Keep Calm and Live in New York City: The Promise of CBD, the Cannabis Chemical That Won’t Get You High

Cannabidiol, a nonpsychoactive chemical found in the marijuana and hemp plants, has become the latest ingredient to invade New York’s wellness space.

One morning, about a month ago, I walked out of my Brooklyn apartment on a quick mission to buy shampoo and ended up having six drops of CBD, the cannabis-based elixir, administered beneath my tongue by a Coloradan named Bodē. Such things are liable to happen in New York City these days. Bodē was in Zoë’s Beauty Products, my local cosmetics store in Greenpoint, talking up a line of CBD tinctures to the women behind the counter. It was obvious from his laid-back vibe, and his R.E.I.-inspired look, that he was not from the area. I might have ignored his pitch, and gone about my business browsing aisles of thirty-dollar conditioner and lilac hand creams, except that CBD—also known as cannabidiol, a nonpsychoactive chemical, found in marijuana and hemp plants, that has become the latest trendy ingredient among the wellness crowd—had been pursuing me around the city like the monster from “It Follows.”

It started earlier this year, when an acquaintance mentioned that she uses CBD to sleep. “It doesn’t get you high, it just chills you out,” she said. Later, I attended a crowded CBD yoga workshop, where an instructor named Brianna (who is now a field rep for a CBD-oil brand called Prime My Body) had us all ingest a dropperful of green goo from a communal bottle before settling into a series of restorative poses. After the class, one man proclaimed, to no one in particular, “I was so relaxed, I might have stopped breathing for a few minutes.” Then three coffee shops down the block from where I live started offering CBD-infused coffee. My local pharmacy hung a sign in the window proclaiming “Yes, We Have CBD!,” and 3 Roots, a juice bar in the neighborhood, put out a sandwich board with a laundry list of alleged CBD benefits scrawled in pink neon marker: “Anti-inflammatory, neuro-protective, anti-spasmodic, anti-depressive, anti-psychotic, anti-tumoral, anti-anxiety, antioxidant, mood-boosting.”

So I approached Bodē, who told me that his line of products, Bodē Wellness, which he makes in a tiny town near Telluride, includes two strengths of concentrated oil and two body balms—one unscented and one lemongrass, “for the ladies.” All are derived from industrial hemp, which contains almost no THC, making it legal to sell across state lines (though the legality of hemp is still somewhat murky). I told him that I had tried CBD in coffee, but that I hadn’t been able to feel its effects. He suggested that I try around 10mg of his strongest tincture, and that I hold the oil under my tongue for a minute before swallowing, to encourage “total absorption.” Then he offered to squeeze a dropperful into my mouth, right in the middle of the store. The oil was the brownish color of a stagnant pond, and tasted like old bong water with a hint of lemon. After ingesting it—perhaps, I will admit, because I really wanted to believe—I thought I felt something, a creeping sensation of serenity. I walked over to the East River and sat on a bench facing the water for almost an hour, feeling tranquil and unruffled, as if my nerves had been soaked in chamomile tea.

Later, in a phone call (which we scheduled around his farm’s “siesta schedule;” he returns to the fields at 4:21 p.m., “CBD Hemp time”), Bodē told me that his given name is Eric. He’d gotten into CBD after a girlfriend who was “working in the marijuana industry but really wanted to be a hempster” started dragging him along to hemp conferences. He had been working for more than a decade in natural foods, and had recently exited a marriage; he decided it was time for a change of scene, and a change of name. “I wanted my new name to feel like the tree of life, Bodhi, but also have this flair of body health and wellness,” he said. “And then I had seen someone else put the macron over a vowel in their name, so that’s how that happened.” After successfully peddling his wares to the beauty store, he told me, he’d continued through Brooklyn, like a hippie Harold Hill. The health-food devotees at the Park Slope Food Co-op, he said, had also agreed to carry Bodē Wellness. “They have seventeen thousand members,” he told me. “That’s more people than the town next to me in Colorado.”

Like many New Yorkers, I tend to be deeply wary of the nouveau-wellness movement that has crept into the city from L.A., with its Goopian buzzwords and mushroom tonics and colloidal silver—the idea that you can shop your way to an internal glow. New York’s CBD craze has already reached Dadaesque levels of consumerism—hundred-dollar tinctures to treat anxiety in pet cats and dogsCBD-laced room service at the NoMad location of the James hotel, in Manhattan. But CBD, with its potential to unclench tense muscles and pacify anxious thoughts, also promises to deliver something that many New Yorkers desperately need. Some of us will try anything that promises to soften the city’s edge, especially if it doesn’t require a prescription. Verena von Pfetten, a co-editor of the New York-based marijuana life-style magazine Gossamer,told me that her personal CBD regimen includes five to fifteen milligrams of tincture nightly, with an occasional extra daytime dose during mentally taxing periods. “With it, I can have an even amount of sleep, and avoid significant periods of stress,” she said. “This is about consistently keeping your body at a regular equilibrium.”

CBD also provides New Yorkers an alluring first whiff of mainstream cannabis culture at a time when the state’s leaders, having lagged behind other East Coast states in legalizing marijuana, seem to finally, maybe be coming around. (Mayor Bill De Blasio recently ordered the N.Y.P.D. to issue summonses instead of arresting people for smoking weed; Cynthia Nixon, in her campaign to challenge Andrew Cuomo for governor, has been outspoken about how marijuana’s criminalization disproportionately affects people of color.) Even if New Yorkers can’t yet enjoy carefully dosed artisanal weed gummies and attend multi-course marijuana dinners (at least not many), we can perhaps, with glugs of CBD in our matcha shakes, regulate and optimize our moods in the way we imagine West Coasters are doing every day. Better still, hemp-derived CBD, absent weed’s psychoactive effects, is palatable to the high-achieving New Yorker who still thinks of marijuana as a stoner’s drug, or at least a threat to productivity—you can swill a little at your local coffee shop in the morning, alongside your fellow-commuters, and still put in a ten-hour workday.

