Herbs are Weed's New BFF

A fragrant new way to smoke.

The Broccoli Report 
Monday, February 15, 2021
Time to read: 8 minutes, 6 seconds. 1621 words.

Good morning, lovers of cannabis and creativity!

In honor of today’s pseudo-holiday, I’m going to share an LY-exclusive, presidential fun fact with you valued subscribers: 

When Barack Obama was campaigning in Oregon in the spring of 2008, Roseburg High School was one of the only large capacity buildings with decent air conditioning and freeway access in central Oregon. So Obama ended up hosting a town hall meeting in my high school cafeteria on the same day as our prom. Me and my fellow governors of the student body were “commissioned” by his team to make posters with campaign slogans and logos for decor. We nailed it, but we also decided to include a sign that said: “Obama, Please Come to Prom-a.” It’s unclear whether his refusal was because he had other plans or was just really disappointed with our wordplay.  

Enough about politics. Today, we’re returning to nature—specifically, to the other herbs humans have been smoking for centuries and how modern brands are creating new categories and cannabis experiences in this space. 

Before we dive in, a tease for this Friday’s long-awaited newsletter on WEED FASHION. We take a look at the brands dedicated to the niche, the ripple effects of masterful merch we want to wear, and what businesses can learn from the changing ways consumers express their love of cannabis. Be sure to sign up as a paid subscriber to catch this one.

Thoughts on THOTS: Those Herbs Over There

Hopefully, everyone reading this knows that the act of smoking cannabis stretches back many generations. But you may not know that the Irish smoked the herb mullein to aid respiratory function against tuberculosis in the late 19th century. Or that Native American women smoked red raspberry leaf to support their cycles and prepare their wombs for childbirth. (I didn’t.) Humans have had a combustible relationship with many plants and flowers for centuries, and it’s high time they make their way back into cannabis rituals. 

I was first introduced (re-introduced?) to the concept of smokable herbals via Barbari, a Portland-based brand with three core blends incorporating ingredients including rose petals, sage, jasmine flowers, peppermint, and raspberry leaf. Barbari’s blends are designed to be smoked, smudged, or added to a bath soak. As we discussed in a past Broccoli Report interview, Barbari eventually started selling hemp and herb spliffs, and, after an arduous process of creating a new license category with the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission, were able to get their cannabis and herb spliffs sold on dispensary shelves. 

In Barbari’s case, the brand wanted to create a way for stoners to use the herbs to dilute any joint, any way they want. This approach opened my mind to the idea of true herbal harmony. It’s not just about alternative benefits from these other herbs—it’s how these herbs can be used to modulate a weed high and fine-tune flower dosage. If any non-smokers are intrigued, 1906’s robust line of edibles (featuring a myriad of herbs alongside cannabis) is worth checking out.

Drew Martin launched a pair of flavorful herb and real weed joints in California in summer 2020. Puff Herbal Smokes have taken a similar approach to Barbari, offering three blends (available loose leaf or as hemp and herb spliffs) using ingredients cultivated at a single Massachusetts farm. That sort of controlled supply chain means something in the even-less-regulated world of fully legal herbs. Many companies do the rigorous research required to ensure safety, but there's still a big unanswered question: whose responsibility is it to educate and provide information about ingredients? To cite one example, one of Miss Grass’s mini CBD joints includes St. John’s Wort, which can decrease the efficacy of multiple birth control methods. Do brands need to make sure the consumer knows about potential complications? Or is it on the consumer to do their research, by consulting a doctor who might also need to be an herbalist? This is one reason we’re such fans of Xula tinctures—their Herb Index details information and relevant studies about every ingredient in their products, from anise seed to turmeric root. 

High Sun Low Moon is an all-herb, no-hemp brand focused on ritual materials like smudgeable loose incense and God Leaf loose smoking herbs of lobelia, skullcap, spearmint, rose, and mullein. The latter comes in a $10 three-pack of pre-rolls, too, hand-rolled with an endearingly casual air that harkens back to one’s earliest, most poorly rolled, and most joyous seshes. Other herbal operators positioning themselves in proximity to cannabis include the NY-based 69 Herbs, which sells a tin of loose-leaf herbs called SPLIFF featuring rose, lavender, mugwort, and more. You’ll recognize familiar yet surprising ingredients like catnip and hops in Ouid’s calming Relax herbal smoking blend. More Fya offers a huge selection of blends, from an Awake! formula with herbs like raspberry leaf, damiana, uva ursi, and calendula, to a Lucid Dreaming blend incorporating very mild hallucinogenic herbs like calea zacatechichi and blue lotus. Elle’s Elixirs manages to make even a pre-roll cone feel special, with its rose petal-wrapped cones and Rose Stix—blunt-shaped casings made of petals—alongside the vials of loose herb and hemp blends.

