This year saw a whopping 48 edibles entered in the 2015 High Times Medical Cannabis Cup SoCal competition, a record-breaking number that proves how enormous a market this emerging industry is seeking to satisfy. Packaging and labeling is an increasingly important way judges distinguish between serious contenders and ill-advised entrants. Edibles makers should always clearly describe the potency of their products using lab-tested results listed in milligrams of THC per serving, along with dosage advice such as “Eat one half and wait two hours.” It’s important to be as specific as possible!
As always, judges looked for products with an appropriate dose at a satisfying portion size, and were pleased to see many California competitors entering lower dose products designed for new users. Just as in Colorado, more products are now intended to allow people to consume the entire chocolate, cookie, or candy, rather than forcing sweet-tooths to do complicated math to determine dosage or cut cookies into eight or 10 pieces. Most casual users of edibles are looking for daytime doses from 10 to 50 milligrams, whereas patients treating serious health issues or those with incredible tolerances can go up to 500 mg of THC or more in one sitting.
During “The Emerging Edibles Industry” panel discussion, Cup-winning entrepreneurs including Andy D’Amico from Day Dreamers Chocolates, Ata Gonzalez from GFarma Labs, Tyler from Kushie Kandy, and Joseph Winke from Jambo Superfoods shared their wisdom about how to compete in today’s increasingly crowded marketplace. Most successful edibles providers are seeking niches, creating low-dose, gluten-free or healthy treats designed for specific demographic groups. Innovative flavors, new ideas and cutting-edge package design are also ways to distinguish oneself on the shelves of a dispensary. Implementing educational campaigns and instructional videos is also a place where responsible edibles businesses can improve the user experience.
The best way to grab the consumer’s attention these days is with original infused foods that go way beyond brownies and other conventional baked goods. The stand-out stars of this Cannabis Cup were the ones who entered quirky, cool and diverse offerings, from potato chips to cough syrup to fortune cookies. In the Medication Area at the event, we sampled enhanced ice creams, pizzas, empanadas and more, proving that there’s nothing you can’t infuse with cannabis!
A Note on the Results: Scores are achieved when judges rate entrants from 0 to 5 in the categories of Taste, Appearance, Potency, Originality and Healthiness. Specific questions about packaging also allow competitors to earn points. The aggregate average scores from individual judges make up 70% of the final score, with 30% of the final score being based on the lab results.
First Place Winner
Reef Jerky; Badfish Extracts / Healthy Healing
After a third place win in Denver last year, the boys from Badfish are back to take the ultimate prize with their delicious beef jerky. With improved packaging and labeling, this 100 milligram THC jerky is best consumed in small quantities until you are familiar with its effects, although our competition lab testing revealed only 91.3 milligrams of THC per serving, a bit under the stated label content. Still, this is a great option for those looking for a savory, protein-packed way to medicate through out the day. Bonus: Try Badfish’s recipe for BHO Barbeque Sauce!
Second Place Winner
Crème Brûlée 50mg; Beezle’s Creamery with Beezle Extracts
Judges enjoyed this interactive “torch it yourself” dessert, which displayed originality but also great taste. You sprinkle the sugary topping on yourself, then hit it with your torch until it’s golden brown, forming a crackly layer on top that you shatter with a spoon, digging into the creaminess beneath. We wished there were more obvious cannabis warnings, as well as fancier packaging. Since crème brûlée is such a decadent dessert usually reserved for special occasions, it deserves to be dressed up a bit! Our competition lab testing revealed 47.5 milligrams of THC in what was supposed to be a 50 mg serving, but that’s close enough to allow for a reasonable margin of error. Bonus: Make your own Dab Brûlée at home!
Third Place Winner
Cali High Thai’d Ice Cream; Beezle’s Creamery
If you like Thai Ice Tea, you’ll love this innovative frozen push-pop dessert. The cannabis taste is undetectable, completely masked by the flavor of tea and spice. While judges loved the intense flavor and originality of this product, competition lab testing revealed only 35.2 mg of THC in what was supposed to be a 50 mg serving. Beezle’s Creamery won huge this time around based on flavor and originality, and we look forward to bigger and better things from them in the future.
Lifted Edibles Pineapple Delight Bites; Alternative Herbal Health Services
Both the Pineapple Delight Bites and Blueberry Bites entered in this competition were tasty and incredibly healthy, perfect for patients seeking to stay fit while medicating. This organic, vegan, gluten-free edible is crafted with dried fruits and nuts including walnuts, pineapple, mango, goji berries, and coconut for a burst of nutrition! The 100 milligram THC content is described as fulfilling 2 – 4 doses, and I’d advise newbies to start with no more than one-quarter, or 25mg, of this treat. However, competition lab testing revealed 108.9 mg of THC, a little more than you bargained for! Judges really appreciated the healthy great taste of these nutritious edibles. Bonus: Create your own healthy Lifted Lemon Ginger Tart!
Glazed Pecans; Auntie Dolores
Deliciously savory, this bag of sweet and spicy glazed nuts contains 100 milligrams of THC, with one dose defined as 5 or 6 pecans, for 10 doses per bag. Judges raved about how each pecan (containing about 2 milligrams each) allowed patients to micro-dose throughout the day. According to the lab, each dose of 5 pecans contained 12.6 milligrams of THC, slightly more than the package label claims. These pecans are a great healthy choice with deep umami flavor, perfect for stashing in your desk drawer for occasional medicated snacking. Bonus: Auntie Dolores shares her recipe for Ganja Glazed Nuts!
