I arrived in Seattle with little more than a backpack and some cash. With nothing to do, I’d planned on exploring downtown through the early afternoon and bumping shoulders with buzzing coffee drinkers. During my stay, I frequented the International District, where one morning I caught the loud boom-bap reverberation of hip-hop in the air. I followed the sound to a small headshop called Trichome. There, a street-side DJ played tunes for a large crowd of people, all sporting the same un-branded 20-ounce coffee cups. I navigated through to the storefront, where a gruff beard-o worked the door. I asked about the coffee cups, and he responded, “Seattle Speedball … infused coffee, with a little bit of weed … the real artisanal wake and bake …10 bucks.”
Inside Trichome, I met Lonnie Wells, who caught back up with me recently to banter about the history of Cannabis & Coffee – an event put on by Trichome during the days of Washington’s gray market. Early events sold coffee with THC-infused butter. The events featured a DJ and a complimentary dab bar, which Wells laughingly added was “inspected and legitimately okay’d by the city!” This was immediately following the passage of I-502, when entrepreneurs were running operations as legally gray as Seattle’s skies.
“We represent ID-Chinatown, our forward-thinking neighborhood. New ideas will never happen if nobody sticks their neck out. We were willing to stick our necks out and just do it for the culture.”
— Lonnie Wells, Creative Consultant, Trichome
Enforcement tightened, and Washington state cracked down on cannabis’ gray market operations in 2015. First, the dab bar disappeared, and then Trichome halted Cannabis & Coffee events altogether. For the span of a few years, though, a non-descript, fashion-forward headshop in Seattle’s International District was brewing the city’s “stickiest” coffee.
Science Goes Cold on CBD
Unlike culture-forward mavens, scientists have been less willing to stick their necks out for THC-infused coffee. Since Panlilio’s landmark study in 2011, the scientific consensus has held that caffeine clashes with THC in the body. The study suggests that caffeine can exacerbate deficiencies in learning, memory and other basic cognitive function observed in those with cannabis in their system. A 2018 study in the Journal of Internal Medicine found 79 moderate-to-chronic coffee-drinkers (4-8 cups daily) metabolize a mere 30 percent of THC compared with more moderate drinkers. Pending further study, it may turn out that THC and caffeine, despite all the appearances of a perfect match, are a dysfunctional coupling: more Spears and Timberlake than Barbie and Ken.
As the Director of Research and Development, Justin Amesbury is responsible for identifying and developing novel CBD product formulations at Lazarus Naturals. He explains that American research has historically explored THC’s negative health impacts. Legalization shifted scientific focus to the pharmacology and therapeutic actions of cannabinoids, leading to further discovery on CBD and its myriad health benefits.
In an industry populated mostly by small and medium-sized companies, but marred by a lack of regulation, Lazarus Naturals embodies the coming industry standard: a vertically integrated seed-to-sale operation that values transparency and compliance, while pushing chemistry and technology to produce use-specific CBD formulations. Lazarus Naturals is also on a social mission to provide greater accessibility to CBD, offering 60 percent discounts to veterans, disabled individuals and low-income households.
CBD Introduces the World to Functional Wellness Products
Cannabis entrepreneur Stephen Woolfolk-Bonner, founder of Yuníverse, believes that “functional wellness beverages” have the ability to transform the future of food and beverages and the industries that they represent. CBD-infused coffee is the industry’s big bang! “Coffee presents a splendid first case-study,” Woolfolk-Bonner explains, citing CBD’s utility in mediating coffee-induced constipation, acute abdominal pains, post-caffeine crash and the jitters: a common and uncomfortable state of heightened alertness.
“Our end goal is promoting CBD as an everyday wellness aide and viable natural option, over conventional, drug-based treatment … CBD can also be the catalyst for a community-oriented revolution in healthcare, wellness and especially food [and] beverage.”
— Stephen Woolfolk-Bonner, Founder & CEO, Yuníverse
Yuniverse incorporates community values known to the health industry since ancient times into its own transactions. Woolfolk-Bonner explains his philosophy, “We’re all connected, and CBD will drive a shift in the market toward product interactions that continue on social media after sale.” Woolfolk-Bonner opines that companies like Coca Cola, playing “the 15-to-20-year game of chess for control in the functional wellness market,” might not necessarily survive market change.
The Future of CBD
Market research reports forecast explosive growth for CBD and cannabis. Leafly’s 2019 Special Report on Cannabis Jobs predicts a 110 percent job growth in cannabis over the next three years, representing the nation’s greatest economic boom. A Reports and Data publication assesses the $1.04 billion spent on CBD in 2018 to balloon into $7.59 billion on a national level and $16.32 billion internationally by 2026.
Trichome’s gray market event, Cannabis & Coffee, died — only to be reborn, like Gandalf the White, as CBD & Coffee. Trichome has, at times, been Seattle’s only operation infusing cannabinoids into coffee, and appears to be the first, the oldest and sadly, the least recognized. Wells is resolute in believing that Trichome will continue to push that forefront of cannabis culture — for the benefit of the culture, itself. CBD does, perhaps, represent the greatest hope of a cannabis industry that stays in touch with its roots. For the good people of cannabis and coffee — Lazarus Naturals, Yuníverse and Trichome — money is not the metric of success, nor the vibe.