California’s medical-marijuana law has made the San Francisco Bay Area a global epicenter for weed innovation. Stanford alums at the company Ploom are refining “the iPod of vaporizers” in the Dogpatch. Cannabis labs like Steep Hill in Oakland are performing quality assurance on hyper-refined tinctures, which are distilled, edible extracts of pot suspended in glycerin or ethanol.
As a full-time freelance journalist in San Francisco, I have a medical-cannabis column in the East Bay Express and a weed-culture blog on SFGate.com called Smell the Truth, among other related gigs. And I’ve been keeping notes on some of the most innovative ways people are getting stoned or, in many new use cases, not stoned at all. Let’s explore them.
By far the biggest revolution in the last decade of medical pot has been cannabidiol (CBD). The second-most common active ingredient in weed, CBD counteracts the euphoria of pot’s main active ingredient, THC. CBD is also highly therapeutic – it’s an anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, anti-seizure drug that also prevents brain damage during a stroke. Kind Caps’ CBD formula contains 14 milligrams of CBD and 6.3 milligrams of THC per capsule – perfect for getting the effects of CBD without the disorientation of high-THC products. One cap is like taking one valium (if valium were available in the form of a big green gelatin capsule). Side effects include a Zen-like acceptance of life and herbaceous burps. Take it with food.
I’ll be damned. This green-tinted, vanilla-/herb-scented weed cream actually zapped my neck pain from typing on an iPad all day at the San Francisco High Times Medical Cannabis Cup this June. And it worked again yesterday on my right knee, which was swollen from being dislocated after an old skateboarding accident. Placebo? Possibly. The therapeutic effects of a quick massage? Perhaps. But doctors say the active ingredients in weed can indeed penetrate the skin to affect muscle nerves without getting you high. Count me among the thousands of believers.
A super-clandestine e-cigarette for weed, “vape pens” are a symbol of the totally unregulated, hyper-libertarian dystopia that is California medical marijuana. They’re also arguably the future of the drug. These $70 devices use a rechargeable battery, atomizer, and a refillable cannabis-oil reservoir to create an innocuous, near-odorless vapor. They’re so ultra-low profile that people use them on airplanes. The iDragon vape pen tip doubles as an iPhone stylus.
Until the 1930s, tinctures manufactured by US drug companies were the default form of medical marijuana. In 2013, these edible liquid distillations of cannabis are back and hyper-evolving. Two droppers’ full of Alta’s Tranquility Tincture taken orally cause feelings of well-being, relieve anxiety, and bring on sleep. Sweet, yet alcoholic, the ethanol-based infusion is perfect for people who can’t or don’t want to smoke – such as hospice patients and Alzheimer’s sufferers. Each batch comes from Safe Cannabis–certified plants and is lab tested to ensure a 50-50 THC-CBD ratio.
The new Oakland company Candose has a vegan, gluten-free line of medicated edibles as professional looking as commercial candy. Candose lozenges come in banana, butterscotch, cherry, key-lime, orange, strawberry, raspberry, and watermelon flavors, and they adhere to standardized dosages of low (6.25 milligrams of THC), medium (12.5 milligrams of THC), and high (25 milligrams of THC). Their Blue Raspberry Flower Sour is chewier and tastier than a Sour Patch Kid, and the 25-milligram dose felt like it wrapped my brain in thick gauze, perfect for dealing with Muni or an IMAX 3D showing of Pacific Rim.
Medical marijuana, meet Tootsie Rolls. Cheeba Chews’ makers use locally sourced cannabis that is infused into gluten and nut-free chocolate taffy, and lab-test their product at each stage to ensure fantastic dosage consistency. These chews are probably the most potent, discreet edible on the market. They come in several flavors, from three different varieties of the plant—sativa, indica, and hybrid—which are associated with energy, sleep, and relaxation, respectively. Each chew is professionally wrapped and labeled and contains 100 milligrams of THC, which is like smoking 1.5 joints of strong weed. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours for an edible to hit you, so eat one-quarter of a chew and wait.
Let’s face it – the taste of weed sucks. It’s like a combination of hay, yerba mate, and some fraction of licorice or Jägermeister. But it turns out that cannabis flavor is pretty analogous to the herb rosemary, and it pairs astonishingly well with salty, oily proteins such as those in nuts. Wish Edibles demonstrates this fact with Kush Nuts, an immaculately designed foil pouch of cashews, almonds, peanuts, olive oil, rosemary, garlic, salt, and cannabis butter that contains 2.2 grams of cannabis and 100 milligrams of keif per bag. Eating an entire bag would sabotage a day hike in the mountains, but a handful of nuts at the halfway milestone would make for a delicious, preemptive strike on sore feet, muscle aches, and pains.
OrganiCann in Santa Rosa and Oakland (where they are called Oakland Organics) offers another rare, savory type of medicated edible – premade frozen cheese and pepperoni pizzas. Dispensary bakers start with fresh pizza dough and add medicated pizza sauce as well as a medicated garlic spread of parmesan cheese, parsley, cannabis-infused butter, garlic, salt, and pepper, followed by mozzarella cheese and optional pepperoni. It cooks up as well as a store-bought DiGiorno and serves six people a significant but not overwhelming body high.
Sometimes you’ve just got to go full stoner. Aim high with these Santa Cruz–based gourmet ice cream edibles from Créme De Canna. Available in Straw-Mari Cheesecake, Bananabis Foster, Triple Fudge Brownie, Créme De Canna ice cream is good enough to be an acquisition target for Ben & Jerry’s. The Straw-Mari includes some surprise notes of Grand Marnier liqueur. The Bananabis Foster is cinnamon, rum, and banana liqueur run amok. All ingredients are medicated, including the chocolate bits in the Triple Fudge Brownie. Splitting one half pint will put two people to sleep.
The age of mystery-weed chocolate is coming to an end, thank God. The human liver turns pot’s main active ingredient (Delta-9-THC) into a stronger, longer-lasting version of itself (Delta-11-THC), so one mystery edible can equal an uncomfortable, 12-hour trip. Kiva’s mega-potent, lab-tested gourmet Tangerine Dark Chocolate bars contain precisely 180 milligrams of THC per bar. Half a bar is enough to thoroughly zonk out a person for the duration of, say, a red-eye flight to Cozumel, Mexico (via Atlanta, Cancun, taxi, and ferry ride). Crazy-delicious and chocaholic approved.
Little known fact – the active ingredients in cannabis can treat some autoimmune disorders. That’s why smoking pot can stop Crohn’s disease in its tracks, and that’s why Sensi Suds seems to work on intractable skin disorders such as psoriasis, eczema, and chronic dry skin. Vallejo’s Highway 101 collective offers this cannabinoid-infused hippie soap, which can’t get you high. A combination of a bunch of medicinal herbs, including pot, and coconut oil, Sensi Suds all but cured a close friend’s intractable eczema in one week. My other buddy swears it staved off the pain and peeling from a Fourth of July sunburn. Worst-case scenario, you smell like a clean hippie.
Image courtesy of Thinkstock