The Week In Cannabis: Gillibrand's Legalization Plan, Analyst Ratings, South Africa's CBD Store, And Some Legal News

In another big week for cannabis, a committee of the Delaware House of Representatives passed a bill to legalize recreational marijuana; Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand unveiled a cannabis legalization plan that includes expungement and social equity measures; and South Africa got its first CBD store. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he doesn’t think there are enough votes in the state Senate to push recreational cannabis legalization forward.

On the corporate front, MedMen Enterprises Inc. (OTC: MMNFF) announced that a lawsuit filed against the company arguing CEO Adam Bierman and President Andrew Modlin made decisions in their own personal interest rather than that of shareholders has been dismissed. San Francisco-based vape maker Pax Labs announced agreements with leading cannabis companies to leverage its innovative Era device and platform. Signed companies include Aphria Inc (NYSE: APHA), Aurora Cannabis Inc (NYSE: ACB), OrganiGram Holdings Inc(NASDAQ: OGI) and Supreme Cannabis Company.

Finally, The Wall Street Journal reported Monster Beverage Corp (NASDAQ: MNST) is evaluating the cannabis beverages space, and DionyMed Brands Inc. (OTC: DYMEF) filed a lawsuit against Eaze Technologies alleging the latter had gained “an unfair competitive advantage by participating in a scheme to defraud credit card companies and financial institutions into processing cannabis transactions in violation of a host of criminal laws.” Eaze said the claims are false. We spoke with both companies.

In a sad development, Doug Greene, one of New York’s most vocal proponents of cannabis legalization, died at 52 after being fatally struck by an A train subway Tuesday. It is unclear how he found himself on the tracks.

Marijuana Stocks & ETFs

Over the last five trading days:

• The Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences Index ETF (OTC: HMLSF) (TSE:HMMJ) gained 3.3 percent.

• The ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF (NYSE: MJ) rose 3.6 percent.

• The AdvisorShares Pure Cannabis ETF (NYSE: YOLO) surged 2.2 percent.

• The SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (NYSE: SPY) closed the period up 4.6 percent.

The following are some of the top marijuana stocks — with market caps above $500 million and trading on U.S. exchanges — performed over the last five trading days:

• Acreage Holdings (OTC: ACRZF): down 1.4 percent

• Aphria Inc (NYSE: APHA): up 10.3 percent

• Aurora Cannabis Inc (NYSE: ACB): up 0.7 percent

• CannTrust Holdings Inc (NYSE: CTST): down 0.4 percent

• Canopy Growth Corp (NYSE: CGC): up 4.8 percent

• Cronos Group Inc. (NASDAQ: CRON): up 13.2 percent

• Curaleaf Holdings Inc (OTC: CURLF): down 0.65 percent

• Green Growth Brands Inc (OTC: GGBXF): down 6.9 percent

• Green Organic Dutchman Holdings Ltd (OTC: TGODF): up 3.4 percent

• Green Thumb Industries Inc (OTC: GTBIF): down 6.3 percent

• GW Pharmaceuticals PLC- ADR (NASDAQ: GWPH): down 0.9 percent

• Hexo Corp (NYSE: HEXO): up 0.2 percent

• Harvest Health & Recreation Inc (OTC: HRVSF): down 3.9 percent

• iAnthus Capital Holdings Inc (OTC: ITHUF): down 1.75 percent

• Marimed Inc (OTC: MRMD): down 2.1 percent

• MedMen Enterprises Inc. (OTC: MMNFF): up 0.5 percent

• OrganiGram Holdings Inc (NASDAQ: OGI): up 0.3 percent

• Scotts Miracle-Gro Co (NYSE: SMG): up 5 percent

• Tilray Inc (NASDAQ: TLRY): up 2.1 percent

In Other News

Pasha Brands, Canada’s largest craft cannabis brand organization, commenced trading on the CSE under the ticker symbol “CRFT”. The British Columbia-based, vertically integrated organization has raised approximately $25 million in the past two quarters.

Pasha Brands also announced it acquired medical cannabis company Medcann Health Products this week.

Neptune Wellness Solutions Inc (NASDAQ: NEPT), a Canadian company engaged in the extraction, purification and formulation of health and wellness products, has entered into a definitive agreement to provide extraction and purification services to Tilray. Full story here.

Green Thumb Industries announced that its newly acquired company Integral Associates was awarded a retail dispensary and delivery license by the city of Pasadena, California the same day that GTI closed on the acquisition. Integral Associates placed first out of 122 retail applications and is one of only six new licensees in Pasadena. Integral Associates was also recently awarded a retail license in West Hollywood.

The Integral Associates acquisition by GTI includes Essence retail stores as well as the Cannabiotix and Desert Grown Farms cultivation facilities in Nevada. The transaction was valued at approximately $290 million, which included $52 million in cash and the issuance of approximately 20.8 million Subordinate Voting Shares of GTI.

“I’m honored to join GTI’s leadership team which places a strong emphasis on people, brands and delivering superior service. We are also incredibly honored to have the opportunity to serve the people of Pasadena," Armen Yemenidjian, GTI president and founder of Integral Associates, told Benzinga.

"Our priority is to offer the very best cannabis products and customer service and to fulfill our promise as a trusted community partner. We look forward to opening the store and becoming an active member of the Pasadena community.”

Organic and natural beverages company New Age Beverages Corp (NASDAQ: NBEV) reached an agreement to acquire Brands Within Reach, a New York-based healthy products company, for an undisclosed price. Full story here.

MJ Freeway announced it has retained Cowen as a strategic and financial advisor pending the consummation of its proposed business combination with MTech.

Following the closing of the business combination, Cowen’s information and technology services investment banking team will assist with MJ Freeway’s strategy of pursuing strategic, accretive acquisition opportunities.

The cannabis industry represents a "beautiful opportunity" that even global securities services company Brink's Company (NYSE: BCO) wants a bigger share of the market, CEO Douglas Pertz told CNBC's Jim Cramer on "Mad Money.". Full story here.

MedMen announced an agreement to buy MattnJeremy Inc, LLC, also known as One Love Beach Club from the Abrams family for $13 million. Full story here.

High-profile cannabis industry investors and entrepreneurs Alain Bankier and Tahira Rehmatullah have joined the leadership team of Ceylon Solutions, a Colorado-based software development company that creates custom digital products for the cannabis industry.

Bankier has a long history as an active early stage investor in cannabis and technology companies. Rehmatullah, who also serves in senior roles for Hyper Ventures and MTech Acquisition Corp, was named one of the most powerful women in the cannabis industry by Fortune magazine and Complex.

The demand for cannabis products in the United States rose by 2.1 percent month-over-month in March, according to Anderson Economic Group's AndCan Index. U.S. legal cannabis product demand grew 19 percent over the same period last year, AEG said. Full story here.

Harvest Health & Recreation will begin selling some of their bestselling CBD product lines through a network of 10,000 convenience stores and gas stations across the country. The rollout will include Colors, CBx essentials and other Harvest-branded products.