I should point out that it isn’t fair to say smoking herbs that aren’t weed or tobacco didn’t exist at all between early civilizations and the 2020s. After all, rose petals, marshmallow leaf, and lavender fill the herbal cigarettes actors use on film sets. (Apparently, Jon Hamm smoked 74 of them over the production of the pilot episode of Mad Men, which, considering the lack of safety information on smoking different kinds of herbs, probably should’ve been medically cataloged.) Not to mention Djarum Blacks, those (now illegal) tobacco-clove cigarettes that beguiled high schoolers for years. Oof, just thinking about those makes my lungs hurt. A far cry from the sense of relief I felt getting off the plane in Seoul, South Korea, pulling out what looked like a bag of loose-leaf tea, and exhaling a satisfying puff from an herbal joint in front of the busiest airport in a very anti-cannabis country. 

One-Hitters: Cannabis News at a Glance

  • In other herbal news, 1906 and Foria collaborated for a different approach to an herbally-assisted V-day on a Colorado-only retail box with Foria Lube and 1906 Love Drops and Chocolates, which contain damiana extract and muira puama (known as the “Viagra of the Amazon”).

  • The California Department of Public Health issued an update clarifying that retail cannabis workers are indeed included in Phase 1A of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, meaning they can qualify as essential health care employees. “Medicinal cannabis workers” to be exact, but many dispensaries serve both patients and adult-use consumers, and thus all their employees would qualify. The state follows in the steps of Maryland, where workers at dispensaries, labs, growers, and processors were classified as "registered health care providers" and prioritized with frontline healthcare workers in the vaccine rollout last month. 

  • In Connecticut, equity advocates and labor chairwomen Robyn Porter and Julie Kushner introduce House Bill 6377, an act concerning “labor peace agreements and a modern and equitable cannabis workforce.” The state has an established medical program and could legalize adult-use this year. This bill would require Labor Peace Agreements for all licenses, the creation of a workforce development pipeline over the next five years, quantification of the negative impacts of the war on drugs to create a robust equity support system, empowerment of local Native American tribes to open cannabis establishments, home grow protections, and an allowance for increased research at the UConn Cannabis Sciences department.

  • The hottest commodity in the cannabis biz of late? Secondhand licenses. Retail licenses, producer and processor licenses, and real estate that meets zoning and eligible location requirement. CannaMLS, a Seattle-based website dedicated to listings for licensed businesses and properties, showed a 100% year-over-year increase in California licenses up for sale. As of Jan 27, 528 assets are for sale in the state. In Michigan, 186, and even one in Puerto Rico. 

  • TV show host, travel guidebook author, and my dad’s preferred backpack designer, Rick Steves, was elected by NORML’s Board of Directors to serve as the organization’s board’s chair for 2021. A longtime supporter of cannabis legalization and drug policy reform, Steves’  familiar face will lead  the board through what will be another tumultuous year. I can’t help feeling glad; maybe due to spillover from the Biden-Comforting-Dad effect? You can read his first blog post to the public here.

  • A Californian producer called Castillo Seed Company is under investigation for withholding farmworker wages. Back in December, management told employees that because of how badly business had declined during the pandemic, they wouldn’t be paid for the last weeks of December into the New Year. That stretched into eight weeks of work with no pay. It’s a sobering reminder of why knowing who you’re supporting in every step of your supply chain matters.

  • A new addition to the cannabis publishing realm debuts: The Buds Are Calling, a comic novel about the trials and tribulations of a commercial medical marijuana start-up from 2014 to 2017, inspired by author B. Coyne Davies’s real experiences. 

  • Excited about this tease of “Meditations,” a series of vibe-y short films from Dirt! These cinematic clips will be the perfect visually-stimulating addition to bathtime.

  • Known for its “micro slim” .3g pre-rolls, low-dose cannabis-and-hemp brand Alive and Kicking launches Nano Hemp Drink Mix for easier incorporation into beverages and faster effects with quicker digestion than oil-based tinctures dropped in drinks.

  • The Sabina Project, a Black-led platform for psychedelic education, training, and harm reduction, is hosting an introductory seminar, Q&A, and conversation on Afro-psychedelia on February 24th. Co-founders Undrea Wright and Charlotte James are partnering with The Britely social club for the virtual event. More info here.

Herbally yours,
Lauren Yoshiko