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Sensi Magazine

Just Add Water

Apr 05, 2019 09:17PM ● By Robyn Lawrence
fat-soluble (adj)


water-soluble (adj)


Well, this changes everything.

Cooking with cannabis was once relatively straightforward, if not all that simple. To extract the plant’s fat-soluble terpenes and cannabinoids (THC and CBD, primarily), you had to slowly simmer the flowers and leaves in something oleaginous (butter, oil, cream) or macerate them in a spirit (gin, vodka, everclear). Heat and alcohol gave the added benefit of converting non-psychoactive THC-A into mind-altering THC, unlocking the cannabis plant’s unique magic.

This technique has been the core of cannabis cookery for centuries, even though every cannabis chef knows it’s far from perfect. It doesn’t give people on raw and low-fat diets a lot of options, and lipids are one of the least efficient ways to deliver cannabinoids and terpenes to the blood, which is about 80 percent water. When THC and CBD are ingested and processed through the liver, they’re less bio available and take longer to come on, with potentially more potent and unpredictable effects. Finally, fats are tough to homogenize throughout a recipe, so if you don’t know what you’re doing, one bite could deliver a massive dose of cannabinoids while another has none at all.

Anyone who cooks with cannabis has dreamt of a workaround. We’ve all known that finding a way to dissolve cannabinoids and terpenes homogenously into water and other liquids as simply as we stir in baking soda or tamari would be a giant leap for cannabis chefs and eaters everywhere.

The demise of prohibition brings new miracles every day. Water-soluble cannabinoids and terpenes are now a thing, available in dispensaries and retail stores in legal states and countries. Hydrophilic THC and CBD is sold in various formulations of easily doseable powders and liquids that can be folded into any dish or beverage just as you would add water, salt, or stevia. Processed through the intestines rather than the liver, these cannabinoids deliver predictable effects in about 10 minutes.

We are getting what we wished for.

No more time spent simmering oils, straining out messy plant matter, calculating dosage! Freedom for the cannabis chef!

Revolutionizing Archaic Processes

The ability to easily stir reliable doses of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids and terpenes into any food or beverage shakes up the cannabis food scene as considerably as TV dinners and cake mixes revolutionized home cooking in the mid-20th century. No more time spent simmering oils, straining out messy plant matter, calculating dosage! Freedom for the cannabis chef! A whole new world!

I’m excited about this and selfishly, I can’t help but worry a little as a cannabis cookbook author. Will anyone ever need directions for foolproof coconut oil infusions or ask for my favorite Bubba Kush-infused bone broth recipe again?

Juan Ayala, chief technology officer for Seattle-based Tarukino, which sells water-soluble cannabis liquids and powders to the wholesale market and to consumers via drinks like Happy Apple and Utopia sparkling water, assures me they will. The former worldwide marketing director for Microsoft, whose new mission is to “revolutionize the archaic processes associated with the bio-delivery of cannabis to patients and consumers,” says people who love the cannabis plant–“the people who say even the terroir, the minerals from where and how the plant was grown, has meaningful impact” will continue to make up a credible, if small, premium market.

Fake News Before Fake News

In late summer 2016, just as the media was desperately seeking dog-days diversions from the impending election, a report about THC being found in wells in Hugo, Colorado–complete with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment encouraging residents not to drink, cook with, or bathe in the water was almost too good to be true.

And of course, as anyone who understands even the basic chemistry of fat-soluble cannabinoids could tell you, it was. Tests found no THC in the water supply, because that would be impossible.

Christopher Hudalla, PhD, chief scientific officer of Massachusetts-based medical marijuana testing company ProVerdeLabs, told that even if massive amounts of THC did get into a well, the cannabinoids would stick to the muck on the sides rather than dispersing into the water because it isn’t water-soluble.

“You can make cannabinoids water-soluble, but it would be very, very expensive and very difficult,” said Hudalla, who went on to explain what a huge challenge this has been for the cannabis industry. “People in the industry have been working on this for years, and a few people have achieved water-soluble cannabinoids but it requires very sophisticated technology.”

Warp speed, 2019. Cannabinoids dissolve in water, and Donald Trump is president. If we’ve learned anything over the past three years, it is this: you can’t make this stuff up.

Tarukino (named after the Maori word for cannabis) is reaching out to that market with strain-specific cannabinoid and terpene formulations made using its Sorse emulsion technology. The Tarukino team is investing heavily in water-soluble technology because it believes that is the cannabis industry’s future. The company’s scientists have worked for more than two years to break cannabinoids and terpenes into ever-tinier particles for maximum absorption while removing or improving their bitter taste. “Our first version was kind of like the original iPhone,” Ayala says. “It was good, it did some things, but there’s no comparison to where the technology is today.”

Reliable Dosing, No Hashy Taste

Since Naturally Splendid USA claimed the first USPTO patent for water-soluble cannabinoids, which are essential to its hemp-based Natera nutraceuticals, in 2014, several cannabis companies have won or are seeking patents that tweak the process of emulsifying cannabinoids into nano-size particles that dissolve into water and mix more easily into blood. In the cannabis industry, water-soluble is the new black.

At Tarukino, Ayala says soccer moms who can just as easily and discreetly sip a Utopia sparkling water as they would a LaCroix–represent the biggest growth opportunity. The company is also targeting home cooks with its Pro 20 and Pro-Mini water sold in bottles with dosing cups. The biggest hurdle, Ayala says, is getting people to understand how simple the product is to use.

“People are having a really hard time understanding it’s just water,” he says. “You can make pancakes, soup, ramen, guacamole…anything. The only dishes you can’t make are ones in which you throw away the water, like spaghetti.”

Colorado-based Stillwater Brands ran into similar issues when it started marketing Ripple cold-water soluble powders derived from distillate, says brand director Missy Bradley. The team had to explain again and again that Ripple was not a sugar packet and that the powder was tasteless, odorless, calorie-free, and could be stirred into anything. Stillwater’s lead food scientist Keith Woelfel, who left Mars, Inc., to join the startup in 2016, says his team has “spent considerable time and gone to great lengths to achieve consistency in dosing and clean, consistent fl avor without green, hashy bitterness.”

Los Angeles-based cannabis chef Chris Sayegh, who has been cooking with water-soluble cannabinoid solutions for several years, will soon sell bottles of water-soluble CBD solution through his company, The Herbal Chef. Sayegh says the liquid is more stable, easier to dose, and “probably the best way to homogenize because on a molecular level, nanoparticles work to create a nice, even net, if you will.”

All of this is why Jon Cooper, founder and CEO of Colorado-based Ebbu which sells liquid cannabinoid formulations engineered to produce certain moods to the wholesale and consumer markets predicts water-soluble technology will create “some fairly seismic shifts in the food and alcohol world in the next five years.” (Canopy Growth Corp., which acquired Ebbu late last year for $330 million, appears to agree.)

“Our most important message as we move forward as an industry is trust, control, responsibility, and safety,” Cooper says. “People will never trust products that don’t deliver consistent experiences. Big companies coming into this space will have no choice but to achieve that.”