In The News

With Colorado marking the two-year anniversary of legalization for the adult-use/recreational market, the cannabis industry predicts new milestones in both Colorado and the United States in 2016. With a burgeoning industry on the precipice of enormous growth, education and consumer safety will be a top priority for cannabis leaders as the industry expands throughout the country.

“This year, the cannabis industry made great strides in protecting and educating the consumer,” noted Peggy Moore, chair of Cannabis Business Alliance and owner of Love’s Oven Bakery. “The industry heard early on after legalization for the adult-use market about concerns of unintended access as well as overconsumption.

"We take our role in...

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Kevin and Margaret Cho venture into the world of marijuana edibles with Jeff the 420 Chef. Read More...

The burgeoning marijuana industry benefits greatly from the inspiring women in the cannabis community.

One of the most remarkable things about the burgeoning cannabis industry is that there are so many women in the cannabis community. As a relatively modern industry, the cannabis industry has not been marred by decades of patriarchy and sexism. On top of this, the people involved in the cannabis industry tend to be progressive in more ways than simply advocating the legalization of cannabis products. As a result of these factors, and others, the cannabis industry is establishing itself as an industry with excellent gender parity. This has given the women in the industry an excellent platform to reach out as role models, educators, and ad...

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Here’s a baker that’ll make a lot of dough. Love’s Oven bakery in Denver will be selling baked goods with a special ingredient: marijuana, which is now legal in Colorado. Read More...

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As 2015 comes to an end we have put together The Travel Joints top cannabis edible products for the year. The edibles industry is growing at a hectic pace and is now set to surpass the sales of traditional marijuana flower. Although it has had some bad press in the past, the industry has not only met, but surpassed the legal requirements that have been placed upon them by such state governments as Colorado and Washington. Companies like Dixie Elixirs and Incredibles have helped to pave the way for the future companies that will be created in coming cannabis states.

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eggy Moore led a double life during the tail-end of her 33 years at United Health Group. Moore spent her days taking conference calls on a headset, while racing around a downtown Denver kitchen, infusing brownies and chocolate chip cookies with canna-butter.

“I was fortunate, certainly, in that I was able to work virtually,” the Love’s Oven founder says. “At the insurance company, I was never really straight up with them about my involvement with marijuana.”

For years, Moore baked marijuana-infused cookies and brownies for Colorado’s medical market, while handling her duties as senior director of mergers and acquisitions for the insurance company. When she traveled on business for UnitedHealth, a family member would step in to cover the bakery’s day-to-day needs — often without pay — until she returned.

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It wasn’t until May 2014, well after the bakery had transitioned to one of Colorado’s first recreational edibles manufacturers, that she decided to retire from her career in insurance.

“They knew I was involved in something else, but since then, I have gotten some good reactions from my former co-workers,” she says. “For the most part, they were really surprised; I guess they viewed me as a really conservative person.”

If Love’s Oven hadn’t been so successful, Moore may still have a foot planted in both worlds. The opportunity to expand beyond medical was “a calculated risk,” but her facility had been built to food service standards, making it worthwhile to invest in a recreational license.

“What I didn’t expect, or at least didn’t have the knowledge of, was that we would be just one of three infused products manufacturers up and running for the recreational market on Jan. 1, 2014,” Moore says.

Prior to going recreational, Love’s Oven grossed $50,000 a year. Once the adult-use market opened, the company began grossing more than that on a monthly basis.

“Our sales went up 1,200% overnight,” Moore says. “It’s a really good problem to have and it would have been easy to fall on our faces while we were there. But I surrounded myself with people that I could really trust and we just quickly ramped up to meet the demand.”

The exponential growth slowed, but the market continued to expand steadily. Eventually Moore asked her sisters and two sons to become co-owners of the company.

“We’re entirely family owned,” she says. “Sometimes when I would be traveling, my family would come in, and they’d work for free during some of those early, lean years. This is a big reason why they are part owners.”

Today Love’s Oven employs several professionally trained chefs who contribute new recipes to the company’s catalogue, and the Moore family is looking to expand beyond Colorado.