It’s worth noting, too, that many doctors believe that CBD has genuine medicinal value. Just last month, the F.D.A. approved a CBD-based drug for the treatment of Dravet syndrome, a childhood epilepsy disorder. I spoke to Esther Blessing, a psychiatry professor at N.Y.U., who believes that cannabidiol “is unprecedented in the field of neuropsychiatry” because it appears to have the potential to treat a wide variety of disorders—its best-documented effect is its ability to increase levels of anandamide, a neurotransmitter that counteracts stress. But she says that the research is still preliminary, and the unregulated market for CBD means that consumers are left to sort out the hemp oil from the snake oil. Yasmin Hurd, a doctor at Mount Sinai who uses four-hundred- to eight-hundred-milligram doses to study CBD’s benefit in opioid-addiction treatment, told me that hoping for therapeutic effects from a dosage as low as what’s found in commercial products like CBD coffees, which tend to contain only around twenty-five milligrams, is “ridiculous.” Joshua Kaplan, a neuroscientist whose upcoming research on CBD’s effects on epilepsy, anxiety, and autism will involve “vaping with mice”—said that the research he’s seen indicates that taking small doses of five to twenty-five milligrams multiple times a day could, “in theory,” help reduce anxiety levels over time. “Does one dose of twenty-five-milligram CBD do much of anything for an adult with anxiety?” he said. “The data don’t support it.”

The practice of small, daily CBD dosing is what Ron Silver, the owner of Bubby’s, a comfort-food restaurant with two outposts in Manhattan, tells me he wants to popularize among New Yorkers. Silver recently started offering a CBD-infused sugar called Azuca on Bubby’s coffee menu. I sat with him recently on the patio of the restaurant’s West Village location, which had started to fill with overheated tourists who had spilled off of the High Line, looking to recharge with twenty-one-dollar banana nut pancakes. We sipped on ten-dollar Azuca-sweetened iced coffees, served in tall glasses with green-and-white swizzle straws. (The restaurant also serves Azuca pink lemonade, Azuca iced tea, and, for three dollars more, Azuca watermelon lemonade.) Each beverage, Silver told me, contains only around twenty-five milligrams of CBD, but he believes that drinking one a day can have profound anti-inflammatory and stress-relieving effects over time. “I introduced it here, because right now if someone wants a CBD coffee at Starbucks they can’t get one,” he said. “But they should serve them, and one day they will.”

Silver, a native of Utah, has been in New York for decades, but he has retained a vaguely Lebowskian air from years spent on the West Coast. He started developing Azuca five years ago, when he was looking to get further into the “cannabis space” and wanted to make a product that he could actually sell at Bubby’s, which he considers to be a kind of live-beta testing ground. (He is also developing a line of THC-based edibles based in Massachusetts.) He told the newspaper amNewYork that CBD was “the penicillin of the 21st century.” When I asked him if he meant that as cheeky hyperbole—penicillin, after all, has saved millions of lives—he said that he stands by the statement. “There’s two aspects to the whole CBD thing,” he said. “One is that it is trendy and could easily fall into the same trend as turmeric or coconut oil. The other, though, is that it actually works.”

Not long ago, I purchased a small bottle of “full spectrum hemp extract” from Bluebird Botanicals, another Colorado-based company, which is sold at a local drugstore. It cost twenty-five dollars and contained two hundred and fifty milligrams of CBD. If you consider this ten doses of twenty-five milligrams at $2.50 each, it sounds like a pretty good deal for an anti-anxiety supplement. It’s less than a latte; it’s cheaper than therapy. But investing in a multiple-times-a-day habit seems like a lot to wager on a product that is still so little understood. I kept the bottle in the fridge (apparently this keeps the oil fresh, though I do it because it dulls the taste) and used it only sporadically, which likely defeats the point. I took an emergency dose when I was in the throes of a migraine; I also took two extra-strength Tylenol and—why not—rubbed some eucalyptus essential oil on my temples. The next morning, I went into Littleneck Outpost, another coffee shop in my neighborhood. They had just put up a new sign next to the register advertising CBD coffee and five-hundred-and-twenty-milligram bottles of Plant People brand extract, priced at eighty dollars. When I asked the owner how it’s selling, he told me that it’s “flying.” “I think it’s a placebo effect,” he said. “But this is definitely the turmeric of 2018.”

Here’s where to snag CBD dishes and drinks for a really chill summer in NYC

New York City is going green. Well, not in the energy-efficient way, but in the way that the 4/20-related substance CBD (cannabidiol from the hemp plant) is slipping its way into the city’s dishes and drinks. CBD is said to provide a natural (and legal) calming effect, as well as help reduce inflammation. This summer, take a chill pill (in the form of meatballs, cocktails, lattes and more) and head to these CBD meccas serving your very legal relaxant.

MatchaBar: The Honeypot Matcha Latte is laced with CBD-infused organic raw honey and shavings of the calendula flower, which has many of the same benefits. Soho and Chelsea. $10.

Peachy's: Order the Jade Fizz as your last drink before you stumble out of the late-night spot. The soothing effects of moringa powder, yuzu oil and CBD will put you right to sleep. Chinatown. $18.

Harvey at the Williamsburg Hotel: As part of its new cocktail menu, bartender Rael Petit added the If You Like Pina Colada drink, mixed with rice whiskey, CBD-infused Singani 63, coconut juice and pineapple juice. Williamsburg. $16.

