Rows of THC-infused candy bars, brownies and sour gummies may not be what come to mind when you think of marijuana, but various lines of edibles have grown incredibly popular with the advent of retail cannabis in the High Country. You might peer around corners, trying to spot some hidden on-site bakery, but it’s more likely that the sweet treats came from a company like The Growing Kitchen in Boulder.
Holden Sproul, mountain sales rep for the company, said The Growing Kitchen began when a pair of medical dispensary owners in Boulder started creating custom edibles to meet their patients’ needs about five years ago.
“They started making the menu for Growing Kitchen,” he said. “The products are all organic and natural, as well as offering things that are dairy-free, gluten-free and health conscious on a whole. We’ve slowly been growing into the space that we occupy just east to Boulder.”
Sproul said the company makes a full line of edibles, including staples such as cookies and brownies, as well as fruit-and-nut balls made with fruit, nuts and hash oil, which is a whole-flower extraction from the company’s own garden. Though pursuing a certified organic tag is currently impossible for the marijuana industry, Sproul said the company uses all organic ingredients in its recipes.
“We use the whole bud or whole flower product to make our edible, where most companies make it using trim,” he said. “Everything comes from our own garden; we do everything in-house. So we have control from start to finish, from plant to processing.”
Although current laws stipulate that marijuana stores must grow 70 percent of the product they sell, edibles fall under a different classification, Sproul said. That means The Growing Kitchen can create its products exclusively from the cannabis it grows and sell them to medical and recreational stores all over the state.
“We’ve been able to put up one of the only outdoor grows,” he said. “We have a hoop house that we started about a year and a half ago. We’re really looking forward to getting a lot more outdoor crops and saving our indoor space for high-quality concentrates and flowers.”
Other cannabis products
One of the things Sproul loves about his company’s products is that using quality organic ingredients can produce a different effect than a product made with preservatives or artificial colors or flavors.
“If you’re eating something that’s a healthy item, you’re going to digest it differently and you’re going to absorb it differently and experience a lot less of the couch lock,” he said, referring to a lethargic high.
Cannabis also mixes with different ingredients in each edible or topical product, which can impact the experience. For example, The Growing Kitchen combines mint with a hybrid of indica and sativa to create a spray that uses the combined effects of mint and marijuana to sooth an upset stomach. Raw herbs are combined with marijuana to create sleep aid and pain pill capsules, and the company also makes a deep-tissue salve.
“One of the first products we made is a topical rub that works great on back pain, skin irritation, all sorts of things,” Sproul said. “The salve mixed with all the other ingredients — cocoa butter, chamomile — there’s a lot more integration with all those other herbs and the effect it has when mixed with them.”
Medical vs. recreational
The Growing Kitchen will obtain its license to create recreational marijuana products in March and will be ready to distribute those products sometime in April, Sproul said. Some producers of edibles were ready to charge ahead with retail sales on the first of the year, but existing Growing Kitchen edible products on Summit County store shelves came from the shops having state permission to do a onetime transfer of items from medical stock to retail before Jan. 1.
“The differences between medical and retail are mostly based on packaging and quantity of active ingredients,” Sproul said. “You can’t have something more than 100 milligrams (of THC) for retail. It’s been a little all over the place in terms of general regulations.”
Sproul said it’s important to read the packaging on each item to be informed about what you are getting. Not all cookies are created equally; some may contain more THC than others, and that THC could be measured in different ways.
“The first thing you should check on the label is whether the amount you are listing is active THC or not,” he said. “There are a lot of products out there that the companies weigh out a certain amount of plants per edible and they don’t get it lab tested. Look at active THC — if that’s not labeled, it could be strong, it could be weak; it’s going to be very inconsistent.”
Every batch of oil used at The Growing Kitchen is tested for its specific THC content, Sproul explained, rather than relying on general guidelines of X amount of leaves of a certain strain or from a certain plant equaling X amount of THC.
“We test for any leftover solvents, any pesticides — everything to make sure it’s 100 percent clean — and then each batch is labeled specifically with the testing we’ve done on it,” he said. “With retail, they’re going to start requiring testing with all of those things, but we’ve done it from the start to make sure everything we’re sending out is consistent and also of high quality.”
The other thing to be aware of on edible packaging is what type of cannabis was used to create the product. A brownie made with sativa is going to give you a different high than a cookie made with indica or a hybrid strain.
Growing in popularity
Sproul said there are a number of reasons people are choosing edibles over smoking to ingest THC.
“It’s healthier than smoking,” he said. “Cannabis has been proven not to be too destructive, but you are still inhaling smoke. This is something that doesn’t involve that process at all, and now, you can find something that works for you on a daily basis and also on a situational basis.”
The Growing Kitchen’s Chill Pills, for instance, are very discreet, can be carried around easily and can be used on a regular basis because the low levels of THC allow the user to maintain more functionality. Sproul also recommended the Chill Pills, or something with a similar low level of THC, as a starting point for those who have never dabbled in consuming edibles.
“The best lesson is to always start small,” he said. Chill Pills are 10 milligram candies. “I think that is where you should start until you figure out what’s appropriate for your weight and body type. You absorb them sublingually, through the glands in your mouth, instead of going through the entire digestion process.”
Recipes at The Growing Kitchen continue to evolve as the extraction process of removing the THC from the cannabis becomes more effective. Sproul said edibles are a great way to feel healthier about your marijuana use.
“We’re really excited to be doing something positive in the industry, and we’re trying not to sacrifice on quality to get products to patients and recreational users and people who care about what they are putting into their lives and what they are getting out of it.”