“We’ll definitely be in at least one or two of the other existing recreational states this year — we’re targeting Oregon and Washington for that — and we’ll start working side by side with folks in the new states so we can be there in 2018,” Moore says. Read More...

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With more and more states voting to legalize cannabis, legal marijuana is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States. In a report published by ArcView Market Research,[1] national legal sales of cannabis in 2015 rose to $5.7 billion from 2014’s already-staggering $4.6 billion. The projections for the future are bright—by 2020, legal market sales are expected to surpass $22 billion.

However, since the federal government does not recognize cannabis as legal, the industry has no common framework or federal standards for food safety. Compared with other industries like pharmaceuticals and food, the cannabis industry is missing vital federal standards, leaving businesses to step up on their own.

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Each state that allows legal cannabis offers special regulations that the cannabis industry must follow, leaving a patchwork of regulations that vary in each jurisdiction. In states such as Colorado, laws have been written that either apply state health department standards or allow for city-by-city application of local standards. In other states, pieces of processes from food or drug laws are applied, but often they are not connected in a meaningful or practical manner.

In this context, companies that produce and sell marijuana-infused products have a considerable challenge ahead of them if they want to ensure their products are safe for consumers—and in the process, maintain their consumers’ trust.

Lax Legislation and Legalities
Not surprisingly, there are challenges to marijuana that are not found in other industries. Perhaps the most obvious obstacle is the federal status of the medically significant leaf: Cannabis is currently listed as a schedule 1 narcotic alongside street heroin and LSD, while the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency deems opioids such as oxycodone safer and allows for widespread distribution. At the time of this writing, only 25 states had legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, and only four states had legalized the substance for adult use (recreational cannabis). For this reason, the regulation of marijuana by federal agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is nonexistent, making it difficult for the industry to establish a comprehensive and workable set of guidelines. And while FDA “is aware that there is considerable interest in [cannabis’s] use to attempt to treat a number of medical conditions,” according to its website,[2] the agency still does not deem cannabis to be a safe and effective drug—thus leaving a vacuum for oversight and guidance on safety and production.

Similar to the issues encountered due to cannabis’s legal status are those caused by industry testing practices. The standards present in the food industry are not in place in the cannabis industry. Although legislation mandates testing, the labs operate with different testing equipment, standards and methods, and tend to keep their methods secret or “proprietary”—preventing producers from being able to perform a third-party audit to validate processes and materials as is done in food and drug sectors.

With these two challenges in mind, it is not surprising that the regulations regarding the cannabis industry are often confusing and impractical. The absence of cohesive standards and practices regarding potency and purity has driven the industry to innovate and create practices that mimic other, established industries, but it is not enough.

As evidenced throughout the country, the movement toward a safe and well-regulated cannabis industry has been incomplete. In Colorado, for instance, manufacturers must comply with the state’s general health and sanitation practices, which include mandatory sanitation training, similar to the training provided to those involved in the food industry. While useful for maintaining a clean facility, modeling the training program after that of the food industry renders it inadequate, as it fails to address cannabis-specific issues such as potency, the effects of cooking or other production methods and the amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) within products.

Therefore, without sound standards and guidance to follow, companies are often left to sort it out for themselves, resulting in vague interpretations of existing rules from other industries. Fortunately, many companies are leading the way out of this confusion and choosing to implement high food safety standards and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs).

Industry Leaders Design Their Own Standards
If companies are left to fend for themselves, then what exactly are industry leaders doing to become federally compliant and meet food safety guidelines? On the whole, cannabis companies consider consumer safety their top priority. However, if they do not adhere to any kind of food safety guidelines, beyond the possible loss of trust from consumers, the implications are similar to those for the food industry. For edibles production, a cannabis company must establish testing for biocontaminants and pathogens that mirrors standards for food production. Should a company find a potential contamination issue, then destroying the product or conducting a recall would be necessary; however—again—there is no federal guidance, and so companies and states are left deploying varying levels of monitoring, reporting and procedures to deal with such an incident.

In short, they are drafting and implementing their own high standards in food safety and compliance programs. While this varies from company to company, the best players are stepping up to federal requirements, such as GMPs and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), even before necessitated by law. The most forward-thinking are hiring GMP- and HACCP-experienced managers, auditors and consultants to establish best practices that mimic those in parallel industries.

