Slow and low

Lower dosage laws on cannabis-infused edibles help curious consumers ease into stoney treats

Local tokers will remember the high times of June 2018 for a long time to come, if they remember anything at all. Bargains abounded on dispensary menus all throughout June, with discounts reaching 50 percent and higher. By the end of the month, some businesses chose to give away their remaining products to customers. But at midnight on July 1, the party abruptly came to an end, as new testing and packaging regulations for cannabis products took effect.

These new requirements were originally instituted when cannabis became legal in California on January 1 of this year, but enforcement was suspended for six months to allow companies time for compliance. On July 1, though, any noncompliant goods had to be destroyed, and experts estimate that over $500 million of merchandise was discarded. The laws mandate that all marijuana flowers and oils must be tested for pesticides and other chemicals before being sold, and that cannabis-infused edibles and beverages should be sealed in child-resistant packages and clearly labeled by the producer.

One problem in meeting the new regulatory requirements is that not enough companies are licensed to do the testing, especially since many California cities have already banned commercial cannabis activity. Currently, only 31 licensed testing labs are operating in the state. The new laws showed their teeth earlier this month when it was announced that one in five batches of cannabis failed the first round of testing, while a recall was triggered for vape cartridges made by Los Angeles-based The Bloom Brand that exceeded state standards for pesticides.

In addition to the testing and packaging requirements, new dosage limits were placed on cannabis-infused edibles and beverages. Gone are the days of Korova’s powerhouse 500-milligram cookies and paralyzing 1,000-milligram Black Bars. According to the new laws, cannabis products are not permitted to contain more than 10 milligrams of THC per serving, or a total of 100 milligrams in a package. By contrast, Korova previously produced a “three dose” cookie with 200 milligrams of THC, or nearly 70 milligrams per “serving.” This cookie nearly induced a panic attack in an inexperienced friend who took the serving size literally, when he probably should have ingested about one-tenth as much.

For their part, Korova was able to survive by rebranding around a new line of 10 milligram mini-cookies, including 10 cookies per package to meet the new 100 milligram maximum. The cannabis company Auntie Dolores, which produced crackers, nuts and other harder-to-standardize snacks, stopped making edibles altogether and instead offer products like CBD oil. After the July 1 deadline for compliance, some dispensaries and delivery services in the area held low stocks of edibles, some places had empty shelves and at least one dispensary was forced to temporarily close, while other businesses were better prepared.

This market is extremely important to the future of the marijuana economy, as dispensaries across the country are reporting a rise in cannabis food and drink sales, with customers finding that ingesting edibles (not to mention gel capsules or sublingual drops) is both healthier and more discreet than smoking or vaping. According to a recent report from BDS Analytics, a cannabis consumer research firm, edibles and potables account for 18 percent of legal marijuana sales in California. Meanwhile, international conglomerates are angling to control the cannabis beverage market, with giants like Molson Coors, Heineken and Constellation Brands rolling out lines of cannabis-infused sparkling waters, sodas and even nonalcoholic beers.

As it stands under the current California laws (it should be noted that we are operating under emergency regulations, and that rules for permanent regulations are being negotiated and should be in place by the end of the year), cannabis-infused alcoholic beverages remain illegal. The same goes for cannabis-infused juice, meat, frozen goods, dairy products (not counting cannabutter, which some dispensaries sell in jars) and some perishable bakery products. Candies in “fun” shapes like fruits or bears, as well as cartoon branding or other packaging that might appeal to children, are also off limits.

Some people are put off by the new regulations, including medical cannabis patients who require a larger dose to get the results they need (unlike recreational users, medical cannabis patients can still purchase 1,000-milligram and 2,000-milligram jars of cannabutter). For other people, 10 milligrams of THC is way too large of a single serving, while new adopters of the drug under legalization have no way of knowing how their bodies will react.

It’s always smart to start slow and gradually increase your dosage as needed, and many cannabis companies make products that cater to those low-dose lovers. Here are some examples of sub-10 milligram edibles and beverages that appeared on local dispensary menus last week:

Satori Chocolate Bites

In addition to a couple of chocolate bars, Satori Chocolates produces a delicious line of low-dose, chocolate-covered fruits, nuts and coffee beans. Essentially a high-end Raisinet, the Highbush Blueberries in Dark Chocolate are a personal favorite, with each piece packing only 2 milligrams of THC. Dosages vary by product, with the Salted Caramel Almonds in Dark Chocolate containing 6.25 milligrams of THC per piece while each of the Wild Strawberries in Milk Chocolate carries 3 milligrams of the nonpsychoactive cannabidiol (CBD).

KIVA Confections Blueberry Terra Bites

This KIVA Confections product subs in milk chocolate for the dark chocolate of the Satori blueberries, and then more than doubles the dosage, with each mouth-watering piece toting 5 milligrams of THC. KIVA also makes the Petra line of cannabis-infused mints, where each piece weighs in at a featherweight 2.5 milligrams of THC. They also make chocolate-covered espresso beans with a payload of 5 milligrams per bite.

Kikoko Sensuali-Tea

Each bag of this caffeine-free tea not only includes 7 milligrams of THC, it also contains “a mix of libido-boosting herbs” that is supposed to act as an aphrodisiac. The “top-shelf and organically grown” ingredients in Sensuali-Tea include hibiscus, rose petals, orange peel, lavender, cardamom, cloves and licorice root. Other pun-loving teas from Kikoko include Tranquili-Tea to improve sleep function and Positivi-Tea to boost your mood.

Cannabis Quencher

A major player in the medical cannabis market since 2008, VCC Brands produces weed-infused beverages under its Cannabis Quencher label. Doses are doled out by the capful, with each cap lugging a mere 2 milligrams of THC (or CBD, depending on the product) into your system. Flavors include Hibiscus, Mango, Wildberry Guava, Strawberry Lemonade and Old-Fashioned Lemonade.

Kushy Punch Gummies

Most of the new-school edibles take the obvious route of compliance by breaking 100 milligrams of THC into 10 equal pieces at 10 milligrams a shot, but Kushy Punch portions their allotted 100 milligrams into 16 gummies at 6.25 milligrams a pop. Kushy Punch offers their delectable gummy candies in strains ranging from Sativa Strawberry to Indica Plum to Hybrid Tropical Fruit, and they also make CBD-infused candies in various flavors.

Somatik Sparks Chocolate Coffee Beans

This decidedly high-end product was a collaboration between SF-area heavyweights Ritual Coffee, Endorphin Foods and Somatik, and each bean ferries 3 milligrams of THC. In addition to the beans, Somatik also produces a line of CBD-heavy, chocolate-covered Goji Berries, as well as 10-milligram and 30-milligram bottles of iced coffee.

Correction: The story originally said that Auntie Dolores went out of business as a result of new marijuana regulations. The company did not close. They did change their product lines to not include edibles. SN&R regrets the error.