Remember when the word “edibles” conjured up musty jelly beans, neon lollipops, and as a result, a truly interstellar interaction with a box of groceries Cosmic Brownies? In the early days of cannabis legalization, some up-and-coming brands viewed potency as the price and taste as an afterthought — pulling flavors like sour cherry and blue raspberry off the highly processed candy shelf. Stroll through a pharmacy in one of the today 31 states wherever cannabis is currently legal (or scrolling through Instagram) for recreational or medicinal use, a wave of intelligently sourced, aesthetically oriented brands is revealed. But even in this gleaming, oversaturated landscape, rose stands apart.
The Los Angeles based Brand cannabis Launched in 2017 with their farm-grown buds (that’s the smokeable stuff), but really took off with the launch of their Turkish delight-inspired edibles in 2018. Inspired by the confectionary of Miette Patisserie & Confiserie in San Francisco – but also The lion, the witch and the wardrobe– the so-called Delights (available in CBD and THC variations) highlight unconventional flavors guided by partnerships with top chefs and farmers.
More than 15 farms have so far provided high-season produce for seasonal recipe collaborations, often the same growers named on the Gjelina and Tartine menus. Think Shinano Smile grapes grown by Magical Grapes in Ventura, California; Albion strawberries and yuzu made by Chino Farm in San Diego. Andy Baraghanis Collaboration with White Rock Ranch Meyer Lemons grown in Big Sur with Diaspora Co. Heimang wild sumac and freshly steeped thyme; LA’s favorite jelly cake baker, Lexie Park, aka Nunchispikes hers with ruby red oolong from Song Tea of San Francisco.
“There are countless incentives for people who make edibles to decide that working with real food and real cooking processes isn’t worth the risk,” says co-owner Rose Nathan Cozzolino. “We have no interest in working with anything other than products produced on farms that inspire us and use methods similar to how people cook.” I called Cozzolino to talk about the challenges of working with real edibles in the cannabis space, the flavors that pair best with marijuana, and more.
Are there flavors that pair particularly well – or badly – with cannabis?
Sometimes soft tropical fruits drown out and lose their texture when you cook them. We made a Cherimoya Flavor with Lime and Sannam Chili from Diaspora Co. People loved it because the cannabis in it was quite unique, but the recipe wasn’t one that we would remake. Cherimoya is just too delicate in taste and fruit – it bruises very easily and the color does not hold when heated.
Something with more acidity and structure at the beginning is a little more flexible. Even things that are really chewy and juicy, like Shinano Smile grape flavor, will always taste amazing. It was like the best gummy snack I’ve tried. We are currently working on a recipe with David Zilber. The original idea was a fairly tart citrus mix with kimchi juice and a Korean chilli topping – this is a perfect example of one we don’t know how it’ll turn out, but we’ll test it.
What are some of the challenges of making real food edibles?
Many people are encouraged to stay away from working with real edibles in the cannabis space as it poses too much regulatory and compliance risk. We made a recipe with Enrique Olvera where we fire roasted three different types of tomatoes to essentially have a Michelada recipe with fermented chillies called Ojo Rojo or Red Eye.
The ash from the wood fire was tested for lead, so we had to dump 1,300 units in boxes to satisfy the California Department of Cannabis Control. We traced the so-called contamination — as contaminated as any wood-fired pizza — and showed it was wood ash. The amount of lead tested was actually safe, according to the US Food and Drug Administration, but the Department of Cannabis Control applied a blanket regulation to smokable cannabis instead of edibles. This is an example where six months of working with what we think is one of the most interesting chefs in the world went straight to the bin because we chose real food and real cooking practices.
If you order tart cherry juice in a plastic bottle from Amazon and mix it with vanilla bean paste, it’s a little “safer”. When you put together a network of farms with different organic growing practices in different regions, each one poses a new risk or threat to whether or not the product can be tested as clean according to Department of Cannabis Control standards.
Many people are encouraged to stay away from real edible work in the cannabis space
The edibles market has changed a lot in recent years. What trends or changes do you wish for 2023?
When there was an influx of capital, it fueled the rapid industrialization of cannabis. I hope the trend is for people to watch and understand that this isn’t the most interesting direction to go. We have learned from other industries that industrializing agricultural products does not always produce the best outcome or the most interesting products for human consumption.
People often develop products with interesting margins and scalability. I think Rose designs products backwards – we start with something that we as consumers want to find in a retail store and then figure out how it works from a business perspective. When the first goal is margins and scalability, it doesn’t always result in the most interesting products to buy and consume.
I hope there will be a universal return to nature where people will look at nature with more respect when it comes to producing and scaling cannabis products. I hope that people will take their foot off the gas of industrializing cannabis and find more sustainable ways of using the plant and making products out of it.