Kokus at Smorgasburg: The Instagrammable coconut-cream soft-serve bowls at Smorgasburg come with toppings like CBD Magic Shell and CBD Cacao. It's a great way to quite literally chill out on a steamy summer day. Williamsburg and Prospect Park. Prices vary.

The James New York: The Nomad location of this hotel is serving a full-on CBD-inspired menu. Spicy meatballs? Tater tots? Butter lettuce salad? All available on the special menu that also sells CBD toiletries, beauty products and snack options. Nomad. Prices vary.

Caffeine Underground: This is the coffee shop that seemingly started it all, with options to CBD (we're officially making it a verb) your coffee, latte, Americano, etc. with Flower Power Coffee Co.'s CBD grounds. Bushwick, Prices vary.

Bar Belly: This nautical-themed bar also uses Flower Power to spike its cocktails. Ask for the oil to be added to any of the drinks of the menu to make your boozing experience even looser. $2-$3 to add to a cocktail.

Bubby's: Bubby would approve. The mild sweetener Azuca can now be added to any cocktail or non-alcoholic drink (coffee, tea, lemonade) drink at the comfort-food spot. Tribeca and Meatpacking. $6 to add to a cocktail, $10 flat for non-alcoholic beverages.

Clean Market: This newly opened superfood café and market in Midtown is selling smoothies, like The Pine with Brain Octane, The Glow with Beauty Dust and The Majik with E3live. We don't know what any of those are either, but you can boost each concoction with CBD as an extra health bonus. Midtown East. $2 for CBD boost.

Living the High Life: Ron Silver and His Three Bubbes

I admit to being one of those New Yorkers with a bad attitude toward change. Not only do I dislike change in general, but when it comes to my adopted city, I’m gutted every time I return to find my old neighborhood restaurants have closed, changed hands — or even if they have redecorated. As a chef, I like consistency and simple, sure things, and I’m sensitive to red flags on a menu that I perceive as “hipster” items that threaten my nostalgic feelings about a place.

So imagine how much I expected to hate the Bubby’s “new” location (it opened five years ago) at the entrance to the High Line park in the meatpacking district. How could this imposter Bubby’s possibly live up to the memories I had created 20 years ago at its original Tribeca location, a brunch spot that may as well have been an extension of my living room when I lived downtown?

But I needn’t have worried because chef, restaurateur and Bubby’s owner Ron Silver and his competent team oversee every aspect of his restaurants and are still at the top of their game. Bubby’s high-end comfort food joints known for nostalgia-inducing American dishes have- been a staple of the brunch scene in New York for 28 years. I met Silver at Bubby’s High Line location to discuss his restaurants and his latest project, a new company, Azuca, which makes edible cannabis-infused sweeteners and syrups.

While Bubby’s is famous in New York for its old-fashioned fruit pies, pancakes, flaky biscuits and burgers (read hangover food), what sets it apart from the rest of the commercial food chains’ similar menus is the ingredients it chooses. Everything at Bubby’s is locally sourced from purveyors and farms in the area. From the best butter, lard, local fruits and cream for the pies to its farm-fresh eggs and meat, the quality of the ingredients in a Bubby’s meal is noteworthy, even in a city where customers are spoiled by top-notch produce.

As it turns out, the affable and absurdly creative Silver has led a life punctuated by a series of stranger-than-fiction chapters that have made him into the success he is today, the first of which happened in childhood. When Silver was very young, his father died and his mother remarried. His stepfather’s mother became his third grandmother. Because he was close to all three bubbes growing up and can’t remember a time he wasn’t influenced by them, this served as the inspiration behind the name of his business, which he opened in his Tribeca neighborhood in 1990. Although none of his bubbes is alive anymore, the walls of his restaurants are adorned with old photographs of them at various stages of their lives, and it seems they’ve been watching over him ever since.

In 2003, Silver opened a Bubby’s in Dumbo, Brooklyn. The huge waterfront restaurant was, by his admission, a nightmare from the start. It was busy all the time, and Silver had a hard time managing his bustling Tribeca location with the one in Brooklyn.

To make matters worse, after nine years in the same location, the landlord decided to hike the rent to the point where it was untenable to stay. The eatery made an agreement to end its lease in 2012, and Bubby’s had a huge blowout closing party and left its Dumbo location for the final time.

The day after the closing party, Brooklyn’s waterfront neighborhoods were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, inundating businesses and residences with multiple feet of water and leaving damaging debris and broken glass in her wake. Had Silver remained in that location, the losses he incurred may have put a stop to his plans to open his current restaurant, a fantastic location at the entrance of High Line Park and across from the famed Whitney Museum that is frequented by locals and tourists.

Stranger still, Silver once arrived at his restaurant to find a message that some investors were interested in discussing with him a franchise opportunity —in Japan. Silver recalls telling his manager to call them back and “tell them to blow me.” He wasn’t trying to be mean, he told me — he was trying to be realistic. After all, no one knows better than a restaurateur that it is no small feat to juggle suppliers, eggs that come from three farms, and all the million other details of his farm-to-table restaurant concept, much less in a country such as Japan, a country with limited agricultural space.

But the Japanese investors wouldn’t relent. Because Silver is at heart a mensch, he agreed to a meeting with the agent and tried to explain to him, to no avail, that he wasn’t trying to be negative but, practically speaking, he felt it was virtually impossible for a Japanese branch of Bubby’s to succeed without his hands-on knowledge and expertise.

It turns out, the Japanese group of investors was Japanese Railways, which was looking to debut the New York favorite as part of a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the opening of the port of Yokohama to Western trade. In 2009, through a licensing agreement, Bubby’s opened in Yokohama, the first of six Bubby’s to open in Yokohama and Tokyo. Silver told me he goes to Japan about twice a year and, what’s more, his artwork is on display on the walls of all six restaurants there.