The retail channel is expected to generate just under half — $8 to $10 billion — of a $22-billion CBD market by 2022.

The company also announced the opening of three new stores in the competitive and lucrative Florida market; the Jacksonville, North Port and Longwood dispensaries add to the operator’s footprint in state. They have two additional stores open in Orlando and Tallahassee; Florida’s license allows the building of up to 35 locations.

Private equity firm Cresco Capital Partners announced that it closed a $60-million oversubscribed cannabis fund, the CCP Fund II. Full story here.

Cannabiniers announced BASKIN Essentials, its personal care cannabis brand, under license from Ovation Science Inc. (OTC: OVATF), has signed an exclusive distribution and sales agreement with Flourish, the makers of chef-driven cannabis edibles, in an expansion to Arizona.

“We’re excited to launch BASKIN in Arizona,” said Cannabiniers CEO Michael Hayford.

“The cannabis wellness industry is still new, so we understand the importance of providing consumers with high-quality products that they can trust. Flourish holds the same values, making them the perfect local cannabis company for us to work alongside in Arizona.”

Canadian cannabis and hemp company Canopy Growth is reportedly looking to open hemp facilities across seven U.S. states within the next year. Full story here.

Azuca, an edibles brand founded by New York City-based chef Ron Silver, announced it is opening production and manufacturing facilities in Colorado Springs and Golden, Colorado. The westward expansion will streamline Azuca’s production processes for both its B2C and B2B efforts, the company said, and better position it to expand its Azuca Inside initiative.

Green Growth Brands will enter the medical marijuana market in Florida through the acquisition of Spring Oaks Greenhouses. Full story here.

NanoVibronix (NASDAQ: NAOV) announced it's developing CBD patches and cream utilizing a proprietary and nanoparticle-based infusion process. Full story here.

Medicine Man Technologies, Inc. (OTC: MDCL) announced it will acquire Colorado-based cannabis farm Los Sueños Farms, LLC and the cannabis dispensary Mesa Organics Ltd.

“The pending acquisitions of Los Sueños and Purplebee’s announced this week via binding term sheets will not only solidify Medicine Man Technologies as one of the leaders in the cannabis space, but play an integral role in the company’s mission to develop and expand further in Colorado, a state well-known for paving the way for legalized cannabis," Medicine Man co-founder and CEO Andy Williams told Benzinga.

Last week, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed HB19-1090, a law that "opened the doors to Colorado's $1.5-billion cannabis industry and enabled more investments," the CEO said.

The acquisitions come on the heels of the legislative development, Williams said.

"These advances, in addition to the pending MedPharm Holdings and Medicine Man acquisitions, as well as the closing on the first phase of an initial $14-million strategic investment from Dye Capital, make Medicine Man Technologies one of the largest cannabis cultivators in North America with the extraction capability to process the entire production.”

Origin House (OTC: ORHOF) announced that a significant percentage of over 99 percent of shareholder votes cast as of June 5 were in favor of approving a deal for Cresco Labs to acquire all shares of Origin House. June 7 was the deadline for shareholders to submit their votes.

The final tally has yet to be announced, but results were trending heavily in favor of shareholder approval: 99.54 percent of votes cast in favor of the deal, representing 42.8 percent of all eligible votes counted through June 5.

A special shareholder meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 11 to discuss the Cresco Labs-Origin House arrangement.

PharmaCielo Ltd. (OTC: PHCEF) announced it entered into an implementation agreement with Creso Pharma Ltd. (OTC: COPHF) to acquire all of Creso’s issued and outstanding shares and listed options.

The deal is for approximately A$122 million (about $85.2 million). PharmaCielo will pay 63 cents for each Creso share. Both PharmaCielo and Creso's board of directors have unanimously approved the deal. Full story here.

Nabis Holdings, a Canadian investment issuer that invests in high-quality cash flowing assets across multiple industries including the U.S. and international cannabis sector, announced it entered into an agreement to purchase 49 percent of Cannova Medical, with options to purchase the remaining stock later.

“Cannova has proven to be an innovator in the cannabis consumption space. Their line of sublingual strips are an innovative solution that consumers are looking for, especially as cannabis continues to go mainstream and people search for easy and discreet ways to consume,” said Shay Shnet, CEO and director of Nabis.

“We look forward to continuing to expand in the United States, but we can’t ignore companies from other areas of the world, such as Israel, where Cannova is based. Their unique biotechnology is going to elevate Nabis’ position as a leader in the cannabis space, and we look forward to teaming up with them.”

Cannabis brand Heavy Grass signed an exclusive licensing deal with Miramar Brands Group, Inc. to brand and expand its lifestyle products into a global retail strategy. The brand partnership will design and launch new products targeting the alternative cannabis culture. The collaborators have plans for a wide variety of branded product offerings including apparel, cosmetics and household goods including audio, food and beverages.

“Heavy Grass is a lifestyle brand that goes way beyond just what you can buy in a dispensary. As cannabis goes mainstream, you’ll see our products being integrated into all aspects of life that will serve our core demographic,” said Clay Busch, the company's vice president.

Hugs Wellness, a new CBD brand, has partnered with the nonprofit organization 10,000 Beds to donate a percentage of every sale to help 10,000 Beds provide individuals admission into treatment programs for long-term recovery, continuing its mission to promote care and self-love. “We see it as a privilege and an opportunity to give back and help those who need it. Hugs is a mission-driven brand born from our founders' own experiences, and we cannot stress enough the importance of helping others," Hugs founder Josey Orr told Benzinga.

Jean Krisle, the founder of 10,000 Beds, said the organization recognizes that everyone's path to recovery is different.

"There is no right or wrong path to a life free of substance disorder and alcohol dependency. We are excited to partner with HugsCBD to support efforts to provide another option for the treatment of opioid addiction, specifically in the detox stage of treatment and through the reduction of cravings; an option that will save lives and increase an individual's likelihood of completing treatment and developing the skills necessary for long-term recovery.”

CLS Holdings announced their operational and financial results for the month of May, showing revenue of over $1 million and a 6-percent increase in gross margin since last year. The Las Vegas dispensary Oasis achieved a record of servicing over 16,000 customers and posted a year-over-year revenue increase of 55 percent, the company said.

“We have created the foundation with our Nevada operations to utilize what we have learned across multiple states. The results we are experiencing in Nevada are a tribute to the hard working and dedicated team of people who work for this company. Our goal is to continue building revenue, expanding margin and exploiting our rapidly growing wholesale brand, City Trees," Andrew Glashow, CLS' president and COO, told Benzinga.

Seedo Corp. (OTC: SEDO), an agtech company serving the hemp and agriculture industries with what they claim is the world's first fully automated and controlled indoor growing machine, entered into a strategic partnership with the retail innovation firm OutForm.

