When it comes to consuming cannabis without inhaling it, the options have exploded. In the early years of California’s legal weed scene, most non-smoking, non-vaping products fell into a couple key categories: sweet-treat edibles (brownies, chocolate bars and gummies), beverages (sodas, tonics and teas) and topicals (balms, patches and ointments).
Today, dispensary shelves bristle with a bewildering array of foods, flavors and delivery methods that make it possible to get cashed-out on condiments, glazed-eyed on gravy and stoned by sipping on a drink straw. And if some of the products currently in development make it to market on schedule, the next few months will see the range of THC-infused options expanding to include chewing gum, instant mashed potatoes and confetti cake mix.
Long Beach-based Equity Brands, one of the two partner companies behind the recently introduced Northern Lights cannabis concentrate drinking straw and in-development chewing gum (the other is the licensed manufacturer, Lynwood-based Natural Plant Extract of California), is bullish on novel — and discreet — ways to consume cannabis. “We’re also working on jawbreakers, Jell-O shots and a Skittles-like format,” said Equity Brands’ co-Chief Executive Sebastian Velmont. “Once we perfect the gum, those are the other [products] we’re going to release that we feel will will shake up the industry and bring variety to a category that’s [mostly] chocolate and gummies.”
California regulations prohibit the labeling of cannabis products as candy — as well as marketing them in a way that appeals to children. Likewise, a November 2022 regulation change by the Department of Cannabis Control limited what kind of flavoring agents could be added to inhalable cannabis products, effectively banning youth-tempting flavors such as mint, chocolate, strawberry, mango and bubblegum.
“The California cannabis market is very mature, and we believe customers are searching for new items,” added Joseph Noel, Natural Plant Extract of California’s head of research and inventor of the straw technology. “I think straws and gum can go mainstream but I think gravy and these little niche things probably won’t.”
However, a novel product doesn’t need to go mainstream to be valuable. This is especially true in the cannabis space where the drug’s illegal status at the federal level complicates advertising efforts. That’s something the folks at Oakland-based Kiva Confections can attest to. That’s because they’re the ones who ladled a limited-edition THC-infused turkey gravy onto our collective plates in advance of Thanksgiving 2019 and saw it go viral with media mentions ranging from Sunset magazine to “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.”
“Did the gravy result in sales of [other Kiva products]? I’m not sure if we can draw such a direct line,” said Kiva co-founder Kristi Palmer. “But, man, it gets you into the conversation for sure. People were excited and asking about it. So it definitely elevates your brand and puts you top of mind for folks.”
Palmer calculates that the exposure for the brand in 2019 alone (the gravy train rolled out again for Thanksgiving 2022) was 1.3 billion unique viewers per month. “It was just astonishing. It just kept going and going,” she said.
Kiva has no plans to reboot Operation Gravy Boat this holiday season. “I think the importance of novelty products is is that they stay novel,” Palmer said. “You don’t want people to get tired of stuff.”
However, there won’t be any shortage of herbally enhanced options for your Thanksgiving table — or any table for that matter — if new L.A.-based brand It’s All About Choices has its way. Aiming to debut dozens of products starting in April, its novelty edible offerings are expected to include THC-infused instant garlic mashed potatoes, Thousand Island dressing, sour cream and onion crackers, spicy mayonnaise and confetti cake mix.
When they do roll out to to dispensary shelves, those infused foodstuffs as well as Equity Brands’ gum will be joining a crowded pantry of pot products. I’ve included some of the tastiest and most interesting to cross my radar (and palate) here. In an effort to emphasize novelty and innovation, I’ve steered clear of cannabis-infused beverages (which we’ve weighed in on previously) and the sweet-treat category and instead focused on condiments and savory snacks with a detour into lesser-known delivery methods, including those new-to-market drink straws.
L.A.-based Saucy offers a trio of infused condiments — a hot sauce, a salad dressing and a barbecue sauce — that pay homage to founder Tess Melody Taylor‘s roots in the Lone Star State. Nowhere is that more apparent — or delicious — than in the brand’s sweet-heat Texas-style barbecue sauce, a thick, smoky concoction with a twang of molasses and a punch of chipotle peppers. And, since the sweetness comes from stevia, the slather-it-on-everything barbecue sauce is sugar-free as well as gluten-free and vegan. Currently available in 1-ounce (5 milligrams of THC, $8) single serve packets. doseofsaucy.com
Getting the get-up-and-go of caffeine and the mind-expanding magic of weed all at once used require holding a hot mug of joe in one hand and a burning joint in the other. In 2017, Kush Cups came along with the genius idea of serving up both favorite fuels of the creative class in a single steaming cup of cannabis-infused coffee — and a surprisingly tasty cup of coffee at that. Why “surprisingly”? Because while Kush Cups could have simply leaned into the novelty of the pairing and phoned it in on the coffee front, the brand has gone the extra mile to source beans from Guatemalan farmers to create a line of robust, well-balanced specialty coffee that pack a little something special.