You would think all this activity and being the father of four boys would keep Silver and his wife, Melissa, busy, but this past May, Silver announced the launch of his new company, Azuca, a line of fast-acting cannabis edibles made from chef-quality ingredients. “There have been three constants in my life,” Silver told me in his loft-style office above the restaurant, decorated with his modernist, Picasso-style paintings, “cooking, cannabis use and art.”

Through his experiences as a chef and entrepreneur, Silver said he recognized the cannabis industry’s demand for a trustworthy edible product that offers a fast-acting, consistent effect.

“Edibles are notoriously unpredictable in their effects: You can never tell how long it will last, when it will hit and its overall effect,” he said. Silver’s talents — part chef, part creative mind — led him to discover a patent-pending technology that alters the shape of the cannabis molecules and makes them more water-soluble, enabling a more rapid, predictable and controllable effect.

Azuca will launch its THC product line and tinctures in Massachusetts (where marijuana is legal) later this month, and offers its hemp-derived, non-psychoactive Cannabidiol (CBD) products at the Bubby’s restaurants in lemonades, coffees, teas and cocktails.

After our interview, I sat at the bar at Bubby’s and ordered two CBD-infused drinks, one called a black and white and the other a watermelon lemonade, each promising 25-milligram doses of CBD. Both were delicious, although I wouldn’t normally sweeten my drinks to this extent as a matter of personal taste. But within 10 minutes of consuming them, I felt a calm feeling come over me that I hadn’t experienced in a very long time.

There was no “high” to speak of, no rush or buzz, just a very mellow calm that could be described as a post-vigorous exercise (or sex) type endorphin boost.

Unfortunately, while I waited for my next appointment, I realized that I had a case of the munchies and the fact that everything on the menu looked appealing. It’s at this moment I realized the shrewd business genius of Ron Silver. Maybe it was because I was under the influence of the CBD, or maybe it was the photographs of Silver’s three bubbes staring back at me from the walls, but I’ve never had such a remarkable bowl of chicken soup in any restaurant in New York. No doubt Silver’s bubbes approve.

The Sweet Science of Azuca

They say timing is everything and, for Ron Silver, the time to shake up the edibles market is now.

In much the same way as tobacco smoking has declined over the last few years, smoking dried cannabis flower has also fallen out of favor. At the same time (and possibly as a consequence) the edibles market has exploded in popularity. Forbes Magazine notes that sales of edibles are rising in states where cannabis is legal. Californians consumed a whopping $180 million worth of edibles in 2016, accounting for more than 10 percent of overall cannabis sales, and this was two years before recreational herb was even legal! Washington State saw a 121 percent rise in edibles sales in 2016, while sales of infused food in Colorado tripled from 2014 to 2016.

The idea of ingesting cannabis orally actually dates back thousands of years. The Chinese brewed cannabis as a tea as far back as 1500 BC. Hindus were drinking bhang, which blended cannabis with warm milk and spices, around the same time. Using hashish as a sort of improvised add-on for coffee was popular among Parisian intellectuals in the 1800s, and cannabis tinctures were available in America from the late nineteenth century, until prohibition became the law of the land in 1937.

Ron Silver, chef and owner of a pair of popular, family-friendly eateries in New York City called Bubby’s, has taken his cue from early cannabis edibles history and added his own unique twist. Instead of concentrating his efforts on creating just another line of candies, cakes or cookies, Silver has introduced Azuca sweetener in his restaurants as a way to soup up coffee, tea and lemonade. (Those drinks are also available without the CBD additive.) “Azuca is an idea that stems from both my career as a chef and entrepreneur,” he says, “as well as my recognition of the cannabis industry’s critical need for trustworthy edibles, both for medical and adult-use purposes.”

By concentrating on a single, stand-alone ingredient instead of a wide range of prepared food or pre-packaged candies, Silver gives the consumer not only a choice about the way in which they use it, but also the ability to control their own dose. “Edibles are notoriously unpredictable in their effects,” he says. “You can never tell how long they will last, when they will hit, or what their overall effect will be. We developed a way of resolving these issues so that the market finally has high-quality, artisan products.” When selected as a prepared add-on at Bubby’s, it comes in at a respectable 25 mg of CBD per teaspoon. When purchased on its own, you’ll be able to add as much or as little as you want.

In order to stay compliant with federal law in states like New York, where cannabis remains illegal, the CBD used in Azuca is sourced from non-psychoactive hemp plants rather than the mind-altering cannabis plants. As Azuca hits the shelves in states where cannabis use is legal, a THC-laced version will be introduced, to be sold through licensed dispensaries, with its roll-out starting in the now cannabis-friendly state of Massachusetts.

Silver uses several different types of sugar to create his product, each with its own distinct flavor and appeal to consumers. You’ll find Azuca made from demerara cane sugar, maple sugar, coconut sugar, stevia, date sugar or agave, and it will be sold in granular form and as a simple syrup. The syrup’s flavor range currently includes almond, ginger, pomegranate, grapefruit and vanilla, which can also be combined to create your own special-taste treat. Predictably, as the brand grows, so will the variety of flavors you’ll be able to experience.

Azuca is hardly Silver’s first exposure to the cannabis plant. An out-and-proud cannabis supporter, his personal history with cannabis is long and hands-on. He entered the growing game long before it — and he — was legal. “I liked the idea that you could grow marijuana yourself, that it wasn’t something that just came out of a bottle that a pharmaceutical company gave me. The day I graduated high school was the day that I hitchhiked to Mendocino to grow weed. I really put a lot of effort into that. I was more adept at growing than others, even at an early age. At seventeen, the best grower that I knew was me,” he laughs.