As part of the partnership, OutForm will assist in the development of Seedo’s retail branding strategy in the U.S. and the optimization of its U.S. distribution channels and supply chain.

"We are entering a new era of home growing where demand for complete automated grow systems will only continue to increase," said Seedo CEO Zohar Levy. "The U.S. is poised to embrace this new world of agritech, and we're thrilled to partner with OutForm to increase Seedo's exposure and introduce our automated home grow device to mainstream retailers and consumers as we expand our extensive community of customers."

Strategic retail branding and distribution partners are both critical components to establishing a company’s market presence. By leveraging its preexisting relationships with the largest U.S. retailers — including Best Buy Co Inc (NYSE: BBYBed Bath & Beyond Inc (NASDAQ: BBBY), The Home Depot Inc (NYSE: HD) and many more — OutForm will introduce Seedo's home grow system to consumers across the country through an innovative approach focused on strategic branding.

Planet 13 Holdings Inc (OTC: PLNHF), the world’s largest dispensary and entertainment superstore in Las Vegas, announced the expansion to its second SuperStore location in the Los Angeles market in Santa Ana.

Cardiol Therapeutics Inc. (OTC: CRTPF) said their pharmaceutical partner and CBD manufacturer Noramco, Inc. was selected to present at the Food and Drug Administration’s Scientific Data and Information about Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-Derived Compounds, Part 15 Public Hearing.

Plus Products Inc. (OTC: PLPRF) released its unaudited 2019 first-quarter financials. Highlights include a $3.2-million revenue climb and gross margin growth of 21 percent in the first quarter 2019, compared to 8 percent one year ago.

Halo Labs Inc. (OTC: AGEEF) announced its partnership with High Tide Inc. to introduce Halo-produced products through High Tide’s extensive distribution network throughout Canada, the United States and Europe.

MOXIE's Piña Colada DART Pod was named best THC Vape Cartridge at the 2019 SoCal High Times Cannabis Cup with the support of CCELL’s DART proprietary pod system.

VEGAMOUR launched what they said is the first-ever full line of CBD products for natural hair growth. The line, formulated with full spectrum, micro-encapsulated CBD, includes a hair growth serum, eyelash growth serum, eyebrow serum, hair growth gummies with biotin and hair adaptogen supplements.

“At VEGAMOUR, our manufacturing process is unique in that we decrease the CBD molecule size by over 1,000 percent in order for the CBD particles to effectively deliver its benefits by penetrating into the upper layer of the dermis and into the hair follicle root,” said Dan Hodgdon, CEO of VEGAMOUR.

Asia is a largely untapped CBD market, an d the CBD market in China is estimated to potentially be worth up to $15 billion.

Through the acquisition of Yooya, a content-driven e-commerce platform that reshapes the way that brands connect with Chinese consumers, Regent Pacific will expand Yooga to be the first e-commerce marketing platform to focus on CBD-infused products.

Jamie Gibson, CEO of Regent Pacific, is projecting the rollout of a CBD business in Asia with a line of exceptional consumer-focused products initially in the health and wellness area, including topicals and balms, and working with the world’s largest CBD manufacturers to build out the CBD brands over time.

The acquisition attracted an experienced group of strategic investors including principals of JJR Capital and Abony Enterprises in CBD.

Leafbuyer Technologies, Inc. (OTC: LBUY) announced a non-binding letter of intent to acquire a majority stake in the Las Vegas-based trade show operation CBD.io.

The company operates a large expo in the CBD and vape industries. The acquisition would double Leafbuyer’s current revenue run rate.

The agreement additionally includes an ownership stake in an e-commerce website for wholesale and retail CBD products.

“CBD has become a pop culture phenomenon, and trade shows are a lucrative and unsaturated sector of the industry,” said Leafbuyer CEO Kurt Rossner.

“CBD.io is a profitable company and has a proven financial model that will increase Leafbuyer’s top line and be a powerful driver for earnings. The significant advantage of this acquisition is the ability for Leafbuyer to drive tremendous brand exposure to another fast-growing segment of the industry. Last year, CBD.io sold nearly 200 booths; this year we will cross-sell our platform of over 400 clients and look to double that. We will be uniquely positioned to offer a true 360 solution to customers. Our product clients can access millions of consumers through digital and in-person methods to spread brand awareness and increase profits.”

Rob Rodney Bags just hit the consumer cannabis accessories market with a line of customizable bags. As the CBD and cannabis market continues to grow and become more accessible, there is a need for a safe way to store cannabis products, said designer and dad Mark Frahm.

Analyst Ratings

Some of the top analyst ratings over the week include:

• Canaccord Genuity on Planet 13 Holdings Inc (OTC: PLNHF): Speculative Buy with CA$4 ($2.97) price target.

• Canaccord Genuity on TILT Holdings Inc (OTC: SVVTF): Speculative Buy with CA$4 ($2.97) price target.

• Canaccord Genuity on DionyMed Brands Inc (OTC: DYMEF): Speculative Buy with CA$6 ($4.46) price target.

• Bank of America Merrill Lynch on Cronos GroupBuy with $27 price target.

• Wells Fargo on Cronos GroupOutperform with $65 price target.

• Oppenheimer on Cronos GroupPerform.

• Stifel on Cronos GroupHold with CA$18 ($13.44 USD) price target.

• Stifel on Canopy GrowthBuy with CA$64 ($47.77 USD) price target.

• Bank of America on Canopy GrowthBuy with $80 price target.

• Stifel on Aurora CannabisHold with CA$10 ($7.47) price target.

• Stifel on TilrayHold with CA$37 ($27.62) price target.

More From Benzinga Cannabis

The following are some of the most interesting cannabis-related stories from this week.

Barron’s looked at the Colombian cannabis market.

Chris Dier-Scalise shared “4 Facts About Africa's Budding Cannabis Industry.

Calum Hughes wrote about where we stand on medical marijuana for military veterans.

We spoke about building a cannabis education company with Green Flower CEO Max Simon.

We also looked into a new blockchain-based Internet of Things platform aimed at increasing trust and transparency for cannabis consumers and brands.

Elixinol Participates In FDA's First CBD Hearing, Says Guidance, Clarity Will Benefit 'Good Players’

FDA Public Hearing About CBDs Prescribes Caution, Bearishness, and Deliberation.

p>Check out these and many other cannabis stories on Benzinga.com/cannabis

 

Events Calendar

June 16-18: Martha Stewart will speak at the World Cannabis Congress in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada.

Stewart is an example of big brands and high-profile personalities that are entering the cannabis space as outdated stigma gives way to mainstream growth opportunities.

“I look forward to sharing my knowledge and experience in the lifestyle space with this tailored audience,” she said.

“As I begin to collaborate on products for the CBD market, and as the demand for these types of product grows, I’m very interested in the conversations and connections at this event.”

Stewart will be joining Civilized publisher Derek Riedle and Bruce Linton, the founder, chairman and co-CEO of Canopy Growth, onstage in a fireside chat June 18 to close the conference.