The Colorado-based edibles company incredibles, for instance, was one of the first companies to test their batches to guarantee correct dosage. Disturbed by the lenient rules that allowed the sale of Saran-wrapped goods produced in home kitchens, founders Rick Scarpello and Bob Eschino made it their mission to ensure that every edible consisted of precisely measured portions, subsequently erasing any doubt of dose accuracy and effectiveness. Their products, which include a wide variety of chocolate bars, gummy bites and e-pens (personal vaporizers) for both medical and adult use, have always been professionally packaged and are inspected for safety and consistency every day.

Dixie Elixirs, another Colorado company, is in on the act as well, handcrafting cannabis products like elixirs, chocolates, dew drops, mints and “vape”-style inhalers with pure, CO2-extracted THC and a process that goes far beyond mandated batch testing. The company Love’s Oven, a home-style, small-batch cannabis bakery based in Denver, is also progressive in terms of food safety. It is the first cannabis company to receive GreenSafe certification, which verifies that the practices of the company are compliant with the GreenCode, a set of standards built in accordance with FDA GMP standards and the highest food manufacturing industry standards in the conventional market. To achieve certification, Love’s Oven had to show operational compliance with 26 sections of the GreenCode, including HACCP, allergen control, traceability and employee GMPs and training. Love’s Oven also individually wraps each 10-mg serving to even further delineate suggested serving size. All marijuana-infused products sold in Colorado are sold in childproof containers.

Safety is incredibly important to Wana Brands. Even though cannabis is not yet federally regulated, the Colorado-based company has implemented the highest standards in food safety and compliance programs and is one of the first edibles companies to produce in line with current GMP and HACCP practices. Every Wana product is tested for potency, even though it is not required by regulation. In fact, Colorado legislation simply notes that companies may test and report for any cannabinoid in their product, as long as it is in accordance with the applicable regulations.

Additionally, in an attempt to keep pace with the latest regulations and practices in the cannabis industry, Wana Brands cofounder Nancy Whiteman is the Cannabis Business Alliance Edibles Council Chair. This leadership allows Wana Brands to advocate for the ever-growing marijuana market, educate other companies in the industry and play a leading role in crafting the industry’s future.

How Cannabis Companies Can Make Food Safety a Priority
Companies looking to join the progressive movement toward a safer cannabis industry should implement a handful of tactics immediately. First, they should focus on the enforcement of food industry standards. Companies should be aware of the effect of bacteria on their products and ask questions including: Is refrigeration necessary to prevent contamination? Are goods being stored properly and are consumers getting detailed storage instructions? Lastly, are the facilities clean? These are simple questions to ask on paper, but some companies struggle to answer them, even though the implementation of food industry standards is one of the most basic things a company can do to improve the safety of its products.

Cannabis companies concerned with safety also need to ensure proper dosage. Although legislation varies in states, no state at this time requires companies to test consistency of batches at each phase of the production process. However, this step is essential if a company wants to ensure the proper dosage in each good it produces. Cooking methods and production processes can vastly alter the intended dosage of a product so that the resulting amount of cannabis in the product may be entirely different from what was planned.

While it is easy to direct blame onto regulators, these gaps in mandates can be addressed head-on, and in some cases solved, by the cannabis industry. All that is required is progressive action. Instead of waiting for food safety regulations to be applied to the cannabis industry, companies can implement their own. Be strict with dosing products. Test each batch to ensure proper dosage. Hold your company to the standards of the food industry. Hire GMP- and HACCP-experienced managers.

It is impossible to overlook the growth of the cannabis industry in recent years. As shown by market figures and new products, the industry has seen an influx of consumer interest as well as economic prosperity during its meteoric rise to become the third-fastest-growing industry in the United States. Yet, with this growth comes the need for food safety and accessibility. How can an item meet industry standards when there is no federally regulated industry? Moreover, how are companies supposed to adapt when laws are put into place? For some companies, the lack of coherent structure is a detriment to expansion and ultimately results in failure. Other companies, like Wana Brands, incredibles and Love’s Oven, have taken charge, creating their own regulations and implementing food safety controls before being required to do so by the government—paving the way for other companies in this burgeoning industry to take charge of safety as well. Read More...