His ability to work the plant, and the effort he puts into it, extends to his current project, too. The patent-pending technology behind Azuca is a respectable advance in culinary science and easily sets it apart from other edibles products on the market. By changing the shape of the cannabis molecule, it becomes more water soluble and is processed by your digestive system instead of your liver. The coating allows for more CBD to be metabolized — most edibles hover around the 2 percent to 6 percent range, while Azuca’s unique makeup will deliver 18 percent to 22 percent of CBD into your system. This technology also gets CBD into your system faster, taking as little as fifteen minutes to do its thing instead of the 60 to 90 minutes most people experience with baked goods and candies.

And the effect? Outstanding. Wanting to steer clear of any interaction between the soothing effects of CBD and my usual caffeine pick-me-up, I avoided coffee and tea and chose the watermelon lemonade. Pink lemonade is on the menu as well. I’d also sidestepped my usual morning coffee so I’d be as clear-headed as possible.

I drank the lemonade during a fairly long crosstown walk and, almost like clockwork, about 15 minutes later, started to feel the CBD. I felt calm and relaxed; even taking the typically frantic ride on the subway back to the Lower East Side wasn’t enough to raise my stress level. I’m no stranger to edibles, so I was pretty surprised when, after getting back to my neighborhood, I was so mellow that I sat down in my local park for almost an hour, people-watching and having a good time. The fact that the watermelon lemonade was some of the best I’ve had in a long time made the experience all the more enjoyable.

A fast-acting safe food additive that relieves stress and actually tastes good? When you think of it, it’s really a pretty sweet idea.


Made by hand, the dark chocolate espresso chews from Lord Jones are designed to attract the most discerning of foodies. They're sourced, the company says, with the finest Ecuadorian dark chocolate and packaged in a colorful cardboard box emblazoned with the brand's royal crest. But these aren't your grandmother's chocolate chews. The confections contain CBD, an extract derived from hemp plants that's quickly becoming a panacea for the aches and pains associated with everything from menstrual cramps to cancer.

"The whole idea behind the brand was to normalize the use of these compounds for wellness and to destigmatize it," says Robert Rosenheck, a former ad exec who founded Lord Jones five years ago.
Priced at $30 a box, Lord Jones chocolates epitomize the upscale possibilities associated with hemp-derived CBD products. The brand, which began wholesaling in January and now sells at 100 boutiques nationwide, is collaborating with the Standard Hotel to stock its minibars, and has partnered with Icelandic band Sigur Rós on medicated sound baths. (For the uninitiated, that's a sort of music-meditation blend that does not include water.) Gone are the grungy stoner tropes popularized in pothead flicks like "Up in Smoke" and "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle"; this new breed of retailers and brands is promoting a more aspirational lifestyle associated with wellness and health.

Unlike their THC cousins, CBD products specifically promise relief from a variety of ailments, including nausea, inflammation, anxiety, arthritis, psoriasis and migraines. Some oils offer different mood treatments. And it helps from a retail perspective that these products don't get you high. Unlike marijuana-derived extracts, CBD (cannabidiol) has a negligible amount of THC, the compound that provides psychoactive effects, and is primarily associated with medical benefits, which is why a host of new companies are popping up offering their tokes—er, takes—on the trend.

Roughly 300 brands now offer CBD products—up from some 200 a year ago, according to Brightfield Group, a three-year-old Chicago-based market research firm focused on the cannabis and CBD industry. In 2017, total sales of hemp CBD were nearly $287.3 million, and the market is expected to hit $1 billion by 2020, according to Brightfield. Trend forecasters are calling out the growing field and its homeopathic implications as an alternative to pharmaceuticals.

"The anxiety epidemic is so high ... there's huge interest in natural or organic pain relief," says Faith Popcorn, futurist and founder of BrainReserve. "Millennials and Gen Z in particular tell us that they love natural, and of course, boomers love all things weed. There's a lot of wide opportunity."

If you can eat it or put it on your skin, it can be infused with CBD. In addition to chocolate chews, Lord Jones also sells CBD gumdrops, while some companies dabble in lollipops and others offer a shot of CBD oil in coffee, smoothies and plain old lemonade. Of course, many simply sell tinctures in dropper bottles. In Los Angeles, there's a growing movement toward the CBD "power lunch," which, even for L.A., seems extreme. At downtown restaurant Spring, three CBD-infused courses will cost you $37.

The CBD trend is "getting more glamorous, more designed, more stylish," says Popcorn.

Along with edible brands, beauty companies are infusing lotions and balms with the product. Popular brand Milk Makeup, which sells at Sephora, recently began offering a high-volume mascara "infused with conditioning CBD cannabis oil" that pledges to fuse "heart-shaped fibers to lashes for thickness without the fallout."

As more brands enter the category, there's a growing number of expos and events. The CBD Expo West, hosted by CBD Health and Wellness Magazine, takes place this September in Anaheim, California; more than 60 exhibitors are expected to attend. (A website promoting the event touts free samples.)

However, while opportunities abound in both sales and interest, experts say the current CBD field is primarily comprised of new-to-market and small brands just starting out. Larger companies have yet to enter the industry because of the nebulous nature of the legality of CBDs. Public companies, in particular, will also have a tough time convincing shareholders that they aren't trying to get kids high.

"The legal aspect of CBD is very confusing. There's a lot of gray area," says Bethany Gomez, director of research at Brightfield Group, noting that it's early days in terms of both legality and education. "More states are adopting CBD laws and people are able to start having a more educated discussion about products. There's much more medical research starting to go into CBD as well."

When Target, for instance, waded into the waters with an assortment of hemp and CBD-oil items last fall, it was only "for a brief time," according to a spokeswoman. The Minneapolis-based retailer no longer offers any CBD products. The spokeswoman declined to specify why Target pulled back on such items, though experts theorize it was because of CBD's edginess and lingering association with weed.