The retail pharmacy chain Shoppers Drug Mart will join the event as the third keynote speaker. Ken Weisbrod, the company's vice president of pharmacy business development and initiatives, will share the stage with other high-profile speakers including Stewart and Linton as he opens the event June 17.

"Shoppers Drug Mart is a mainstream retail titan and yet another proof point as to where this industry is headed," said Civilized's Riedle.

"At last year's World Cannabis Congress, we spent a lot of time discussing where we hoped the industry would go in a post-legalization landscape, and here we are. Less than a year later, we're working with the world's top brands to bring cannabis to consumers."

June 25: MjMicro, an investor forum that seeks connects “highly qualified investors with best-in-class and emerging publicly traded cannabis companies,” will debut in New York at the Westin Grand Central. The event is set to be held four times a year, with future events scheduled for Beverly Hills, West Palm Beach and Seattle.

October 23-24: Marijuana Venture Magazine’s Retail and Dispensary (RAD) Expo, a national trade show focused on the retail cannabis industry, will return to the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. The RAD Expo will feature presentations from industry veterans to speak about successful entrepreneurship and topics including merchandising, partnership management, interior store design and retail operations.

The 2019 show will focus heavily on CBD products and CBD brands with a presence in health grocery stores, luxury retailers, pet stores and other retail categories that carry hemp-derived products.

November 19-21: The Medcann World Forum 2019 will be held in the Mediterranean Conference Centre in Valletta, Malta, which dates to the 16th century. when it was originally built as a hospital  by the order of St. John. The three-day conference will focus on six pillars: medical, business, research, legislation, regulatory and fintech.

The event will host Malta’s top policymakers, international regulatory experts and global business leaders.


AZUCA EXPANDS TO COLORADO MARKET

—Burgeoning edibles brand taps Colorado resources—

NEW YORK (June 2019)—To support its expansive hemp-derived CBD business, Azuca, the all-natural, chef-driven edibles line from acclaimed New York City chef Ron Silver, has opened processing and manufacturing facilities in Colorado Springs and Golden, CO. The move will allow Azuca to leverage Colorado’s vast resources and progressive legislation to streamline its development and distribution of high quality, hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) edibles.

Azuca will lease space from Colorado-based Summit Extraction and Centered Snacks to facilitate compliant product processing, development and manufacturing protocols. Jonathan Teeters, GM of the CBD Division for Azuca, will oversee operations at the Colorado facilities, along with recent hires Jaimie McClellan, Greg Pound and Crystal Stevens.

“Colorado has some of the most forward-thinking legislation surrounding hemp and cannabis,” said Teeters. “It created the framework for states who are looking to become more welcoming to this industry as they recognize that clear, thoughtful and comprehensive legislation is the key to creating a safe and successful hemp market, which in turn will pay dividends economically and socially. We’re looking forward to growing our footprint in Colorado as a base for national and international expansion.”

Currently sold online at azuca.shop, Azuca products are set apart by the use of the brand’s 4-patent-pending TiME™ Technology, which enrobes individual CBD molecules to make them water-soluble and thus allowing for easy uptake, beginning immediately in the mouth and avoiding the gut and liver where cannabinoids like CBD are degraded and absorption is slowed. The brand’s hemp-derived CBD product line includes of a variety of chef-quality edibles ranging from innovative ingredients like simple syrup and raw demerara sugars, to the classic infused chocolate, made with 61% Valrhona chocolate.

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Gwen Steuart at gwen@rosengrouppr.com or 646.695.7050.

###

About Azuca

Azuca is a privately held, investor-backed company which commercializes a line of edible products. Using its patent-pending TiME™ Technology, Azuca envelops cannabinoid molecules making them highly metabolizable and hydrophilic, or “water friendly.”  Azuca’s TiME™ Technology enhances bioavailability and minimizes absorption delays for a more controlled consumer experience.

Azuca’s hemp-derived CBD products are sold online at azuca.shop. Azuca’s THC products are available in Massachusetts at Mayflower Medicinals and Triple M in Plymouth and Mashpee. Follow Azuca on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn.


Everything You Should Know About CBD-Infused Meals

From California to New York, infused meals have become a mainstay of today's cannabis culture, providing a focal point around which both enthusiasts and canna-curious may gather socially and learn about the plant. While THC-infused meals happen speakeasy style in states that have yet to pass adult use regulations, CBD-infused meals are ubiquitous.

Excitement over the Farm Bill has only increased the popularity of CBD, which functions both as an antidote to THC-induced anxiety and as a non-intoxicating baby step into exploring cannabis wellness. CBD-infused dishes are accessible to almost every kind of diner.

From CBD-infused chocolates and sodas to gummies and powders, the skyrocketing demand for the cannabinoid has inspired many chefs to get creative in adapting it to their menus. To learn more about infusing CBD into our food — which, inevitably, means working in the cannabis plant's iconic flavor, thanks to a host of accompanying terpenes (aromatic compounds) — we asked a handful of cannabis entrepreneurs, creatives, and chefs to dish on what it's actually like to cook with CBD.

What’s the deal with dosage?

"Keeping control of your dose is crucial," says Ron Silver, chef/owner of Bubby’s in New York City and founder of Azuca, a CBD-infused line of syrups and edibles. “We look at CBD as medicine, and not something to be thrown around.”

Silver says this is important to remember, and that just because there isn’t a ‘high’ from CBD doesn’t mean it’s not doing something. “As a sort of guideline, 25 milligrams a day is a pretty solid dose," he says. "Not too small, and not too massive.”

But this isn’t the end-all-be-all in the dosing department, especially since we’re all composed differently. Silver calls this “the burning question” in the CBD field, stressing that anecdotal discussions may guide research around the topic. “One close family member of mine who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis found relief in taking a massive dose of CBD, 500 milligrams, and then a 25-milligram dose two times a day, with a day off a week to 'reset' his system," he told Civilized. "This is what he came up with through talking to others with similar issues and comparing notes.”

Not only does every body and its endocannabinoid system process cannabinoids differently, but there are also many different delivery methods for CBD, notes Rachel Burkons, co-founder of Altered Plates. There's also product quality to consider, she adds, as well as other cannabinoids and terpenes that may be present.

Burkons is part of the team that’s opening Chroma Lounge in West Hollywood, which will be among Los Angeles’ first cannabis consumption spaces. Working with cannabis and food, Burkons says she has yet to see an adverse reaction to "too much" CBD. "I think people should be able to move forward without fear," she says.

For those looking to collect data on their cannabis experiences, Goldleaf journalsoffer a method for everyone (daily consumers, chefs, patients, growers, and so on) to catalogue things like dosage, strain, consumption method, and how they're feeling from it all. "Everyone is different. Our metabolisms, body weights, endocannabinoid systems, and many other factors very much affect the way we handle cannabinoids of any kind," says Charles McElroy, founder of Goldleaf. "Be weary of any ‘universal’ doses.” He advocates for dosing just one item in a mixed-tolerance meal, so consumers of different experience levels can have more agency over how much they consume.

