Cannabis for Cowboys
The classic cowboy archetype is an image that’s synonymous with the American West — a rugged man on horseback, clad in leather riding chaps and a wide-brimmed hat; rifle, revolver and lasso at the ready; a wad of tobacco curled into his bottom lip.
Modern cowboys and cowgirls are more commonly associated with rodeo events like barrel racing and bronc riding, and horses have generally been replaced by pickup trucks and ATVs. And in the ever-growing world of legal marijuana, that chew might not be made of tobacco anymore.
Two separate companies — one based in Washington, the other in Colorado — are in the process of rolling out cannabis chew for the consumer market.
But the concept of chewable marijuana isn’t just for cowboys and cowgirls. Castle Rock Naturals and Hippie Dip were created when several cannabis entrepreneurs saw chew as one of the last unexplored territories of cannabis infusion.
Castle Rock Naturals
During the Fourth of July holiday in 2015, Dallas Carroll and Gavin Pehl spent a lot of time talking about cannabis, cancer and the general health of loved ones. They were discussing better medical alternatives to the smokable products and edibles that were already available to patients.
“My family and Gavin’s family were at a coffee shop and my wife asked the question: ‘Why can’t you just chew it?’ Gavin and I looked at each other and had the light bulb moment,” Carroll explains. “We are both dreamers and doers, so from then on we jumped in head first.”
Carroll and Pehl co-founded Castle Rock Naturals on the basis of those early conversations. The tandem called their product “Castlerock Cuff” and adopted the tagline, “Are you cuff enough?” They signed a licensing agreement with Honu, a Tier 3 producer/processor, to be the sole supplier of Cuff in Washington, as long as minimum production requirements are met each month, Carroll says.
Castle Rock Naturals (www.castlerockcuff.com) is in the process of seeking out licensees in other states. It has a verbal commitment from an Oregon company, and has also gained interest from companies in Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and even North and South Carolina.
Licensing agreements are the most cost-effective way for the company to go national, Carroll says.
“Producer/processors from each state, both medical and recreational, can buy the rights to this turn-key business and patent-pending product,” Carroll says. “Castle Rock Naturals seamlessly plugs a new product into their established business practices.”
The company has faced plenty of challenges to get up and running and put product on retail shelves. Carroll calls it “11 months of go, go, go,” and a non-stop procession of meetings with attorneys and investors, contract negotiations, research and development, quality assurance testing and budget analyses.
“If it was easy, everyone would do it,” Carroll says, adding that he decided a long time ago that the company would be successful if he surrounded himself with smart people, established the right business connections, supported supply chain partners and treated people with kindness.
“If we can figure out how to get everyone to be successful the way they desire to be successful, then we will create a solid foundation to grow and sustain this dream of a business,” he says. “Has it been hard? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes.”
Although the product picture above is long cut, the final packaged product will be sold in individual pouches that contain 10 milligrams of THC apiece.
Castlerock Cuff has the same look and feel as chewing tobacco, but does not contain tobacco or nicotine. It will be available in a variety of different flavors and cannabinoid profiles.
Carroll says the company’s mission is to “stop causing cancer, and start healing cancer.”
“That’s where this really began for me and Gavin — helping family who are beating cancer and other health problems,” he says.
As a chemical dependency counselor and adjunct faculty member at a community college, Carroll says it was a challenge to reveal the cannabis aspect of his life to certain people.
“Gavin and I have had some family, friends and professionals that are choosing to not be supportive of us and our business due to their understanding of cannabis, yet the overwhelming majority of family and friends think it’s a great idea and support our process and message,” he says. “And 99% of the consumers who were part of research and development are pumped about this product.”
While still in its prototype phase, Mark Silen hopes to have Hippie Dip available at retail by early 2017.
In 2001, Mark Silen was injured in a crash caused by a drunken driver. Like many people with chronic pain and other ailments, he found relief with medical cannabis. There was just one problem: His home state of Texas had some of the toughest marijuana laws in the nation.
When police raided Silen’s house over three grams of cannabis, he decided he’d had enough of the Lone Star State. He packed up his belongings and headed north for the friendlier pastures of Pueblo, Colorado.
The former nurse originally planned on getting a job as a trimmer or working for a dispensary, but he had an epiphany while perusing a local shop. There were infused sodas, candies, baked goods, ice creams, condiments and more — pretty much every consumer product imaginable was infused with cannabis.
The one thing Silen didn’t see was chew. Within eight days, he had established Hippie Dip Inc. (www.hippiedipinc.com), and he has been working on product development and market testing ever since.
Silen hopes to get licensed and have product on retail shelves by January 2017.
For now, he says he’s playing by the rules and only manufacturing small-batch samples.
“I’m just happy to have rules to play by,” he says, comparing the vast differences between Colorado and Texas.