Because of the uncertainties, most brands and retailers market their wares through word of mouth. But even that is challenging, because they're not FDA-approved and so specific health claims cannot be made. L.A.-based Lord Jones, which works with internal and external branding experts, has never advertised. It relies on earned media through social outlets, as well as unpaid celebrity endorsements from Busy Philipps, Amy Schumer and others.

"There's a very real challenge—it's a regulated industry," says Marshall Rutman, VP of marketing at Resolve Digital Health, a Toronto-based medical cannabis company, noting the particular difficulties of advertising on Facebook, for example. "There's a lot of places where you can't advertise and your marketing efforts are hampered, so you have to figure out a new way to connect with consumers."

Rutman, a former marketer at Lululemon, advises that brands use digital platforms to more subtly tell their stories, or the stories of their patients, rather than advertise outright. While Resolve Digital, which launches in the U.S. in September, does not have any CBD-only products on its current roster, it plans to offer it in future products for cancer patients.

Some brands say the best way to attract more consumers is by normalizing the product, a strategy that's proven effective for Clover Grocery, a one-year-old gourmet health food store in New York City's West Village neighborhood. Clover's founder, Kyle Hotchkiss Carone, says that brands packaging CBD in a way that's easy to understand, like in candies or chocolates, has helped grow the number of people willing to explore the ingredient. Clover sells what Hotchkiss Carone describes as a curated assortment of CBD best-sellers—roughly a half-dozen products priced from $30 to $90, which generate around 15 percent of Clover's sales. The store always has a staff member on-site who is able to explain the CBD category to curious customers.

At Bubby's, a 28-year-old restaurant with two New York City and six Japan locations, the recent addition of CBD-infused drinks has been remarkably popular, according to owner and founder Ron Silver. Each week, the eatery sells, he says, around 700 lemonades, coffees and cocktails infused with a 25-milligram shot each of CBD. Separately, in Massachusetts later this summer, Silver plans to launch Azuca, a line of sugars and sweeteners infused with CBD and THC. For all interested customers, Bubby's hands out an educational guide with a printed article from Bon Appétit magazine to help them better understand CBD. The article explains what it is, how it's made, its benefits, applications and "what you should know before buying."

"It's a big educational job because it's a mystery," says Silver. "In a certain way, it falls into similar trends like turmeric or coconut oil."

As appeal and understanding grows, experts expect CBD to attract celebrity investment in new brands, helping to further the product's mainstream potential. However, as the field expands, so will the competition. The winners will be those who get in early, build a loyal following and tell the best brand stories.

"Right now it's a gold rush situation, where a lot of new products are coming on the market," says Hotchkiss Carone. "Without differentiating themselves a little way besides some branding, it's hard for consumers to understand what's good and what's not."


Sample a calming tea, soup, and more.

As the number of states legalizing marijuana rises, the cannabis industry’s offerings have become both more popular and more diverse. While many people are familiar with THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, CBD is also gaining traction. Cannabidiol, or CBD, does not have THC’s intoxicating effects. Instead, it has relaxing, anti-inflammatory properties that might be beneficial for athletes, says Jeffrey Morrison, MD, founder of the Morrison Center in New York City and a member of the Equinox Health Advisory Board.

“More research has shown that CBD has a boiling point of around 160 to 180 degrees Celsius, so a little heating doesn't affect its quality,” says Morrison, who notes that filtered and decarboxylated CBD is easiest to work with in recipes since it seems to have higher heat stability.

While you can find spa treatments that take advantage of CBD, restaurants and cafes around the country are experimenting with it as well. Here, eight spots to try.

Moon Juice

The recently-launched summer menu [at Moon Juice’s three Los Angeles shops] includes three drinks made with CBD oil. Try the Power Colada featuring ginger-infused lemon juice, Moon Juice Power Dust, coconut milk, turmeric, frozen banana, and Charlotte’s Web mint chocolate hemp extract oil.

The James

As of this month, guests at the NoMad location in New York City can order from a new CBD room service menu. Dishes include spicy meatballs, gluten-free olive tapenade, and a butter lettuce salad with CBD in the pear vinaigrette.

Bondi Harvest

Founded by Australian duo Guy Turland and Mark Alstron, the Santa Monica-based café currently offers CBD oil as an add-in for coffee and smoothies like the popular Kombucha Kick which is made with mixed berries, ginger kombucha, thyme, fresh orange juice, and chia seeds.


The beloved NYC restaurant draws lines on the weekends for its delicious brunch items such as asparagus and ramp hash, avocado toast, and omelet with asparagus, spinach, and ramps. Chef and owner Ron Silver developed Azuca, a line of CBD-infused sweeteners, which restaurant-goers can consume mixed into lemonades, coffees, and teas.

Songbird Juice Company

The Wichita, Kansas-based café serves smoothies, cold-pressed juices, and açaí bowls. The newest beverage in its popular Loaded Lemonade line, called Tranquility, is made with lemon juice mixed with alkaline water. It’s steeped in pure, dried hibiscus flowers (which can help calm nerves) and features a little agave and 10 milligrams of concentrated cannabinoid oil.


Inspired by the cuisine and sensibility of southern France, Spring restaurant in downtown LA is the creation of Michelin-starred chef Tony Esnault and restaurateur Yassmin Sarmadi. Their dedicated CBD Power Lunch menu uses organic coconut oil made with CBD in dishes such as carrot-ginger soup, risotto, and panna cotta.

Magic Mix

This New York City market offers Edibles, a line of CBD chocolates that are vegan, low in sugar, and said to have a calming effect. They’re also made with raw cacao, which contains several antioxidants as well as anandamide, a compound that has been shown to help boost mood levels.