Ingredients and delivery methods

The ingredients used to infuse a dish with CBD can greatly impact how it affects the consumer. Some products are coconut oil-based, which means they're great for garnishing or dressing food, but less so for frying or roasting, as the direct heat could degrade the delicate compounds, leaving less for the body to absorb — and, not to mention, a nasty taste if you’re not careful.

Food hub Epicurious discussed this in a piece about incorporating CBD into meals. "Don't place CBD oil over direct heat," the article cautioned. "While warming the oil may increase its effectiveness, heating the oil too high can cause it to lose terpenes, volatile compounds that work in tandem with the CBD to increase the medical potency. Also, more importantly, it tastes absolutely foul.”

Without being heated or cooked, the contents of a prepared, packaged, product (should presumably) remain unchanged for the duration of the shelf life. One study on the degradation of CBD points out that when you alter cannabinoids with heat or acid, it could change the dosage, and you may no longer be able to tell how much CBD is in something.

Drinkable CBD products, depending on how they're made, may be digested as an edible or sublingual, which may make it a little easier to quantify the CBD than in tinctures and oils. “Beverages are a very good way of serving a controlled dose and being able to keep track [of how much you've consumed]," Silver says.

CBD can penetrate the skin when applied topically, and it passes through the tissues of the mouth, throat, and esophagus when vaped or placed under the tongue in tincture form.

“Sublingual administration refers to holding the drug in the mouth to allow the drug to be absorbed into the well-vascularized mucosa under the tongue," according to an article in Psychology Today about medicating with cannabinoids. "Absorption is fairly rapid and flows directly into the superior vena cava, a large vein that takes the drug first to the heart and then quickly into brain.”

When cannabinoids are eaten, not all of them make it through our system, but there is still a benefit to edible CBD: “If you are determined to eat your drug in a brownie or cookie, the blood levels of CBD, but not THC, are increased when consumed with food or just prior to eating.”

Terps are the word

Present terpenes can change the effects, as well as the taste and sensory experience of a meal. Since terpenes are the building blocks of flavor, as Burkons puts it, they can be played with as you would play with flavors in regular cooking. “I love a nice flavor-match, but I do find that contrasting terpene profiles tends to be the most dynamic," she says. "I find it is helpful to have people think about these flavors through the lens of food: sweet and spicy; citrus and herbal; acid and umami. These flavor combinations are classic across all food categories and definitely work if you're looking to pair a cannabis terpene with a specific flavor profile in a dish.”

These scent and flavor compounds are a fundamental part of the whole plant extract, so using terpene-rich products could give you the entourage effect that our bodies love, using all of cannabis’ minor chemicals to interact with your system, not just CBD on its own.

Terpenes like limonene, found in citrus, and caryophyllene, found in pepper, are among the most commonly added to food — and they’re also found in full spectrum CBD extracts. Sometimes these are added separately, since terpenes can also come from food sources like lemon peels, or a sprig of rosemary’s pungent pinene.

All of the compounds must work together, Burkons says. "Similarly, due to the entourage effect, whole-plant derived terpenes can enhance or alter both the 'high' you'll get when consuming THC—and the efficacy of any medical benefits you're seeking in a CBD product.“

The terpenes can shift the consumer's experience — even with CBD as the primary cannabinoid, says Katie Stem, CEO of Peak Extracts. “I think of terpenes like color s—  it really is better to go for complementary or similar," she told Civilized. "We have had the most success with the terpenes that taste more like food or flowers. With our chocolate, the most delicious have been the fruity, piney or spicy varieties.”

But Stem thinks each can have its home. Even the fuel-like diesel notes of some strains can meld with the right food, “They could be very successful with something like grilled or spicy foods, that have bold, savory flavors,” she says.

Stem described how terpenes come into play in Peak’s high-CBD, low-THC products, and being in a legal state, they’re able to manufacture cannabis-derived CBD (as opposed to hemp-derived). “There’s one that’s derived from indica that’s high in myrcene and geranyl acetate that I use in the evening or for relaxation, and the other is sativa derived and higher in things like pinene," she says. "They taste and feel different, even though none of them are intoxicating in the typical sense of the word.”

Right now terpenes are so new to the mainstream consumer that it's unlikely that they’ll be the chief focus of cannabis food for the time being, though some like those behind Prank Bar in Los Angeles are beginning to experiment with these flavors.

"The terpenes are what give THC and CBD nuance," says Stem. "They’re not just flavors, they change the way the cannabinoids interact with your body, right down to the receptors.”

If you want to experiment with CBD and terpenes, seek out full spectrum extracts over isolate, which is just the CBD compound without the other plant constituents. Single strain options are available in adult use states, like what Peak Extracts offers, while the prohibition holdouts will see more hemp products, like Azuca CBD Simple Syrup.


No One’s Really Sure How to Regulate This Hemp Food Craze

Anna Buck, a barista, holds a cup of CBD-infused cold brew at Blue Sparrow Coffee in Denver. Federal regulators say businesses that add cannabidiol to food are essentially adding prescription drugs into the food supply.

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. — At Joshua Hudson’s smoothie shop, a bohemian outpost called Twisted Smoothie in a small strip mall here, customers can add a 15 mg or 30 mg shot of cannabidiol, or CBD, to their blended drinks for a few extra dollars.

They also can get a mini-lecture from Hudson on the virtues of the cannabis extract, found in both hemp and marijuana, which he and other fans claim can ease a range of health problems without making users high.

“It makes everybody better,” said Hudson from behind the counter. He takes CBD before important meetings and first dates to calm his nerves, he said. “I tell people, ‘CBD — it’s a natural Tylenol and Xanax mixed together.’”

Despite limited research on the compound’s health benefits, hemp CBD has become a nationwide health food craze. Stressed-out people flock to cafes and restaurants that sell CBD cocktails and cookies, doughnuts and dog treats. Martha Stewart is advising a cannabis company on a line of CBD products for humans and pets.

Congress recently primed the market for more growth when it legalized hemp farming and sales nationwide.

A rack of doughnuts for sale, including a sold-out tray for CBD doughnuts, at Glazed & Confuzed in Aurora, Colorado. Restaurants, cafes and food manufacturers nationwide are cashing in on the cannabidiol food trend.

But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says businesses such as Hudson’s cafe are unlawfully introducing drugs into the food supply.

The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, first passed in 1938, makes it illegal to sell an active ingredient either in dietary supplements or in foods that will be sold across state lines. The FDA has approved a CBD-based drug, Epidiolex, for treating epileptic seizures and is evaluating other drugs that use the compound as an active ingredient.

Nonetheless, the FDA’s outgoing commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, last month told Congress that the agency might eventually allow sales of foods infused by diluted forms of the compound.

