Marijuana barbecue sauce, anyone?
As Alaska's cannabis cultivators and marijuana stores slowly come online, dozens of marijuana products — from brownies to lotion to high-potency concentrates — are being developed for the Alaska market.
Five businesses have been approved to make edibles and concentrates so far. Three of them — Frozen Budz in Fairbanks, Einstein Labs in Anchorage and Top Hat Concentrates in Juneau — can make edibles, concentrates, tinctures and other products like salves and lotions with their product-manufacturing license approved by the Marijuana Control Board.
The other two, Babylon Company and R.C. Tinderbox, both in Anchorage, have licenses limiting them to production of marijuana concentrates only.
Frozen Budz is so far the only one that has received the go-ahead from its local government to start producing those marijuana products.
At the store on Saturday — a newly built Quonset hut in an industrial area on Peger Road in Fairbanks — a few edibles were already available for purchase. Cookies, chocolates and "canna-capsules," filled with cannabis oil, were displayed in a case.
More products will be on the way soon.
"It's right around the corner," co-owner Destiny Neade said Wednesday.
Neade has had 37 products approved by the Marijuana Control Board, including the cannabis butter and oil that will serve as the base of all the edibles she creates. Many products are different kinds of sweets, which are common in the world of edibles — brownies, muffins, cupcakes and chocolates.
Others are more unusual, including a chai tea that Neade says is her favorite product. Then there's "Reefer Hummus," "Mary's Mustard" "Vibe-n-Vinaigrette," and "Mary Jane's BBQ Sauce."
Some, like the chocolate "THC Stars" that are already available for sale, will be staples in the shop, Neade said.
She'll rotate through other products, gauging popularity as she goes, Neade said.
Eventually, Neade will have blueberry jam, which she hopes will become a seasonal feature.
"I'm trying to keep the whole Alaska theme going," Neade said.
Contention and regulation
Concentrates and edibles, which are widely available in Washington and Colorado, have been a point of contention in Alaska's fledgling market. Leading into the November 2014 vote that legalized marijuana in the state, some pointed to possible dangers of edibles as one reason to oppose legalization. Alaska Sen. Pete Kelly also unsuccessfully attempted to ban concentrates during the 2015 session.
These concerns are reflected in state regulation.
In Alaska, serving sizes are 5 mg of THC, with no more than 50 mg of THC allowed per package. Both of those are half what's permitted in Colorado or Washington, which have adopted 10 mg of THC per serving, with 100 mg per package.
Child-resistant packaging is required for all marijuana and marijuana products. All products must also come with five separate warnings about the intoxicating effects, associated health risks and warnings against use by children and pregnant women.
Products can't be packaged to look like candy, have bright colors or be marketed to children.
Alaska's products also can't be adulterated, defined in regulation as being ready to be eaten before the marijuana was added.
The "unadulterated" requirement caused Neade's "canna-carnival nuts" — a nut mix with cannabis oil and sugar — to be rejected, as the nuts were seen as ready-to-eat products. Also rejected was a lemon drop candy, seen as too similar to a branded candy already on the market.
Lotions, shatter, and 'just a squish'
There's more coming to the market than just edibles.
Anchorage's Einstein Labs also has numerous products approved for sale.
Among them are three topical products — "refreshing cannabis salve," "moisturizing cannabis lotion" and "canna island lip balm."
The products don't have psychoactive effects, and would have only 5 mg of THC for the entire container, co-owner Justin Roland told the Marijuana Control Board on Sept. 8.
Then, there were a wide variety of concentrates approved by the Marijuana Control Board.
Concentrates often contain high percentages of THC (sometimes around 80 percent, as opposed to flower cannabis, which hovers around 20 percent). Some concentrates are created through a closed-loop extraction method, which strips THC from the marijuana plant using solvents and packs it into a condensed form. Tinctures, taken orally, are another type of concentrate that Alaskans can expect to see on the market.
Shatter, sugar sap, crumble, clear, amberglass, honeycomb, budder: All are variations on concentrates that are made through a closed-loop extraction process. All were approved for production by Einstein Labs. They can be inhaled, used to make edibles or as topical products, according to Einstein Labs' public documents. Babylon Co. had similar products approved by the board.
R.C. Tinderbox decided to start with only a handful of concentrates. The company is shying away from some of the more expensive, and complicated, closed-loop extraction methods, said co-owner Chris Euscher.
"We kept it simple and just kept it easy," Euscher said.
Instead, they'll make a cannabis oil that can be used in cooking. Kief, the white trichomes that can be shaken off the marijuana bud, will be made into kief coins.
Then there's rosin, which Euscher described as "just a squish," where the THC essence is smushed out of the marijuana bud, and consumed by inhalation.
R.C. Tinderbox is still a few months away from having their manufacturing up and running, Euscher said.
Meanwhile, a handful of marijuana stores have opened around the state, in Fairbanks, Valdez and on the Kenai Peninsula. Juneau's first shop, Rainforest Farms, opened Friday. No shops have opened in Anchorage.