FourTwen Cookies; Baked Gods
These ‘Medicated Fortune Cookies with the Wisdom of the Streets’ come with a counterculture quote inside. Mine was from George Carlin—nice touch! This is a really fun, inventive idea that could benefit from better labeling and dosage advice with more obvious cannabis warnings. Package claims 150mg of THC total, or 75 mg per cookie, while lab testing revealed 70.6 mg per cookie, very close to the stated potency. Cookie definitely has a cannabis taste, but it’s a great way to follow a homemade stir-fry or noodle dish any day of the week!
High Society Cake Balls in collaboration with Alternative Herbal Health Services; Dark Red Velvet Indica Cake Balls
These orbs of red velvet cake were covered with cream cheese frosting, making for a deliciously dense, moist and decadent treat that also happens to be organic, gluten-free, and made of high-quality ingredients including brown rice flour, rice flour, GF oat flour, and coconut sugar. This is one sweet treat you can feel good about indulging in! Two cake balls arrive in a package at 30 milligrams of THC each, but our lab testing revealed an overall dose of 51.2 mg, slightly under the package claims of 60 mg total. The label included great information, but I would have liked to see fancier packaging like a box or clamshell to prevent the cake balls from getting squished. Overall a wonderful effort from High Society! Bonus: Create your own gluten-free Red Velvet Whoopie Pies!
A Greener Today Co-Op with Sensi Sweets; Sensi Sweets Northwest Berry Lemonade
Sensi Sweets placed second at the Seattle Cannabis Cup last fall with their three drink sampler containing Strawberry and Blackberry Lemonades, plus a Double Shot Espresso drink. At the time, judges noted that while the drinks taste amazing, it would be easy to accidentally ingest it without realizing that innocuous juice contains a hefty cannabis dose. Printed very small on the extremely tasteful packaging is a little line that says “70 mg THC minimum.” Indeed, our testing found that the drink contained 102.8 mg of THC, considerably more than the 70 mg stated on the package. Judges also balked at the high sugar content, narrowly edging this product out of contention.
Cannabis Cures Collective; Marijuana & Munchies Medicated Gummy Leaf
This entry was a classic case of ‘so close and yet so far away.’ The pot leaf-shaped gummy is a huge step forward and could be the answer to many of the regulatory problems facing Colorado. Identifiable as a marijuana-infused food outside of its packaging, these gummies can help prevent accidental consumption. However, the packaging and labeling needed work to be more concise and easily understandable. Listed as a “12 pack (+/- 125 mg of shatter),” but with no THC dosage in milligrams, makes it confusing for patients who are accustomed to that standard method for determining dosage. Our lab testing revealed 14.2 mg THC per gummy, and they had a slight BHO aftertaste. Overall the little gummy pot leafs had an enjoyable flavor and texture. With a packaging overhaul, clear dosage advice and lab-tested results listed on the label, this product would be a serious contender.
Summit Health Remedies; Canapa Pizza Sauce
Canapa scored a second place win in the CBD Edibles category for their CBD-rich hemp oil pizza sauce, and the THC-variety was enjoyable as well! This original product is shelf-stable and states a potency of 150 mg THC on the label. More obvious cannabis warnings would be helpful, but we’re looking forward to using this sauce at our next pizza night at home. Unfortunately, competition lab testing revealed that their THC content was much less than stated on the package, so we wish Canapa better luck next time!
Kona Coffee Ice Cream; Cannabis Creamery
This is absolutely delicious ice cream, with a silky smooth texture and awesome coffee flavor. Judges who need some balance to maintain wakefulness during the day always appreciate edibles that balance THC with caffeine. Unfortunately, lab results showed a high percentage of unconverted THC, which narrowly edged this product out of the winner’s circle. While package states 60 milligrams of THC, dosage advice would also be appreciated, since 60mg is too much for most people. This package would realistically hold two or three doses at 30mg or 20mg respectively.
High Chips; Vape Dank
These medicated potato chips were “made with real shatter,” which left a mild aftertaste at the back of the throat. Super fun, original idea, but the package badly needs more overt cannabis warnings and more prominently placed THC content (it’s currently printed small on the back). This product also would benefit from more precise dosage advice on how many chips to eat. Our lab results found a significant discrepancy in the stated dosage of 350 mg of THC versus the test results of 63.2 mg of THC, so there’s definitely a need for improvement.
ChocoLit Cannasseur in collaboration with Bluebird RX; Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumble Bar
This chocolate bar had wonderful dosage advice and great packaging, possibly the best of any chocolate entered in the contest. Chocolate tastes great with no discernible cannabis flavor. Claims to contain 240 mg THC in marked 15mg increments, a very responsible way to dose, and our lab testing confirmed that it contained as much as advertised. Definitely a great new chocolate to try!
Baked Bros; Dank Drank
This CBD & THC Pourable Syrup took a pharmaceutical approach to cannabis edibles, creating a sinsemilla sizzurp that claimed 300 mg THC per bottle. Dosage was listed at 1 tbsp or a 1/2 oz, with 4 servings of 75 mg per bottle. Our lab testing found less, about 253.3 mg THC, and some judges were unhappy with the medicinal taste, but overall an excellent product that’s easy to dose.
FlyNHigh Treats; Peanut Budder and Grape Jam
A combo pack with a 400 mg of THC jar of weed-tasting grape jam paired with a 200 mg jar of Peanut Budder that tasted like honey and cinnamon. The grape jelly actually paired nicely with the cannabis flavor. Package needs more obvious cannabis warnings, better labeling and dosage advice, but the judges found these items really tasty. It’s tough to dose a product like this without specific advice—THC content listed in tablespoons would be a good way to determine how much of each spread to put on a sandwich. But wow, getting high off of peanut butter & jelly is divine!