The solution could be a long time coming. “This is not a straightforward process,” Gottlieb told a House Appropriations subcommittee. The FDA will start holding public hearings about CBD in April.

Meanwhile, state and city lawmakers are making their own rules. A 2018 Colorado law contradicts federal rules, saying all parts of hemp plants can be added to food for sale. Regulators in California, Maine and New York City have sided with the FDA and banned adding CBD to food.

Many states don’t allow hemp CBD to be sold to the public at all, whether as an oil, pills or mixed into smoothies. Ohio’s medical cannabis law, for instance, includes hemp-derived CBD in its definition of marijuana, which means it can only be bought with a doctor’s permission.

Hemp industry lobbyists are pushing lawmakers in more than a dozen states to approve bills that would expand hemp farming and access to CBD products. And Gottlieb’s public statements have given many business owners confidence that the federal government — and states — eventually will allow CBD-infused food.

“I think the FDA has — I think they have every intention of embracing the industry,” said Andrew Aamot, president and CEO of Sträva Craft Coffee, a Denver-based coffee roaster that sells CBD-infused beans. “But it’s just gone so far so fast that they’re trying to catch up.”

‘Adding CBD to Everything’

When Hudson began offering CBD foods here in Wheat Ridge in 2016, he had to explain to almost every customer that CBD, unlike the better-known cannabis compound tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is not psychoactive.

He’s had to do less explaining recently, he said, as the extract has become more popular. “People are adding CBD to everything.”

The Hemp Business Journal, an online publication that tracks the U.S. hemp industry, estimates that the market for hemp CBD products will grow from $390 million in 2018 to $1.3 billion by 2022.

A growing share of hemp CBD harvests is ending up in food, said Jonathan Miller, general counsel for the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, a Lexington, Kentucky-based coalition of hemp companies. “Right now, it’s definitely the hottest and likely the most popular use of hemp extracts.”

Hemp oil’s grassy flavor is something of an acquired taste. But food manufacturers and chefs have found ways to make it more palatable. The company that supplies Hudson’s shop with CBD dissolves the extract into flavorless oil akin to coconut oil, for instance. “I love the flavor, don’t get me wrong,” he said of hemp oil, “but 99 percent of people don’t.”

Offering CBD has been good for Hudson’s Twisted Smoothie Co. Customers who add a $5 serving of the compound to their drinks can almost double the cost of their order.

At Blue Sparrow Coffee in Denver’s hip RiNo neighborhood, baristas serve up nitro cold brew coffee made from CBD-infused beans. It tastes like, well, coffee. Anna Buck, a barista, said the brew is popular with customers who get jittery after drinking caffeine. “It’s a good way to get over the over-caffeinated buzz that coffee can give you.”

The beans at Blue Sparrow are roasted by Sträva in Denver. In recent years, CBD beans have become the lion’s share of Sträva’s business, owner Aamot said. “It’s where the growth is happening; it’s where the interest and excitement comes from.”

Sträva’s biggest customers aren’t hipsters, Aamot said — they’re older coffee drinkers who find the CBD version eases their aches and pains. He sometimes gets thank-you notes from people with disabilities, he said.

“Having a great cup of coffee that they can make fresh in the morning and that helps them get up and get about is really something astonishing,” he said.

Yet CBD’s health benefits remain unclear. Studies have shown CBD to be effective as an epilepsy drug, and clinical trials in the United States are exploring whether the extract could help treat anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, Parkinson’s disease tremors and chronic pain. But scientists generally say more research is needed.

And some products aren’t all they seem. A 2017 University of Pennsylvania study found that nearly 70 percent of CBD products sold online either contain more or less of the compound than their labels say. The FDA has sent companies numerous warning letters for making health claims without federal approval, such as that CBD can treat cancer.

Legal Quandaries

Companies that put CBD in food and drink also are operating in a legal gray area.

Businesses may be willing to sell CBD despite the legal risk because the 2018 farm bill made it clear hemp isn’t marijuana, said Daniel Shortt, a Seattle-based attorney at Harris Bricken who specializes in cannabis law.

“The stakes are not as high now,” he said, as there’s less risk of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration getting involved.

Colorado regulators decided they had the authority to allow CBD-infused food when the 2014 farm bill let states set up hemp research programs, said Jeff Lawrence, a division director at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The FDA hasn’t cracked down on companies for adding the cannabis compound to food, Lawrence added. “While they say it’s not allowed, they haven’t taken action.”

Asked if the FDA has pursued any enforcement actions against CBD food products, agency press officer Michael Felberbaum declined to comment in detail, but provided an email with a hyperlink to warning letters the agency has sent to companies for marketing CBD products as health treatments without federal approval.

Colorado companies that make hemp ingredients must get a food manufacturing license from the state and run tests to make sure they don’t exceed legal THC limits.

Other states have banned CBD food products, citing the FDA’s position.

California public health regulators published guidelines last summer that said the state won’t consider CBD to be an approved food additive or dietary supplement until federal or state officials say otherwise. State lawmakers are considering a bill that would explicitly allow CBD-infused food.

In New York, state agriculture regulators allow businesses to sell CBD as a dietary supplement — which means products must meet certain manufacturing standards — but ban using it in food.

The New York City health department last month announced that it was prohibiting bars and restaurants from serving CBD-infused food and would begin fining establishments for doing so this fall.

“We were really frustrated,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York Hospitality Alliance. His organization, which advocates for hotels, restaurants and other businesses, had been asking the agency for guidance on CBD but never expected an embargo and fines, he said.

Businesses are preparing to end sales of a popular product. “We had been serving CBD-infused coffee and lemonades and teas and cocktails, and it was very much embraced by our customers,” said Ron Silver, founder and owner of Bubby’s, a brunch spot with two locations in the city.

In Texas, it’s illegal to sell CBD over the counter, though many businesses do it anyway, said Shannon Edmonds, director of governmental relations for the Texas District & County Attorneys Association. Under a 2015 state law, low-THC, high-CBD cannabis — including hemp — can be sold only to epilepsy patients.

But misinformation is widespread, Edmonds said. “Here at the state D.A.’s association, I get spam emails trying to sell me CBD oil and telling me it’s legal, when I know that it’s not. So I can see how people who maybe don’t do their research could be confused.”

The legislature is considering at least eight hemp bills this session, including several that would allow the sale of CBD-infused food, drink and cosmetics.

Some state leaders worry CBD might harm consumers. Alabama regulators have warned that some companies are selling synthetic CBD, a substance that can be poisonous and sickened 52 people in Utah a few years ago.

“Products labeled as CBD oil and/or other CBD-related products might contain any number of substances,” Alabama’s state health officer, Scott Harris, said in a statement last month. “There is no assurance they are safe to consume.”

Miller, of the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, said he’s confident that state and federal law will come to embrace CBD. “The good thing is, we know we’re going to win — that CBD is too big to fail,” he said, adding that the FDA clearly wants to find a solution. “It’s just that while we’re in this waiting period, it’s a source of stress.”


