When I think of good versus bad edibles, I’m reminded of the Tolstoy quote, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” All good edible experiences are light, happy, and aligned with your expectations; all bad edible experiences are uniquely miserable. As the founder of the top-rated edible brand, 1906, Peter Barsoom knows all too well how easily cannabis-infused treats can miss the mark, which is why he left a successful career in finance to get it right. From finding just the right blend of herbs to produce specific effects and figuring out how to deliver those effects quickly, the road has not been easy.
This is Peter Barsoom’s story as told to Proper.
On Ditching Finance For Cannabis
I’d been in finance for 20 years when I quit in 2014 to pursue more entrepreneurial opportunities. But the genesis of 1906 was really my wife's idea. She’s an active cannabis consumer and thought it would be a great idea for us to get into cannabis. When we came out to Colorado for the first time to do our due diligence visit in January 2015, it had been a year since legalization had been put in place. The thing that we immediately noticed is that if you are a flower smoker, life is really good. You've got so many choices between different strains, different potencies, where it's been cultivated, and if it's organic. So you have a ton of amazing options thanks to legalization.
However, only 11% to 12% of the adult population smokes. And we know all of the negative health consequences of smoking, let alone the fact that it's difficult to accurately dose oneself if you are smoking. So, if you are a non-smoker, the market doesn't work well for you. That said, there are three major problems with the edibles and the non-smokeable market. One is that most products taste bad. They have a strong, hashy flavor, and they're made with poor-quality ingredients.
The second thing is that you have no idea how it's going to make you feel. If you're a smoker, you choose a particular strain based upon how it affects you. For instance, I love Blue Dream. But if you're not a smoker, your choices are at best limited to indica-sativa hybrids, which, as all of us know, are not very meaningful distinctions. It’s important to know how people use cannabis. It's not about getting high, it's about feeling a particular way. Maybe I want something to help me sleep or I want something if I have pain or something that's going to relieve my anxiety or something to boost my creativity. There's a specific reason why people are using cannabis.
The third thing is the fact that there's a long delay between ingestion and when you start to feel the effects. So it’s those three factors: It doesn't taste good, I have no idea how it's going to make me feel, and I don't know when it's going to hit me, how long it's going to last, or when it's going to end. For those of us who don't have six hours to have a date with an edible or don't want to play Russian roulette with any substance we put in our body, the market doesn't work.
That’s what 1906 was founded on—the belief there is a large and growing segment of high-functioning adults, people like you and I, for whom cannabis can be a potential alternative to alcohol or pharmaceuticals. But to do that right, you’ve got to solve those three problems. It has to taste good, deliver a very specific effect, and it has to be fast-acting.
On Hardcore Research
When we started the company in 2015, we did two years of full-time research and development before launching our first product. Cannabis is one of the best plant medicines known to man, but there are also others we have a lot of experience with. So we drew on that rich history and scientific understanding of these other substances and how they work. And the good thing is because they're legal and they're FDA-approved, there are a lot more clinical studies, for instance, on caffeine, theobromine, L-theanine, alpinia galanga—or the other four ingredients in our Go chocolates besides the cannabis.
“It allows you to use that stimulating energy to push yourself farther without feeling like you're pushing your body too hard.”
We go through an extensive process saying, okay, what is the experience we want to have? Then we try to tailor that experience by identifying different plant medicines and dietary supplements that make for that. For instance, with Go, we asked ourselves what would make for the ideal kind of stimulant experience. Caffeine is the best central nervous system stimulant that we have available to us, but there are some negative effects of caffeine; some people feel really jittery, while some people feel like they get a crash. So we incorporated these other ingredients to modulate the effects of the caffeine.
As an example, L-theanine reduces the side effects of caffeine, helping you eliminate the jitters or jacked-up feeling you can get sometimes. Alpinia galanga reduces the crash, helping you extend out the effects of the caffeine over a longer period of time. Theobromine is a vasodilator, and by that I mean it expands your blood vessels so you get more blood flow and a reduction in blood pressure. It allows you to use that stimulating energy to push yourself farther without feeling like you're pushing your body too hard.
On Being Impatient
I'm a New Yorker. Our internal motto is impatience is a virtue. So, I never liked how long edibles take to make you feel. I don't have six hours to plan out my day. If I need help sleeping, I need help sleeping now. If you're in pain, no amount of time is acceptable to wait for relief. That’s why, from the beginning, we knew our edibles had to be fast-acting. Almost everybody either has had a bad experience with edibles or knows somebody who's had a bad experience with edibles. Part of that bad experience often comes from the fact that you take one, you don't feel anything, you take another one—you know, the Maureen Dowd effect.
“Having it be fast-acting means you don't have to wait an hour to dial in on what the effect is.”
So, we wanted to make sure our products were safe. One of the ways in which they're safer than any other edible on the market is the fact that you can control your experience. We like to say you can always take one more, but you can never take one less. Having it be fast-acting means you don't have to wait an hour to dial in on what the effect is and you minimize the risk of stacking.
On CBD Skepticism
It's interesting to see the excitement consumers have for CBD. We’ve also seen study after study where researchers have gone out, bought some products, tested them, and found that in some cases they didn’t even contain CBD. We, as a regulated cannabis operator, have to source our CBD from the highest quality farms here in Colorado. We source locally, we inspect the farms, and we also get certificates of analysis to prove the CBD content. And then we also test our products ourselves before any hit the shelf. So we encourage consumers who are interested in CBD to make sure they're getting a product that's been lab-tested from a company that stands behind its products.
On Social Justice
It's a major issue. And 1906, the name, comes from the year that the Wiley Act was passed, which effectively started the era of prohibition of cannabis. So our mission is to bring cannabis back to its pre-prohibition status and highlight the century of a failed war on drugs and the negative consequences that it has, particularly in communities of color. I think one of the ways in which we are focused on righting the wrongs from a century of prohibition is through our workforce programs. For instance, we are developing a program to train and hire formerly incarcerated individuals into the industry. This industry is creating thousands of jobs and one of the ways in which we can be focused from a social justice perspective is on employment. And I think that the industry has not done a good job, in terms of bringing those people who've been most negatively affected by the war on drugs back into the industry, through job creation and through job training.
On Medical Vs. Recreational
I think this whole distinction between medicinal and recreational is kind of an artificial distinction. If you have trouble sleeping and you take Ambien, that's medicine. Well, if you have trouble sleeping and chamomile tea works for you, that's also medicine, right? So I think it's important to recognize that these distinctions are kind of more legal and tax distinctions than distinctions in people's minds. That’s why we're focused on the common reasons people use cannabis. It's for sleep, it's for cognitive focus, it's for energy, it's for anxiety, and so on and so forth. We straddle the medical and recreational market by just giving people what it is they want at the end of the day.
Check out all of 1906's products here and read the glowing review of their Go Beans here.
Photos by Anthony Tripoli.