Can you imagine a time when cannabis is as readily available and culturally revered in Vancouver as craft beer?
Paul Rock does. He's one of the co-founders and spokesperson of Budderweeds, an online "craft" marijuana dispensary and edibles vendor that is hoping to fill a very specific niche in the growing industry.
Budderweeds went live in September 2017, however the founders had been researching getting into the dispensary biz for at least a year prior. With Canada in the process of legalizing recreational marijuana, the wheels are moving slowly--albeit faster than even just a year before--to grant companies licences.
In Vancouver, many cannabis vendors are upfront about working without a licence. Rock says that, for the time being, Budderweeds is 100% black market, however they are relying on the City of Vancouver and Vancouver Police Department's decision to not prosecute companies like theirs.
The Budderweeds team couldn't wait to get their "small batch" bud on the market, and work towards becoming what Rock describes as a "small regional player."
Do some of these buzz words sound familiar? The echoes of craft beer aren't accidental. Rock explains that cannabis, too, can have mainstream producers and artisanal producers. Just as in any other kind of agricultural business, there is the control and intimacy of raising fewer plants and focusing on the soil and methods.
For his part, Rock says he's an "old grower" with experience going back more than 20 years, and now he and the Budderweeds team are committed to growing B.C. bud with small-scale crops and creating products "for a different generation."
That generation is overwhelmingly Gen X and late Millennial. According to Rock, Budderweeds' online clientele fall 60% in the 25-44 age bracket, with an even split pretty much in the brackets on either end, 19-24 and 45-54.
It's not surprising that Rock is very familiar with his buyers' age data; Budderweeds has a strict custom two-step age verification process and policy they use to ensure their customers are of age, and are real people. Step one is submitting government-issued photo ID, while step two is to do a live selfie, and a real human verifies each account. During the research phase, Rock says he experimented with signing up for other online companies and was able to get accounts using photos of a dog or even his coffee table.
"We went [with this custom age verification system] knowing we'd be getting a licence," explains Rock, who adds that all of the personal information is encrypted and stored. "We've never sold to anyone not 19 or older."
But, of course, much of what Budderweeds sells, seems to appeal to a more grown up clientele. "We're making it classier," says Rock. They're even focusing on women in the cannabis consumer market, and have gone to great lengths to create flavours, products, marketing materials, and packaging that would appeal to this particular kind of shopper--particularly the items that come from Discreetly Baked.
The edibles Budderweeds sells are centred on microdosing, which means an average dose of 10-20 mg of THC, the cannabanoid extract with psychotropic properties, per serving. That said, many of their products come in 5mg portions, allowing for customers to not only take small steps in testing their tolerance, but to also consistently be able to consume just a little dose in one go.
Rock also sees a definite parallel between marijuana edibles and alcohol, though of course he has scenarios in mind where the weed kicks the booze to the curb--like, for example, someone opting to spend $24 on some micro-dosed treats that offer about 10 servings of 10mg, and "bringing [them] to a party instead of wine."
"THC and CBD are a healthier alternative to alcohol," adds Rock.
Sour keys, gummy worms, cola bottles, rock candy, and gummy fruit slices are among the three dozen or so premium candies Budderweeds produces. They are sold in resealable and child-resistant brown paper packets, and Rock says the company follows the guidelines for edibles set up in the state of Colorado, since Canada does not have anything on the books yet for marijuana edibles.
The candies come in a variety of doses of THC and also CBD, the non-psychotropic cannabanoid that tends to give the user a more calming effect. A few products offer THC and CBD in combination; the CBD can work to temper the THC for most users.
Though Budderweeds is enjoying a boom in these edible sales, they also offer more traditional marijuana products, such as straight up bud, pre-rolled joints, vape products, and flavoured THC and CBD oils. They are expanding the Discreetly Baked line and have introduced a THC-infused loose-leaf tea, and are developing several high-end gourmet micro-dosed chocolates, including an expansive line of artisanal truffles and bars.
Budderweeds' chocolates are scratch-made using valhrona chocolate as a base, and German equipment that carefully measures each CBD or THC dose. Rock emphasizes that they are using high-end ingredients and no artificial flavours. The ganache contains the dose, and for the chocolates line, they are coming up with appealing flavours like Key Lime Pie, Peanut Butter Crunch, and Dark Chocolate Cherry.
The team has brought on an experienced pastry chef and food scientist from Colorado to develop the line, and Budderweeds is keenly focused on the edibles sector. Though Canada hasn't come out with any clear information about how the plan to tackle marijuana edibles, Rock says he knows that a year from now the country will be closer to having directives for that sector of the industry, and he expects the dried buds market to crash, while the edibles market will explode.
"That's where the market is going," Rock says of cannabis edibles. "That's the industry we want to be in."
And if the marijuana edibles industry is like craft beer, well, these guys just might be onto something.