Cannabis Drinks Confront a Serious Buzz Kill—They Taste Terrible

Cannabis drinks are hitting the global market, promising anxiety reduction, pain relief and better sleep. One thing none of them tout is taste.

Drink up

“Like a barnyard,” Ron Silver, owner of Bubby’s restaurant in New York, says of the cannabis oil used to make weed-infused drinks.

The self-described cannabis advocate says he started cooking with hemp oil about five years ago and was initially dismayed by the results. “The oil tastes terrible, and it floats,” he said. “It’s very grassy and very funky.”

He began tinkering with ways to reduce the intensity of the flavor and is confident enough in the results that he recently launched Azuca, a company that sells cannabis-infused sweeteners.

Higher Education

When cannabis drinks are ingested in their natural fat-soluble form, it can take an hour or more for someone to feel the effect.

When consuming a cannabis beverage How long it takes* Peak blood levels Cannabis beverage consumed When effects are felt most

1. The beverage containing THC travels to the stomach, where about 90% is absorbed.

3. Blood carries the carboxy-THC to the brain.

Vodka
Beer
Wine
45 min.
First effects
1 hour

2. The THC passes to the liver, where enzymes convert it to hydroxy-THC and then carboxy-THC.

2 to 2.5 hours Peak blood levels 2 hours Cannabis takes longer than alcohol to reach its peak

When consuming a cannabis beverage How long it takes* 3. Blood carries the carboxy-THC to the brain. Peak blood levels 1. The beverage containing THC travels to the stomach, where about 90% is absorbed. Cannabis beverage consumed Effects are felt most. First effects 1 hour 2. The THC passes to the liver, where enzymes convert it to hydroxy-THC and then carboxy-THC.

2 hours 2 to 2.5 hours Peak blood levels Cannabis takes longer to reach peak


3. Blood carries the carboxy-THC to the brain.

How long it takes*
Peak blood levels
Cannabis beverage consumed

When effects are felt most

When consuming a cannabis beverage

Vodka

1. The beverage containing THC travels to the stomach, where about 90% is absorbed.

Beer
Wine
45 min.
First effects
1 hour

2. The THC passes to the liver, where enzymes convert it to hydroxy-THC and then carboxy-THC.

2 to 2.5 hours
Peak blood levels
2 hours

Cannabis takes longer than alcohol to reach its peak

When consuming a cannabis beverage

1. The beverage containing THC travels to the stomach, where about 90% is absorbed.

3. Blood carries the carboxy-THC to the brain.

2. The THC passes to the liver, where enzymes convert it to hydroxy-THC and then carboxy-THC.

How long to reach peak effect*

0
2 hours
1 hour
Vodka
Beer
Cannabis beverage
Wine

*For alcohol, the subjects were men consuming 0.5 gram of alcohol to each kilogram of body weight over 20 min.

Sources: Trait Biosciences (THC effects); ’Absorption and Peak Blood Alcohol Concentration After Drinking Beer, Wine, or Spirits ,‘ Mack C. Mitchell, Jr., Erin L. Teigen, and Vijay A. Ramchandani (peak levels of alcohol)

With recreational marijuana now legal in 10 states and in Canada, though still banned under U.S. federal law, a host of companies including the world’s biggest brewers are vying for a piece of a budding market for cannabis drinks. Some are experimenting with products that produce a high, others with beverages that stop short.

It turns out the oily cannabis extracts don’t mix with water, so getting the proper blend with each sip requires frequent shaking. And because of the way the body processes the compounds, it takes too long for the drinker to feel the effects. Then there’s the taste, which has been compared to dish soap and urine.

Ron Silver launched Azuca to sell cannabis-infused sweeteners. PHOTO: TODD IRWIN

In their natural form, cannabis compounds known as cannabinoids are oils that separate from water-based liquids. They include the high-inducing compound known as tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and the nonintoxicating one known as cannabidiol, or CBD, which has been touted as a treatment for afflictions including muscle pain, nicotine addiction and insomnia.

Once consumed, the compounds must be processed by the liver before they can have any effect, so it can take an hour or more for the cannabis to work. If the compounds were water-soluble, they would be absorbed and enter the bloodstream faster.

Ontario-based marijuana grower Canopy Growth Corp. set out four years ago to make a clear, mildly intoxicating, no-calorie beverage that would take about 12 minutes to affect the body—roughly the same as a glass of wine, said the company’s chairman and co-CEO, Bruce Linton.


Bruce Linton is co-CEO of Ontario-based marijuana grower Canopy Growth, which set out to make a clear, mildly intoxicating, no-calorie beverage that would take about 12 minutes to affect the body. PHOTO: CHRIS ROUSSAKIS/BLOOMBERG NEWS

When Canopy’s researchers looked at products already on the market, they discovered many were far from ideal. Many drinks contained 10 milligrams or more of THC—double the maximum dose Canopy wanted to use. Also, the drinks took half an hour or more to take effect, came in unappetizing colors such as bright green and were too sugary, said Mr. Linton.

“The people with the most money want the least calories,” said Mr. Linton.

To address the various shortcomings, Canopy and others have focused on solving a familiar chemistry problem: how to mix oil and water. Trait Biosciences Inc., a Vancouver-based company, has developed a way to mix cannabis compounds into beverages so they don’t separate.

“It’s not that difficult to make salad dressing,” said Ronan Levy, chief strategy officer. “But is that something you want to consume as a beverage?”

Alkaline Water Co. , of Scottsdale, Ariz., adopted a soaking and straining technique that separates water-soluble CBD compounds from the plant. Alkaline CEO Ricky Wright said the technique tones down the bitterness.

Unfortunately, the process the company uses to mix the cannabinoids with water creates a drink that has the murkiness of tea, making it more difficult to sell as water. Alkaline’s solution is to use cans or opaque bottles.

Others are using a “nano-emulsion” process that breaks the CBD and THC compounds into tiny particles, then mixes them in water-based liquids using other chemicals known as surfactants.

A lab at Trait Biosciences, which has developed a way to mix cannabis compounds into beverages so they don’t separate. PHOTO: KIMBERLY HARRISON/TRAIT BIOSCIENCES

The downside: Those chemicals taste soapy and “suspicious,” said Alexey Peshkovsky, president of Industrial Sonomechanics LLC, a New York-based company that sells technology to companies looking to mix cannabis drinks. “It doesn’t feel natural.”

In an effort to improve the taste, researchers at Trait Bioscience’s lab use an objective ratings system, according to Jennifer Stamps, a clinical and sensory neuroscientist there.

Ms. Stamps likens the experience of consuming a cannabis beverage to drinking “oily grass” because of the film that lingers on the mouth. She says panels of tasters have helped the company identify flavors and scents they want to keep and promote in cannabis extracts, such as blueberry, while eliminating less-pleasant ones, such as dirty socks.