Steap Tea Bar

Based in San Francisco, the shop sources its teas from farms in Taiwan, and serves its customers all kinds of tea beverages from boba to matcha to chai. Steap partnered with HoneyPot, a hemp-derived CBD honey, to create drinks like The Green Queen CBD with matcha, mint, lemon, and 10 milligrams of HoneyPot.

NYC chef brings cannabis edibles to city with Massachusetts on horizon

For nearly 30 years, Bubby’s has been a staple dining destination in New York City, and now chef and owner Ron Silver has set his sights on the booming cannabis industry in New York and Massachusetts with his new venture, Azuca.

Azuca is a line of fast-acting cannabis-infused sweeteners and syrups that are currently available at Bubby’s locations and will launch in Massachusetts sometime this summer.

“Because it’s hemp-based, it’s 100 percent legal,” Silver told Metro of the Azuca products at Bubby’s. “In Massachusetts, we’re launching with a company called iAnthus Capital Holdings and Mayflower Medicinal, and we’re going to do THC and CBD products, and we’ll also do blends of THC and CBD products with different sorts of ratios.”

Azuca, the Spanish word for “sugar,” came about after Silver spoke to cannabis industry experts about the biggest problem they were seeing, “and 100 percent of them said it was a low-dose, controllable edible,” he recalled. “I’m a chef, so that seemed like something that was in my grasp to figure out.”

With his chef’s mind, Silver dove into research and development, eventually coming up with “this sort of technology” that has three patents pending on it. While “it’s a closely held secret,” it involves cannabis molecules, he said. The result is a fast-acting line of date sugar, maple sugar, demerara sugar, stevia and agave products, which can be used as standalone ingredients, say for coffee and tea, or in baking for users to make their own edibles.

“There’s exactly 10 mgs in it,” Silver said. “That’s one of the big problems with edibles, people can consume too much because they take so long to kick in.”

While Bubby’s has been a hotspot for decades, Silver has seen “an amazing response” since the restaurants recently started offering Azuca’s hemp-based CBD products in lemonades, coffees and teas.

“People are coming in for CBD drinks, just to sit at the bar and have them, and I think a lot of people are coming back again,” he said. “It’s a nice, consistent place and way to have it — and it’s really a cool system that’s taking the mystery out of how to use cannabis. There’s really so many interesting benefits that don’t have to do with being couch locked playing video games.”

The Ladies Of Cannabis Are Crushing It

The ladies of cannabis are crushing it lately. From Tilray naming a woman-led board to these women and their accomplishments.

Dr. Michele Ross was just named to the board of NanoSphere Health Sciences. She has a doctorate in Neuroscience and is the author of Vitamin Weed: A 4-Step Plan To Prevent and Reverse Endocannabinoid Deficiency. In 2013, she founded IMPACT Network, a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to clinical research, education, and advocacy on cannabis for women’s health.

Dr. Ross has helped patients around the world and she has trained the next generation of cannabis healthcare professionals. She speaks from personal experience as having been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, neuropathy and chronic pelvic pain. Cannabis was the only thing that reduced her symptoms and allowed her to return to work.

Naomi Granger announced this week that her company DOPE CFO now has students in 26 states. Granger is a former “Big 4” accounting professional with over 12 years of experience in both public and industry accounting.

Granger recognized a knowledge gap in the cannabis industry and co-founded DOPE to provide educational tools for accountants and financial professionals to enter the cannabis industry. She coaches CPA’s and other cannabis industry professionals on how to succeed as they deal with laws and regulations that vary from state to state.

Kim Sanchez Rael just launched her line of Azuca CBD edible product in New York last month. Azuca is a fast-acting chef-quality edible food additive that can be used for medical or adult-use consumption. It is a line of cannabis-infused sweeteners and syrups with flavors like almond, ginger, grapefruit, and vanilla. Rael is the CEO of the company and she has teamed with famous NYC chef Ron Silver, the owner of Bubby’s restaurant in Tribeca.

Rael joined the cannabis industry after 20 years of experience in entrepreneurial startups and venture investing experience. Rael has an MBA from Stanford and led the Flywheel investment in MIOX Corp. a water disinfection company whose technology treats water using only salt, water and power to generate a dilute disinfectant on site. She was a co-founder and investor in Qynergy, worked at Intel and served as a legislative aide in the U.S. Senate.

There Are Only Six Acceptable Bagel Flavors

All this newfangled stuff is trash, full stop.

I’m heavily biased toward bagels. I’m East Coast-born, Jewish, and currently residing in New York City. Bagels are not only one of my favorite breakfast foods; they're part of my heritage as well.

Whether your loyalties lie with the almighty Manhattan bagel or its smaller, sweeter cousin up north in Montreal, the bagel is a versatile and celebrated culinary gift that has been for hundreds of years. However, this does not mean they are free from the attention-starving trendsetters looking to thrust this well-respected food into the meme-o-sphere.

“Weird” and “fun” bagel trends have been out of hand for a while, and all they do is drag the good name of this beloved ring of bread through the mud. Galaxy bagelsrainbow bagels, “kooky” cream cheeses, bagels with their guts scooped out—they're all trash.

I’m not alone in my feelings. For one, Ron Silver, the owner of Bubby’s in New York City, told me he’s only OK with five flavors. “Having spent my early childhood summers in Brooklyn, I am a staunch traditionalist," he said. "I am also not a fan of whole grain bagels—another travesty. Onion, poppy, sesame, rye, and plain for your kids or goyish friends.”

I say there are six bagel flavors in the world worth eating. Check them out and may god have mercy on your soul.


As far as bagel trends go, let the everything bagel be the trendiest, “silliest” bagel you ever eat. Sprung from the loins of the seed and spice gods, the everything bagel has… well, everything you need for a delicious meal. Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, onion, and sometimes a sprinkling of salt if you’re lucky. It’s a hullabaloo of flavor that should satisfy the twee-lust of millennials everywhere. Show me a person who doesn’t like an everything bagel and I’ll show you a damn fool.


