The wild popularity of edibles has been one of the biggest surprises in the new cannabis economy. An appealing alternative to smoking for medical patients and social users alike, this category accounted for 45 percent of the recreational marketplace in Colorado in 2014. At the same time, edibles have gotten a bad wrap. Between overzealous prohibitionists scaring families with the possibility of marijuana-laced Halloween candies to the recent high profile study that found the majority of edibles tested listed inaccurate potency on their labels, this slice of the cannabis sector has borne a heavy burden for the industry. While cannabis detractors will always promote stories like this for their cause, they represent just a fraction of the complete picture. A shift in focus to responsible consumption and accountable and compliant production will go a long way to highlighting the benefits of edibles in the legal cannabis landscape.
Sweet Grass Kitchen has that second part covered; they are an edibles company that’s doing things the right way. Founded in 2009 when the medical cannabis industry was just forming in Colorado, SGK now provides marijuana-infused baked goods to more than 200 medical dispensaries and retail stores across the state. Their motto, “Cannabutter is Better,” celebrates their signature product, cannabutter made from full-flower cannabis developed and cultivated in-house, heated to induce decarboxylation (a process that converts naturally occurring THC-A into psychoactive THC), and slow-simmered in clarified butter to ensure optimal THC infusion. The fragrant green cannabutter is then baked into a number of treats to satisfy any sweet tooth, including cookies, brownies, and PB&J cups. Sweet Grass maintains quality control through independent lab testing at every step of the process: harvests, cannabutter, and individual edible products.
We had the distinct pleasure of visiting Sweet Grass Kitchen recently, and it was apparent from the outset that their entire operation is dedicated to providing a consistent, safe, and predictable experience for their customers and that they go to great lengths to ensure that they’re successful in this aim.
Sweet Grass’s location is top-secret and self-contained; with everything done onsite, it’s easier to supervise all aspects of the process and guarantee uniformity and high quality. A recent expansion has allowed them to move the kitchen out of an adjacent trailer and into the building itself, which also contains offices, refrigerators, a huge oven, a packaging room, a large space for cultivation and a smaller area for young plants just starting out. We toured SGK just after a harvest so we missed the mature plants in all their glory, but we did get to peek in on the babies and take a look at bins full of cannabis flowers ready to be made into cannabutter. Sweet Grass grows one strain and one strain only – “We like to joke that all these little ones have the same grandparents,” founder and CEO Julie Berliner says regarding their specialty sativa strain – and they keep their cultivation big enough to supply their baking needs but small enough to maintain stable conditions and some level of control over the myriad unpredictable factors that can affect plants.
Impeccably maintained facilities, beautifully grown cannabis, and shelves full of aromatic infused baked goods all in one place were remarkable to behold. Equally impressive, though, were the SGK staff, all of whom were welcoming and happy to chat while at the same time intent on efficiently executing their work. There was a great atmosphere of camaraderie and purpose, and everyone seemed to understand and appreciate the significance of what they were doing.
As expected, the staff was happy to talk with me about growing cannabis and crafting edibles, but they were equally eager to fill me in on compliant packaging and the urgency around keeping kids safe. And while we agreed that when the product is in homes it’s ultimately parents’ job to keep it secure, the team at SGK takes pride in their role and feels a responsibility to consumers and the general public alike. The crew works tirelessly to make sure packages are labeled with the proper safety information to keep those red bottles out of the hands of children.
Everyone at SGK takes their cues from the woman at the helm, Julie Berliner, who balances a positive and friendly work environment full of satisfied employees with a steadfast commitment to excellence and self-regulation. Berliner originally intended to become an elementary school teacher, and her time with children seems to have influenced her business philosophy and practices. It’s clear that she takes great care in overseeing Sweet Grass’s processes and products and keeps the customer experience at the center of decision-making. A leading voice in the effort to build a responsible industry, she is also the chair of the Edibles Council of the Cannabis Business Association, which aims to educate the public about responsible consumption through the “start low, go slow campaign.”
You can taste the SGK love in all of their products. Prior to our visit, we sampled their chocolate chip cookies – just before they transitioned from a seven-pack to a nine-pack, but we’re not complaining – and found them to be a lovely accompaniment to a day trip to Boulder. For those new to edibles, the bite-sized, 10 mg cookies provided a relaxingly mild introduction; more experienced cannabis eaters enjoyed a few at a time and found it easy to regulate dosage. And now, in honor of the Fourth of July, Sweet Grass Kitchen has introduced a limited edition Key Lime Pie with a shortbread crust and custard filling, in an 8-10 mg THC mini pie on the recreational side and 75 mg THC single serving on the medical side. If we had plans to be in Denver for Independence Day, we know what we’d be serving for dessert; we suggest you try these and report back so we can live vicariously through our readers.
Our purpose at Weekend Review Kit is to create a market of cannabis connoisseurs who demand the highest quality, the best customer service, and stringent self-regulation from the cannabis industry. So it’s exciting and heartening to visit an operation like Sweet Grass Kitchen, a company that is leading the way and setting an example for others to follow. All cannabusinesses should be this focused on consumer safety, accuracy, accountability, and the best cannabis products they can bring to the market. Good luck being this delicious though; that’s a secret Sweet Grass Kitchen isn’t sharing with the rest of the industry.