The world’s biggest makers of intoxicating beverages are throwing their weight behind the task of making cannabis drinks drinkable. Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, Molson Coors Brewing Co. and Corona maker Constellation Brands Inc. are forming partnerships with Canadian marijuana companies as they begin to develop cannabis drinks.

Three nonintoxicating cannabis beverages that are on store shelves in New York. PHOTO: ALLISON PASEK/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Bill Newlands, chief executive of Constellation, which owns nearly 40% of Canopy, said the global marijuana market could eventually top today’s $100 billion annual U.S. market for beer. They could be sold as intoxicating alternatives to beer or liquor, or a nonintoxicating health drink akin to a herbal tea, coconut water or kombucha.

Imade Borha, a freelance writer based in San Francisco, said she takes a cannabinoid tincture to treat her depression. She extols the reduced anxiety, but not the flavor. “It is tangy and creamy and leaves a gross aftertaste,” she said.

Truss, a joint venture between Molson Coors and Hexo Corp. , of Gatineau, Quebec , is looking to create water drinks, teas, energy drinks and sports recovery drinks with cannabis extracts, said Chief Executive Brett Vye.

The company wants to strip them of flavors and odors that Mr. Vye likened to the lingering reek of bad marijuana on a city sidewalk.

Still, Mr. Vye said, the taste of cannabis itself, with its dominant notes of lemon and pine, should be embraced.

“If you take a great whiskey,” he said, “it has an acquired taste that you get used to.”


Guide to Choosing the Right Edible When Buying Online

Buying an edible online can be difficult. Unless you have prior experience with the product, you are operating a rather high level of uncertainty when making your purchase. Aside from reviews, you’re largely left with going off your gut assumption.

In fairness, the same can be said about many dispensary experiences as well. While you may come across an edible as an add-on, you’re otherwise guessing on how good the product will actually be.

That said, there are tell-tale signs that you can use online and in the store to determine which edible is the right to buy for you. Here are some of the key factors to consider when buying the right edible online or in a dispensary.

Quality of Packaging

Packaging is a massive component of cannabis products. Most states require strict guidelines to ensure that products are resealable and safe from children. While many products meet and exceed these standards, online purchases can be hit or miss at times. Unfortunately, customers don’t have the advantage of an in-store experience to find out before purchasing physically.

That said, consumers can look at the product online to get an idea for a quality product and its package. Each item should come in a resealable, child-proof box or packaging. Additionally, it should be appealing. While you shouldn’t judge the book by its cover, we have to admit that the cover helps get us looking at the book if we aren’t sure of what we want. A visible logo and simple packaging should be the prelude to an amazing edible experience that awaits inside.

Or, as Dr. John Oram of the award-winning chocolate edibles, NUG (no relation) explains, “ I need to be drawn into the product before I buy it. After purchase, I expect the edible product to be delicious and have no cannabis flavor whatsoever.” He added, “I have the same standards for cannabis edibles as I do for non-cannabis edibles. I need to enjoy eating it. Otherwise, why am I eating it?”

Comprehensive Labeling Info

Labeling is another component of the package a consumer needs to look out for. In short, make sure the product you buy is full of information.

Is it clear what the item is? How about the company that’s making it? Going beyond the bare necessities for compliance, does the item list its strain information, cannabinoid profile, farm source or other key information? If it doesn’t consider another option.

Jonathan Teeters, General Manager of the CBD Division for edible brand Azuca, wants to see products for clear selling points that buyers want to know. “I like to look for obvious callouts on the things that indicate they are positioning themselves for mainstream retail and customers: emblems and logos for gluten-free, kosher, organic, fair trade, GMP compliant, etc.”

Ease of Use and Versatility

The days of DIY edibles and product uncertainty need to be over. By now, dosing should be fool-proof with edibles. We are dealing with sophisticated brands operating like any other major producer in the market. If your product gives you any sort of uncertainty around dosing, look elsewhere.

Don’t even settle for an edible that is somewhat hard to dose. Furthermore, don’t settle for anything other than pre-divided pieces or edibles that are accurately dosed and/or listed on its measuring chart.

Another point worth considering is the product’s versatility. Can it be easily added to other items? Does it allow for consumers to be creative with its consumption? If so, then it could be one of the better edibles to consider.

Portability and Discretion

Not many consumers want to show off that they’re consuming cannabis. The last thing they want to do is to draw attention to themselves with edibles that are overt and hard to dispense. These lower quality items tend to be better suited for the home. Slightly improved products are portable. However, good luck taking it out in public for more than a few minutes without someone catching on.

A high-quality edible will be discreet and easy for communal use. Products made with professional-grade packaging and labeling helps keep consumption inconspicuous. As does easy to portion and dispense microdosed products. Combining these features will leave just about anyone assuming you are sharing a piece of candy with a friend.

Gourmet Taste

Remember, we’re talking about edibles here. A product may be checking off all the right boxes until it touches your taste buds. If that’s the case, then it’s going to be a hard and justified pass on that one. Edibles should be delicious and resemble your favorite gourmet snacks made with rich, complex flavors. These are snacks that don’t taste like flower and instead remind you of your favorite cannabis-free snacks.

If you can’t try one before you buy, get reviews up front. Or, sample a friend’s edibles if they’re up for sharing. Otherwise, you’re paying for a blind taste test.

Tolerable, Even Pleasant Texture

There’s always that one candy or snack that you love but hate to the mess that comes with it. For me, as a kid, it was those push-up ice cream pops. They tasted delicious but left my hand and arm covered in sticky ice cream. But hey, that’s being 16, am I right?

While you won’t be able to feel the product, try to get reviews or watch sample videos describing how the edible handles. Is it hard to ingest, or make a mess on your hands or the floor? How’s it feel when chewing?

Overall, you want an edible that feels good on your tongue and won’t have half of its getting stuck on your fingers or in the carpet. Easy to handle should be the name of the game.

A Consistent Experience

Much like its taste, an edible’s effectiveness can crush any promising edible that fails to live up to its effects. The edible should provide consumers with the measured effect that is stated on the package. It should be effective and deliver no adverse effects when consumed.

Once proven to be effective, the edible should be consistent. Regardless of what piece off of which bar is eaten, you should know how this piece affects your body. If there is any guesswork involved, it may be time to switch to a new item.

One way to ensure that a product is effective and consistent is to look for lab tests. Companies should offer these results on their website or at the request of a consumer. As Dr. Oram explains, “I expect the product to be fully lab tested for potency and safety. I expect to see a statement or label from the lab indicating the test results and the date of testing. I expect the test results to be close to the label claims and I expect the date of testing to be relatively recent, within the last few months.”

A Price That Matches Quality

One final make or break component is going to be the price. With some edibles costing exorbitant sums of money, not every item fits into a consumer’s budget. As such, find an edible that fits your budget while having a reputation as a consistent, flavorful and potent. You want bang for your buck. Make sure the two align.


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.