Ahh, egg bagels—a delightful amalgamation of the two greatest breakfast elements on the planet. Using up to eight (!!!) egg yolks in a recipe, the egg bagel has its own distinct flavor, color, and following, making eating one an especially delightful experience. I recommend a smattering of white fish salad to complete the culinary experience.


You want a “weird” flavor? How about a “fun” color?! One word, four syllables: pump-er-nick-el. With a taste straight from the old country (any old country), the pumpernickel bagel is the digestible iteration of a classic flavor. I don’t know if anyone else has experienced this, but whenever I bite into a pumpernickel bagel, I immediately have a vision of an old woman in a babushka hanging laundry on a clothesline. Anyone else?


It goes without saying that onion makes everything taste better. It’s the Tom Hanks of the flavor world, completely without folly and respected across the world. This rings true when it comes to bagels, too. Paired with scallion cream cheese, the unstoppable onion bagel can do no wrong. So, whenever you see someone photographing their rainbow-dusted, unicorn-themed docrobagoissant, beg them to drop the phone and pick up an onion bagel.

Poppy Seed

Did you eat a poppy seed bagel this morning? OK, so you have poppy seeds in your teeth. That’s very fine. Tiny inconveniences aside, there is no flavor akin to poppy seed. This bejeweled bagel gives you a colorful experience, pairing the classic act of chewing with the meticulous task making sure your teeth are free from poppies. Think of it as an old-timey arcade game you play with your tongue and teeth.


Crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, slightly sweet, somewhat salty, undeniably pristine. No matter how you eat it—cream cheese, butter, lox—the plain bagel is more than a baked ring of dough; it’s a flavor vehicle and a testament to the engenuity of immigrants. Beautiful in its simplicity, the plain bagel is more than plain… it’s perfection.

Sweet N’ High: Cannabis-Infused Sweetener For Your Kugel

For a self-proclaimed “bad-boy Jew”, Ron Silver has done pretty well.

He operates two massively popular Bubby’s restaurants in New York - and seven in Japan. He and wife Melissa have four adorable kids. He even co-authored a book on Bubby’s Homemade Pies in 2007.

Now, Silver’s tapping his rebellious roots to launch a different kind of edible: Cannabis-infused sweeteners whose high-tech formulation lets consumers know exactly what dose they’re getting and “how long it’ll take to kick in.”

Read more:

Azuca, which Silver introduced at a packed Bubby’s press breakfast last week, will market sugars, syrups, and elixirs formulated “to help you enjoy the benefits of cannabis in a gentle, controlled way.” Azuca is infused with cannabidiol (CBD) from hemp, which is believed to offer medicinal benefits without “stoned” effects. It’s sometimes confused with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), whose psychoactive components create the “high” most people associate with weed.

While Azuca’s available in a 25-mg-dosed lemonade at Bubby’s right now, Silver and his partner have big plans. A state-by-state rollout’s planned, along with expansions to Canada, Europe, and Japan, where Silver’s already got business partners. Silver’s also teamed with iAnthus Capital, a venture-capital operation that targets the cannabis market, to design “the best program of high-quality edibles in the world” for eventual nationwide distribution.

Read more:

Silver’s not the only Jew at the forefront of cannabis. The Forward has reported on California activists who have been instrumental in changing laws there. And on a recent flight to Denver for a 4/20 conference on the business of cannabis, “half the plane was Hasidim, heading to the same conference,” Silver laughed. “It’s difficult to discuss, because you get into stereotypes. But I think there’s an interesting fit for Jews.”

Born in New York City, Silver spent his childhood in Salt Lake City, where his father opened a footwear store in 1963 “to sell shoes to Mormon girls,” Silver laughed. “There were not a lot of Jews around, though Jews had a pretty significant impact there as merchants.”

A cannabis user since 1975 - he was 12 - Silver played “100% bad-boy Jew” as a teen. “The bad boy Jew fucks around in Hebrew school. He gets in trouble. He’s a smart-ass. He hangs out with his friends, and they’re all smoking weed, but not really into drinking that much,” he said. “I’m still considered the black sheep of my family, and the least likely to succeed.”

His restaurants are named for his main inspirations — Bubbys Pearl Stall and Miriam Silber, and “my third Bubby”, family friend Lucille Crismon. “I used to talk to them every week. Each was wise in her own way,” he said. “Pearl knew I was a troublemaker. Miriam knew I’d be a good chef. And Lucille knew I was going to be successful.”

Pearl Stall’s also at the center of an indelible, though pot-hazed, memory. “We were at a cousin’s house in Staten Island for a family seder. My grandmother was there with her boyfriend,” he said. “My cousins, the boyfriend and I snuck out for a doobie. We came back in, my grandmother looked at me, and just said ‘F*ck’. Sha hated weed. More bad-boy Jew business.”

Fast-forward to 2014: As a chef and restaurateur with famously exacting standards, Silver became frustrated at the fuzziness around cannabis edibles. “They’re unpredictable,” he said. “Part of it is the industry, part of it is your own body.” But through “a lot of processes” - three patents are pending on his products - he managed to crack the code of how long cannabis takes to kick in.

“We took the problem - slow and inconsistent edibles - and applied fast-acting technology to a series of ingredients that will allow consumers to know exactly how much they’re getting and how long it’ll take to kick in.”

Read more:

Next on Silver’s agenda: Getting kosher certification for Azuca. “I’ve had pretty in-depth conversations with rabbis who kosher things, and this is perfect for koshering,” he said. “It’s in our plan.”

Would Azuca work well in traditional Jewish recipes? “We have an infused simple syrup that’s terrific,” he said. “It’s great in iced tea or lemonade. You could use it in a kugel.”

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