In cannabis shops across the U.S., the top shelf is primarily the domain of indoor flowers that are coveted for their dank, sticky, frosty traits and super-stony highs. But in California, craft cannabis companies are trying to flip that script, and make the case for organic, sun-grown herb with ethereal qualities that indoor producers can’t match.
HerbaBuena, a small NorCal company that formed in 2015, is developing cannabis products designed to create “health, harmony and higher consciousness for people and planet.” It is also testing the limits of the top-shelf market with its new product offering: a pre-roll pack of five joints for 100 bucks.
Audacious? Maybe. Worth it? Only your chakras know.
Michael Straus, VP of business development, and founder Alicia Rose established HerbaBuena on a belief that cannabis consumers will reward companies that create products with high standards of quality and purity, and will pay a premium to support farmers who maintain sustainable, environmentally sound growing practices.
The new HerbaBuena joints are sourced from biodynamic farms that have strict environmental standards in every aspect of their operations, and the flowers are taken from the tops of the plants, aka A-Buds, and then slow-cured, trimmed and hand-rolled. Each joint weighs in at .7 grams, and included in each pack is an organic beeswax hemp wick to spark the doobies. The “biodynamic whole flower joints” come in three mood-inducing flavors: “Harmonize Balanced CBD,” “Rock On Sativa” and “Wind Down Indica.”
“These are the first and only biodynamic joints on the market, as far as we know,” says Straus.
Although the company has an office in Napa, its spiritual HQ may well be on the shores of Tomales Bay, on the land where Straus grew up and first learned and practiced organic farming. As he looks out over the bay from the porch of a 1860s ranch house, Straus talks about his family’s legacy in the area. After first settling here in the 1940s, his parents soon became pioneers in land conservation and sustainable farming, and led the charge to preserve tens of thousands of acres of agricultural land from development. In 1994, the Straus Family Creamery became the first 100 percent certified organic creamery in the U.S.
With HerbaBuena, Straus and Rose want to establish the same high standards in cannabis as his family brought to dairy farming. A key part of the business plan was to build partnerships with certified biodynamic farms in California that have gone through the Demeter certification process, considered one of the most stringent organic standards of all. Biodynamics demands practices that improve the health of the entire environment on the farm — soil, plants, animals, and humans — and relies on biodiversity to attain a healthy, balanced ecosystem. “In many cases, organic certification is the goal, but with biodynamics it is the starting point – it’s organic and beyond,” Straus explains.
Rose, who has spent many years working with high-end wineries in Napa and Sonoma, says that it will be a challenge to educate mainstream consumers about the wide variety of cannabis products now on the market, and more importantly, where and how they were created.
“The earth needs to be healthy, as do the people who are stewards of the earth,” says Rose. “Part of the reason that our pre-rolls are priced the way they are is because we pay a premium for this incredibly pure biodynamic flower that our farmers go to great pains to grow through this Demeter philosophy.”
While it will take time to educate consumers, she expects that within a few years people will begin to appreciate the craft cannabis farms in the Emerald Triangle, and the unique qualities of organic, sungrown weed. “I have seen before my eyes people try our products and flowers and they recognize it immediately, and say, ’wow, there is something different about this, and I like it better.’”
One of HerbaBuena’s fundamental goals is to develop products that give people a more balanced and relaxed feeling – the antithesis of the paranoid and anxious feelings that high-THC strains sometimes cause. Rose, who ran a delivery service for several years and still hosts informal cannabis gatherings, says that “parents and professionals are looking for something that can fit into their daily life without impairment. They’re looking for that greater sense of balance and they want to feel good.”
To that end, HerbaBuena has been working with genetics specialists to identify cultivars that have a balanced blend of THC and other non-psychoactive cannabinoids, terpenes and micronutrients. They are also focusing on heritage landrace strains that can survive and thrive in the unique ecosystems in Mendocino and Sonoma. From a marketing perspective, Rose can draw on her experience in the wine industry, but she also notes that there are important differences between the two elixirs.
“Ultimately, what we’re looking for in a great bottle of wine or cannabis product is how it allows us to hone in on this intangible state of perfect harmony and balance,” she says. “But I would say it’s exponentially more important in cannabis because it’s a magical, sacred and therapeutic healing herb.”
Whether that intangible state is worth a Benjamin, well, that’s for the market to decide.
TELL US, would you buy a $100 pack of joints?