This piece originally appeared as part of Rolling Stone’s 2021 Hot List, in the July/August issue of the magazine.
Weed edibles are more popular than ever. That’s because they’ve overcome a notorious problem: When marijuana goes through the digestive process, it can be hard to tell how high you’ll get or how long that high might last. Thanks to advances in weed technology (and years of nanotechnology R&D), brands across the country are releasing products that offer targeted highs that come on quickly and wear off by the time you need to drive home. Here, five different types of new weed tech and how they aim to get you high.
Cannabis beverage sales rose 40 percent in 2020, to $95.2 million. CANN — whose “social tonic” is one of the bestselling cannabis drink brands in California — uses a process called nano-emulsification, which allows cannabis-infused oil to dissolve in water, and leaves no discernible taste. While the company offers options with either two or five milligrams of THC, there are plenty of variations out there: KEEF’S cans of classic soda come with a 10 mg kick, while Pabst Blue Ribbon has licensed its name to a group of former employees who just launched a lemon seltzer with 5 mg.
Gummies have long been a favorite, but in recent years, developers have come up with innovative ways to make them even more effective. Traditionally, edibles pass through the digestive tract and are metabolized by the liver, which converts delta-9-THC (what we know as “standard” THC) into a more potent form, 11-hydroxy-THC, which can lead to an hours-long, intense high. Nanotechnology breaks down cannabinoids like THC and CBD into tiny particles that are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, so the effects can be felt in 20 minutes or less in a gummy. KANHA was one of the first companies to use nanotechnology to create fast-acting gummies, which come in 5 mg and 10 mg options. Colorado-based WANA BRANDS has also developed a line of quick-onset gummies that kick in within 15 minutes, with effects that last for about three hours.
There are many tiny capillaries under the tongue, making it a great place to get THC directly into the bloodstream. That’s what lets sublingual squares like KIN SLIPS, which offer a range of low-dose THC and CBD in mood-targeted formulations, take effect in as little as 15 minutes. For a minty-sweet flavor, suck on Kiva Brand’s PETRA MINTS, which dissolve 2.5 mg of THC for a quick-onset perk-up.
1906 DROPS are formulated using pharmaceutical techniques, which makes sense, since they’re essentially mood-altering pills. The aspirin-size tablets mix 2.5 mg or 5 mg of THC with plant adaptogens for a variety of targeted experiences — from energy and arousal to relaxation and sleep.
Water-soluble and fast-acting, liquid THC like ALT can be added to drinks, medicating anything from cola to cocktails. Unlike tinctures — where the cannabinoid is extracted by soaking weed in a substance like alcohol or glycerin — the new generation of liquids is made using nanotechnology. When it’s absorbed through the salivary glands, the onset can be felt in a matter of minutes. These vials of flavor-neutral concentrate contain 5 mg or 10 mg of THC — as they say, with edibles, go slow.