Weed-head-meets-coffee-snob coffee options currently include a medium roast (single-origin Guatemala Los Santos) available in single-serve K-cup pods (10 milligrams of THC, $5 each, four packs for $18) and 8-ounce bags of ground coffee (100 milligrams of THC, $16) and a dark roast blend of Mexican and Rwandan beans called Tiger Magic (100 milligrams of THC, $16). kushcups.com
“We invented Cannadips in 2016 as an answer to a problem that affects 6 million men across the U.S.,” company founder and Chief Executive Officer Case Mandel explained in an email. “[Tobacco] dipping is a 7-billion-dollar industry where 50% of men want to quit.” Mandel added that what began as a way to help people break their nicotine habit eventually gained traction as a discreet and fast-acting way to consume cannabis on the go. The tiny coconut coir pouches are designed to tuck between the cheek and gum, which allows the water-dispersable cannabinoids inside to be absorbed into the bloodstream.
And to Mandel’s point, the experience is very similar to using tobacco pouches (the major difference is users are encouraged to swallow their saliva instead of spit it out), especially with the brand’s bestselling mint flavor, which is reminiscent of Skoal wintergreen. Available in a range of flavors (including a black tea and lemonade mashup called the Palmer) and two THC dosages: 10 milligrams ($18 for a tin of 15 pouches) and 25 milligrams ($30 for a 20-pouch tin) as well as CBD (THC-free) versions. cannadips.com
Northern Lights’ compostable cannabis concentrate drinking straws might just be the best thing to happen to social cannabis consumption since the single-use vaporizer pen. That’s because it turns something as simple to operate as a straw into a portable, discreet and easy-to-use THC delivery system. It works like this: Take the straw out of its package, drop it into 12 ounces of liquid, wait one minute and voila! Your beverage of choice is now your infused beverage of choice thanks to THC concentrate embedded in an apple pectin and acacia gum coating lining the inside of the straw. (As the concentrate and flavoring disperse into the beverage, the liquid changes a bright color — lemonade yellow, orange, red or purple — depending on the flavor.)
Currently available in 10-milligram ($5) and 75-milligram ($8) dosages of THC and four flavors: wild cherry, grape, lemonade and orange, with seasonal flavors (including watermelon and strawberry cucumber for summer and peppermint for the winter holidays) to follow. Currently available at the Circle dispensary in Long Beach. thecirclelbc.com
Oakland-based savory TSUMo Snacks has built a reputation in the savory snack space thanks to cannabis-enhanced products like Chili Limón tortilla strips and fiery hot cheese puffs. But it’s TSUMo’s more-fun version of Funyuns that’s so delicious it borders on dangerous. A collaboration with Snoop Dogg dubbed Snazzle Os, the ring-shaped snack is available in onion and spicy onion versions. The latter brings some serious heat — as well as a punch of paprika and garlic — to the palate without even the slightest hint of weedy flavor. 10 milligrams of THC (and 50 calories) per 12 gram serving, which is about six rings from a 10-serving party bag (100 milligrams of THC, $18). tsumosnacks.com
San Francisco-based Potli has a deep bench of pot-infused pantry staples including chili oil, wildflower honey and extra virgin olive oil. But the must-taste item on offer is the brand’s version of sriracha — the fiery fermented pepper and vinegar sauce with a cult following. With a more robust, slightly less sweet heat than what you’d squeeze out of Huy Fong Foods’ rooster-emblazoned bottle, it’s next-level good. (I’m not the only one to think so; the sauce won first place in the savory edibles category at the 2021 Emerald Cup, which is kind of like California cannabis’ version of the Academy Awards). Available in 4-ounce bottles (100 milligrams of THC, $30) and half-ounce, single-serve travel packets (10 milligram of THC, $5). getpotli.com
Toasted corn kernels
If you’re a fan of Corn Nuts, you’ll probably take a shine to Higher Edibles’ BBQ Canna-Corn, toasted kernels of corn with a satisfyingly crunchy texture, a light dusting of barbecue flavor and roughly 10 milligrams of THC and 40 calories per (28-kernel) handful. Like the range of cannabis-infused cookies and crackers offered by the Santa Cruz-based, women- and family-owned company, the Canna-Corn offerings (other flavors include ranch, cheddar and Chili Limón) are gluten-free. Available in single-serve and 10-serving bags at an MSRP of $4 and $20 respectively. higheredibes.org
Kiva Confections, which has been tempting tastebuds with THC-infused chocolate bars, gummies, mints and bites for 13 years (the dark-chocolate-covered espresso beans are a thing of beauty), first introduced a limited-edition packet of instant gravy as a holiday-time conversation starter in 2019 and brought it back last Thanksgiving. When it comes to weird ways to eat your weed, this thick, salty gravy with hints of oregano, thyme and rosemary is at the top of the list. Although it’s no longer available via Kiva’s website, it’s still in stock (see what we did there?) at many a SoCal dispensary including, as of this writing, the Woods in West Hollywood and multiple Sweet Flower locations. 10 milligrams of THC (and 100 calories) per 28 gram single serving ($5). kivaconfections.com