indica blend vape. All three are formulated with all-natural ingredients.


RYOT®16″ Pro-Duffle™ with SmellSafe®and Lockable Technology

RYOT has been known to make quality grinders, taster boxes and smell-proof bags. The RYOT Pro-Duffle is an awesome duffle bag. It is smell safe and traps in odors for discreet storage and transport of your herbs. The exterior fabric canvas is weatherproof. Inside, you can find modular carbon fiber paddings that traps odors in its pores.


Vibes High Fidelity Ear Plugs

This is not your traditional ear plugs folks. Vibes Hi-Fidelity Earplugs allow you to avoid being exposed to sound that is uncomfortably loud and harmful, while still being able to hear clearly and talk with people around you. Sometimes the sounds at social or live events can be so loud that it makes these events overwhelming and uncomfortable. The Vibes solves that solution. Vibes lowers the volume of your surrounding environment to a more comfortable level, while retaining sound clarity.


O2Vape FLIP® Vape Platinum Edition

This is a one of a kind patent pending vape pen and is the only one that has a built-in USB charger. It has an award-winning 510 thread wickless ceramic cartridge with round mouthpiece. The O2Vape FLIP is a quality oil vape pen and what we love most is the key fob style design making this discreet and concealable.


Kim Rael Interview: CEO of Azuca, Fast Acting and Predictable Cannabis Edibles

Kim Rael, CEO of Azuca, has an extensive background as an operating executive and venture capitalist. Follow Azuca on Twitter @Azuca_co.

Prior to her career in venture, she co-founded an advanced energy company and held numerous management positions at Intel, where she managed a $200 million capital budget, led planning for a $1 Billion expansion, and held roles in finance, operations and strategic planning.

Before joining Intel, she served as an aide in the US Senate focusing on foreign affairs and science and tech policy.

With broad experience serving on both corporate and community boards, Kim was the Founding President for a Montessori Charter School, and has been featured as New Mexico Business Weekly Power Broker and Top 10 Women of Influence.

Recognizing a gap in the cannabis industry for trustworthy and predictable edibles, Kim teamed up with Ron Silver to develop and launch Azuca.

We had the pleasure of interviewing Kim. Read on below to get to know more about her and her company.


What made you decide to get into the cannabis industry?

Kim Rael: I have had a life-long interest in nature-based wellness, though most of my prior career has been in technology and finance.  A few years ago I took a sabbatical to discern what direction to take for my “second half of life” career.

I wanted to create a path where I could leverage my business, portfolio management and startup skills but deploy them in the sector that I am most personally passionate about.  That sector is wellness.

I honestly never expected the process to lead to cannabis, but when I met my partner, Chef Ron Silver, and did my due diligence on the industry and the fast-acting edible technology that he had created, I was sold. 

What are some trends shaping the industry? Where do you think it’s going?

Kim Rael: I believe that we have only scratched the surface of the application of cannabis for wellness.  

I believe that “non-traditional” cannabis consumers will emerge as a major force in the industry, and, in particular, in the aging baby boomer demographic.  

I hear story after story of cannabis helping people avoid opiods and addictive sleep aids, for example.

What I am passionate about is making cannabis helpful, understandable, approachable, safe, fun and predictable for all generations.  

That is what we are doing at Azuca with our line of fast-acting edible products and chef-quality ingredients. 

Edibles that kick in within 15 minutes? What’s the science behind this?

Kim Rael: Azuca has developed a proprietary process to make edibles fast acting and predictable.   

Instead of using oils and fats to bind active ingredients, Azuca’s patent-pending process enables a hydrophilic, or water-friendly product.

This distinction is especially important for medicinal users, whose liver function may vary dramatically—oil-based edibles must be processed by the liver, impairing the predictability of the experience.  

Azuca’s edibles bypass that lengthy trip through the liver to take effect in a groundbreaking 2 to 15 minutes—and the experience is predictable and controllable, every time.

What is your company’s strategy?

Kim Rael: Azuca offers both CBD and THC infused products.  

Our THC products are produced through licensed partners in jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis for recreational and/or medical use.  

A core element of our strategy is to enable other edible brands to incorporate our technology into their existing product lines.

Our CBD products are launching through traditional natural food retailers, on-premise food and beverage outlets and direct to consumers on our ecommerce site.

How are you innovating?

Kim Rael: We deliver the highest quality, fastest-acting, most stable edible infused THC and CBD products in the world.  

Azuca’s infused sweeteners are also the most versatile. Because they’re water-friendly and not oil-based, they can be mixed into beverages without compromising taste and texture, and they’re free of any cannabis taste and smell.

Azuca’s syrups and sugars align with trends around elevated home-cooking and culinary creativity—they were developed to integrate easily into any consumer, culinary and commercial recipes.

We’re committed to partnering with forward-thinking brands to upgrade their products for the ultimate user experience.

Do you have any upcoming products you’d like to hint at?

Kim Rael: In addition to our traditional edibles and sweeteners, we will be launching highly innovative savory and zero sugar products in 2019.  

We are very excited about these new products. We are a culinary company in our DNA and the emerging flavor profiles in our upcoming products are unlike anything on the market today!


Thank you so much for taking the time to do the interview Kim! To know more about Kim and her company Azuca, please head on over to their website, Azuca.co.

About Azuca: Azuca is a line of fast-acting, consistent and all-natural cannabis edibles and ingredients that leverage a three-patent-pending technology from renowned NYC chef, Ron Silver.

Azuca’s breakthrough emulsification process makes cannabis molecules more water friendly, thereby increasing bioavailability and effectiveness, and minimizing wait time for a more controlled experience.

The line consists of a variety of THC-infused goodies including shortbread cookies, chocolate coins and Pâte de Fruit sold in the Massachusetts medical market, as well as CBD-infused sweeteners being sold direct to consumer and to restaurants, bars and coffee shops around NYC.

In addition to ambitious national expansion plans, the company also has plans for international expansion, beginning with partnerships in Asia.