Just like Castlerock Cuff, Hippie Dip contains no tobacco or nicotine, and is made of all-natural ingredients. Hippie Dip is honey-flavored, and will come in different varieties.
Because cannabinoids are absorbed through the mucus membrane, the effects set in within five minutes and consumers can spit it out as soon as they’ve achieved the desired high.
“You’re in control of your medication,” Silen says.
Silen is currently seeking investors, and hopes to license the product for use in other states. He’s been speaking with a company in Maine about bringing Hippie Dip to the East Coast.
So far, Silen says he’s received great feedback about the product.
With tobacco being almost a trillion-dollar industry, Silen hopes he can snag even a small portion of Skoal or Red Man consumers.
“The possibilities are unlimited,” he says.
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We talked with Case Mandel, co-founder of the California-based Cannadips company, about his product’s origin story and development, and how it may be a better consumption method than vapes and edibles.
Describe what Cannadips is.
Cannadips come in a small fiber pouch that kind of looks like a chewing tobacco pouch. But they’re much smaller and modeled after Swedish Snus. Inside the pouch are coconut fiber, essential oils, monk fruit, and the dry tincture. We have three flavors: American, Citrus, and Mint (which comes in THC and CBD)
How does it work?
When you put the product in your mouth, it gets absorbed under the tongue and into the back of the mouth, where there is the buccal artery. We believe this causes it to go directly to the brain and bypass the liver completely. We don’t know what percent of our products get absorbed in the mouth verse the gut at this point as we haven’t been able to conduct clinical research in the U.S. There is some small level of the delayed absorption, but, unlike edibles, our product is rapid acting.
How is this delivery system different?
The cannabinoids in cannabis are fat soluble. So generally to intake these products, they need to either be combusted –which has a harmful effect, or get combined into food products and are eaten. The problem with consuming things through the digestive system is that it goes through your liver and can be super psychoactive. In developing Cannadips, we were introduced to a couple of chemists who found a way to make the cannabinoids water dispersible, meaning that they dispersed in liquid or saliva. This increased their bioavailability, or how much you absorb into the bloodstream. We propose that our product gets absorbed under the tongue and in the back of the mouth in the b buccal artery that goes directly to the brain and bypasses the liver completely. So in the whole process of trying to create weed cannadips, we embarked on this little-known journey: How to create a fast-acting bioavailable efficacious way to consume cannabinoids.
How did you come up with the idea for Cannadips?
My co-founder Cliff Sammet, who has always been a brilliant outside-the-box thinker, came up with the idea. He called it “Weed Dips.” Initially, I hated the name, but I thought it was a brilliant idea. I thought it had probably been done five or six times already, but when we went online, we couldn’t find anything. I saw this as an opportunity, not just another flower brand or vape pen or cookie, but something that had potential.
Did you use regular smokeless tobacco?
Yeah, we grew up in Santa Cruz, California, which is considered Surf City, USA. In the surfer community, a majority of men dipped tobacco. That was a ritual. But it’s highly addictive and not good for you. So that’s something that we were trying to find a solution for. Something that people can use to help them get off smokeless tobacco or use as an adjunct to smokeless tobacco. That was our original idea. Little did we know, at that point, there was so much more to it. We were designing a much more effective delivery system.
What were some of your first steps?
We raised $150,000 and started to design the brand. We invested in our first machine that takes our mulch and matrix and shoots it into the pouch. We sourced tins from the Netherlands, and then we embarked on product development, working with an amazing chemist for 9 to 12 months improving the product.
Did you face any challenges early on?
The initial challenges were testing, especially on the THC side. We’ve developed entirely new technology and process, and when we take our finished product to a lab, it’s hard for them to test what’s in it because it’s an emulsion that they don’t know how to break down. So there’s a lot of unreliability with testing because we’re not a normal form factor of a flower or a simple oil.
Another early challenge was how much opposition we would face from the gatekeepers. There’s a stigma around tobacco and dip. So we’ve had to spend a lot of time educating about our product how it works, doing tons of demo days statewide, so people understand what this product is and isn’t.
Did you encounter the same problem with your CBD product?
We haven’t had that issue. We’re sold in 40-plus states in at least 1,500 to 2,000 stores nationwide, and that’s growing at a rapid rate. We just picked up a large chain in Pennsylvania. There isn’t as much of a stigma in other states.
Any advice for future cannabis entrepreneurs?
If there’s someone in the industry, some company, a new idea or technology that excites you, don’t hesitate to reach out. Do some due diligence, go to the website find out who’s in charge of that company and send them an email. Tell them how excited you are about what they’re doing. Ask pertinent questions. Cannabis is such a young, new industry that when I get emails from people out there who have a general passion and excitement for what we’re doing or just for other things in the industry, I take my time to respond. So I think taking some initiative and reaching out is key.
How a couple of savvy entrepreneurs discovered a new, and possibly improved, way to consume cannabis.