Back in 1972 when Proposition 19, an effort to simply decriminalize marijuana, failed at the ballot box, few people were looking beyond smokable forms of cannabis — flowers, leaves, hashish and hash oil.
A few users probably considered simple edibles like tea made from leaves and stems, the proverbial brownies, cookies and cakes mixed with leaves and flowers run through a blender, or cheese sauce infused with hash oil or THC extract.
And there were those who would simply eat straight hashish, less worried about the taste than the end result.
But when Californians approved the use of medical marijuana, imagination and innovation took over and more edible products appeared, like suckers and chocolate mints. Today, cannabis-derived products are proliferating so fast it’s hard to keep up with all the new ones being released by equally proliferating companies.
Companies have come up with clever names, some incorporating bits of cannabis lore or “underground” terms for marijuana, including 420 Gourmet, Aunty Em’s Edibles Co., Cannabliss, Cannamour, Cap’n Cosmic, Edible Complex, Full Flava Medibles, Ganja Grindz Coffee Co., Happy Hemp Medibles, Kush Creams, Mad Hatter Coffee and Tea Co., Madame Munchie, Mama Ganja Edibles, Miss Mary Jane’s Edibles, Modern Martini Rx, MoonMan’s Mistress, Mountain High Suckers, RJM’s Chronic Kitchen, Spliffin and Sweet Grass Kitchen.
Some of the same or similar products will be offered for medical marijuana users and recreational users, but others will be aimed at one market or the other.
Cannabidiol — CBD — is a cannabis compound proponents say has significant medical benefits but does not make people feel “stoned” and allegedly can actually counteract the psychoactivity of THC, which makes it an attractive alternative for medical marijuana patients.
Its acceptance as a therapeutic agent among the general public is growing due to being touted by celebrities ranging from Morgan Freeman to Lady Gaga.
CBD is said to have neuroprotectant abilities, shielding the body from damage due to strokes and trauma and treating such neurodegenerative diseases as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. It also holds promise for use in treatment-resistant forms of childhood epilepsy.
Evidence from several studies shows it has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, making it useful for treating back, neck, elbow, knee, shoulder and other joint pains in addition to arthritis. It also has the potential for treating motivational disorders like depression, anxiety and addiction.
Usually processed into an oil and delivered in capsules, just like many other over-the-counter nutritional supplements, CBD also can be found in topical creams, bottled water — which looks and tastes like any other bottled water — and flavored waters.
For recreational users looking for the “high,” as well as medical marijuana users, the range of THC-infused products currently or soon-to-be available rival the variety of products found in the average supermarket, and their popularity is expected to increase as nonsmokers discover the effects of cannabis.
However, there are limits. Edible cannabis products can contain no more than 100 milligrams of THC in each 10-serving package. Lotions, tinctures and creams may have no more than 2,000 milligrams of THC for medicinal use or 1,000 milligrams for regular adult use.
Edibles also cannot be made in the shape of humans, animals, insects or fruit; associated with cartoons that would appeal to children; can’t use the term “candy” in their names; and be mixed with alcohol, nicotine, caffeine or seafood.
One survey found edibles ranked third in market share after cannabis flowers and concentrated products in Oregon, Washington and Colorado, accounting for 12 percent of the $2.33 billion — yes, that’s billion — of the three states’ combined cannabis market.
Many people have jokingly asked if cannabis ice cream will be available, but the fact is that cannabis ice cream has been available to medical marijuana users for several years. Ben & Jerry’s even considered making cannabis ice cream in 2015.
Cannabis-infused products already on the market range from potato chips, nuts, chocolate-covered dried fruit and granola to water, coffee, tea, olive oil, butter and peanut butter. Lagunitas Brewing Co. recently introduced SuperCritical Ale, a cannabis beer brewed with plant oil compounds for a strong cannabis taste but containing no THC.
Candy is also popular, including gummy whatevers, old-fashioned gum drops, espresso chews, toffee or sea-salt caramels coated with dark or light chocolate and chocolate mints like those offered at restaurant cash registers.
Items whipped up illicitly in home kitchens for decades — cookies, the brownies of 1960s stoner fame and the hash oil fudge that caused such a ruckus when Alice B. Toklas included it in her 1954 cookbook memoir — are now commercially produced and packaged.
Smokable cannabis will be delivered in bulk as well as prerolled cigarettes, which are expected to be popular with those new to marijuana use. It’s already available in special formulas for vaping.
Market analysts say legalized cannabis will probably revive the rolling papers market that faded with the ’60s, bringing back such popular styles as mint- and strawberry-flavored, oversized, bamboo-based and the once-ubiquitous American flag papers.
Veteran marijuana users who always had trouble rolling a decent joint often turned to rolling machines to turn out cigarette-quality doobies, and those machines may also see a resurgence in cannabis shops, analysts say.
While bongs have remained a staple of smoke shops over the years, their popularity is expected to increase, along with that of hookahs. (For those not familiar with the term, the caterpillar Alice encountered on her adventure in Wonderland was smoking a hookah.)
Like the slowly vanishing tobacco shops that offered pricey cigars in collectible wooden boxes and metal tubes with screw-on caps, many cannabis shops will also offer pricey pot rolled using fancy methods — like the French-rolled joints popular at parties in the early 1970s — and delivered in packaging ranging from classic wooden boxes to funky cartons covered with psychedelic art.
For those who don’t want the hassle of stopping by the cannabis shop or who might be embarrassed to be seen entering one, companies in the Bay Area are already offering “curated sample boxes” through clubs similar to those for gourmet produce and wine.
With monthly fees averaging $150, club members can have a box delivered with items specifically selected to match their individual tastes, including cannabis flowers, edibles, oils and topical creams along with “bonus” items like cannabis-inspired art and music.