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Reporting on the sights, sounds and lessons learned in Las Vegas

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As decriminalization of marijuana use proceeds steadily, I am seeing more attention focused on cannabis-infused edibles. These are now produced commercially by businesses that go well beyond brownies.

Pediatricians, as I’ve discussed previously, are worried about kids eating them.

These days:

Edibles account for half of cannabis sales.
Baked goods alone account for 10% of cannabis sales.
The total cannabis market is projected to reach $27 billion this year.
But in Colorado, where such things are legal, producers are complaining that the regulatory environment is so difficult that they can’t make a profit.

According to a report in the industry newsletter, Bakery and Snacks, the profit problem was the focus of an education session...

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Two guys walk into a bar. The first one says to the bartender, “I’ll have a glass of H2O.” The second guy laughs and says, “I’ll have an H2O too.” They both drink and the second guy dies.

Nerdy chemistry-jokes aside, molecular gastronomy is a trend that started to blossom in 1992, back when the first Clinton was running for president. The now burgeoning food sector was introduced to the world by Culinary Professor Elizabeth Cawdry Thomas, who started a workshop where chefs could learn about the physics and chemistry of cooking.

At its most basic level, molecular gastronomy is science you can eat; a type of cuisine that’s as much theater as it is sustenance. It has carved a popular niche for itself in the restaurant world by challenging what we think of as food, similarly to the way abstract artists Pollock and Mondrian challenged how the world viewed art.

transparent ravioli
Molecularrecipes.com
Some of these incredible menu items include transparent ravioli allowing diners to view all of the contents inside. When one eats the see-through pasta, which looks more like triangular saran-wrap, the invisible containment pod immediately dissolves and gets out of the way — all of the flavours from inside are unleashed onto the taste buds. Another interesting modern-day molecular treat is chocolate covered strawberries with a carbonated candy coating — chef-made pop rocks. A third very fascinating technique in the area of MG is what is called food-pairing, where foods with surprisingly complimentary aromas are combined. One such recipe is a plate with cooked beetroot, dark chocolate, raspberry and black olives.

The ongoing list of abstract creations is limited by a chef’s imagination, and familiarity with chemistry and physics.

So what about marijuana?

Today, cutting-edge chefs who want to challenge traditional thinking about food are looking for new ways to test the status quo. Enter onto the scene, cannabis haute cuisine.

A 2015 article in Scientific American discussed chefs starting to use marijuana in modernist recipes. In the piece, California-based chef Laurent Quenioux discussed his experiences cooking with cannabis for haute cuisine private parties. One of the dishes he made consisted of monkfish, congee, and a cannabis epazote pesto. Like many chefs, Quenioux does not make cannabis dishes exclusively — legal restrictions make it too difficult to turn a profit.

Love’s Oven is a successful cannabis bakery in Denver, and Executive Chef Hope Frahm recognizes the strong correlation between science and food, especially when working with pot. “There are chefs that work with marijuana only. I recently did a completely infused brunch for a private event.”

Frahm would love to see a thriving cannabis restaurant and bakery scene that included modernist establishments challenging the conception of cuisine. She says the important thing is making sure that people get the proper dose when trying edibles for the first time. “A lot of times you will get the story that someone won’t do edibles anymore because they had too much and it just messed them up. But if you do it responsibly in a low and slow manner you can have a very exciting and wonderful experience.”

Frahm adds that those who want to prepare any cannabis cuisine need to know exactly how much cannabis to include so the guests will enjoy themselves. “People that want to cook with marijuana need to understand that if it’s a completely infused meal, you need to have the proper dosing and realize that it’s not going to kick in for up to two hours.”

Cannabis Umami: The Next Taste

In 1908, Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda coined the term Umami — the fifth taste. It was found to exist in meaty and broth-style foods that contained glutamate. Our bodies contain glutamate receptors that recognize glutamate in fermented foods associated with Umami. Not since the discovery of Umami has the culinary world recognized a legitimate new eating experience on that scale. Perhaps, once cannabis (and our many complimentary receptors) are widely available to the world’s top culinary experts, a new experience will be available to food lovers everywhere.

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