A couple of months ago, I had my first encounter with a 1:1 vape cartridge, an experience that has, to put it simply, altered my relationship with cannabis. As a consumer with a low tolerance, the cartridge in question – Acme Elixir’s Pink Cookies – had immediate appeal: by balancing THC and CBD in equal measure, it packed a much softer punch than a full THC product. It’s not often I can enjoy multiple hits of a cartridge without treading dangerously close to anxiety and paranoia, but the Pink Cookies kept me, miraculously, from going off the edge. Nor did it simply produce a mellow high, but a nuanced one as well: the THC in the Pink Cookies (itself a cross of Pink Kush and Girl Scout Cookies) and the CBD play off each other, creating a cozy body high that complimented the sparkling cerebral buzz. It was, in a word, exactly what I wanted… and nothing more.
Nor is it alone. Strains like One to One and Pennywise, as well as mints, tinctures and many other products, have been getting more attention recently. The spotlight on these products goes hand in hand with the rising popularity of CBD in general; a recent report by BDS Analytics projects that sales of CBD will exceed $20 billion by 2024, in the United States alone.
“We’re witnessing CBD maturing from a cannabis sub-category into a full-blown industry of its own,” said Roy Bingham, Co-Founder and CEO of BDS Analytics, in the report. When taken together, THC and CBD interact to boost the efficiency of both compounds; this “entourage effect” is being harnessed to create products in various ratios, not just 1:1. That process is easier said than done; when executed properly, however, it serves as a reminder of cannabis’ limitless possibilities.
Making a 1:1 product is far from simple. I was thrilled to learn more from the man behind the Pink Cookies: Pete Pietrangeli, the CEO of Acme Elixirs. Pietrangeli is a veteran of West Coast cannabis curation who has also made a name for himself as a Hollywood producer, working on films such as Killing Gunther (2017), The Little Hours (2017) and Blue Jay (2016). Along the way, he has become a go-to cultivar for some of his peers, including Johnny Depp, Sarah Silverman, and Kevin Hart. He launched Acme in 2015, backed, in part, by friends in the film industry.
A ton of research and development can be required to make a balanced product. Pietrangeli told me that the process often begins with finding strains that don’t overpower each other. The Girl Scout Cookies in the Pink Cookies typically contains “fuel-y and gassy notes” with higher limonene profiles, he explained. When it’s blended with CBD, however, “it’s not blending it into something new.” Instead, “it’s masking the bitterness of the CBD.” Alternately, he found that strains with grape or berry attributes, like the Pink Kush, tend to share the spotlight better. The Pink Kush “blends with the CBD and creates new flavors, complementing each other as opposed to masking each other,” he said. “If you smoke them independently, they’re good, but if you smoke them together, they’re great.”
Pietrangeli’s reactions to trying the finished product were similar to my own: “I’m getting the feeling of the THC immediately, and then feeling the sedative-ness of the CBD,” he said. “The Pink Cookies is like a warm blanket around the CBD.”
Pietrangeli argued that it’s better to let the products guide the ratio, then the other way around. “When you try to do [something different than 1:1] sometimes you’re forcing product to do something it’s not best at doing,” he said. “[CBD strains] all have their own terpene profile, taste, vibe, and feel; they might already contain enough THC to [be effective in a different ratio].”
Just because a product is 1:1, he added, doesn’t mean that there aren’t any additional factors at work. “We can use things like terpenes and different blends to find 1:1 ratio,” he said. “We’re finding right now that an average of 33-35% [of THC and CBD] is the sweet spot for the flavor to taste right and to give you the full benefits of smoking THC.”
Pietrangeli isn’t alone in his formula-tweaking quest. Kristi Knoblich Palmer, the co-founder of the California edibles manufacturers Kiva Confections, explained that she took a similar approach when crafting the Sparkling Pear Camino gummies, which are 3:1 (CBD dominant). She argues that they offer a low-stress way to introduce wary consumers to THC. “New consumers can get their feet wet with a CBD-only product, or a very low ratio of THC to CBD… As they become more comfortable with THC’s effects, they may find that for certain occasions, they prefer a straight THC product,“ she said.
Different ratios can target specific needs, she added: “A ratio of 1:1 has been found to be effective for a wide variety of uses and is great for pain relief and sleep, while a 9:1 CBD to THC ratio can aid in recovery from a tough workout or hangover.”
Both Piatrangeli and Knoblich Palmer acknowledged that working with CBD can be complicated. Piatrengali works exclusively with CBD distillate, as opposed to CBD isolate powder, which, he pointed out, can be extremely hard to process if you can’t make it water-soluble; it can additionally create issues with hardware.
Knoblich Palmer addressed the risks of working with the enormous unregulated hemp market. In certain studies, up to 70% of CBD products were found to be contaminated.
“As the popularity of CBD continues to increase, consumers are looking for tested, reliable sources,” she explained. “California’s safety standards for cannabis products are among the strictest in the nation, and that’s important because hemp-based CBD food products outside of the cannabis market are still unregulated. “
Making a 1:1 product, or any balanced CBD-rich product, requires more finesse than I originally expected. But the payoff and the possibilities are huge. If you haven’t given a CBD-rich product a try yet, perhaps today is the day to explore something new and remind yourself that cannabis’ effects are truly limitless.