A variety of cannabis-infused edibles.

When you’re curious if a food is organic or non-GMO, you look to see if there’s a label. If so, you know the item’s entire supply chain has been examined, tested, and verified by a reliable organization.

TraceTrust is working create the same sort of third-party certification for an emerging food product: cannabis-infused edibles. Started three years ago by Merril Gilbert and Rhiannon Woo, the California-based company came about right as their state was on the cusp of legalizing marijuana. Originally, they wanted to develop an entirely new type of edible: one targeted not at stoners, but a modern consumer who wanted to experiment with cannabis in a way that was subtle, reliable, and regulated.

Their target consumer group was women who wanted to use marijuana to relax or relieve pain, but didn’t want to smoke it or eat something with a heavy, overwhelming cannabis flavor. The two women got a clear, flavorless oil and gave it to pastry chefs to turn into baked goods, but quickly realized a big problem: when mixed into cookies or candies, it was really difficult to gauge potency.

“Unpredictability is the biggest issue facing the edibles market,” Gilbert told me over the phone. So TraceTrust shifted gears and began focusing on dosing. They now work with manufacturers and labs to test each edible and ensure that its advertised doses of CBD (non-psychoactive) and THC (psychoactive) are accurate and consistent. TraceTrust also examines the product’s packaging and consumption instructions to make sure they’re easy to understand. This is especially important for items which contain multiple servings, like a chocolate bar, where each square contains a prescribed cannabis dose.

If a product checks all the boxes, then TraceTrust will give the product a special seal of approval, called A True Dose. Basically, it signifies that the edible is made with reliable strains of marijuana and that each serving will contain exactly the dose it advertises.

A True Dose is currently in beta and will launch nationwide in January 2019. Starting then, manufacturers in any state where marijuana is legal can pay TraceTrust a fee to get their products certified. If they pass, they’ll earn the A True Dose seal to put on their packaging and marketing materials; if not, the TraceTrust team will work with them to correct any issues. “Overall, it’s very similar to non-GMO or any third party seal,” said Gilbert.

Gilbert predicts that as edibles become more widely legalized and, thus, normalized, labels like this will play a much larger role. “Anything that says, ‘We went further, we did more, we care’ is going to win consumers,” she said. They’re hoping that the A True Dose label will become a point of differentiation for brands, so they can charge more if their product sports the seal.

As we’ve written about previously on the Spoon, cannabis is rapidly becoming normalized and de-stigmatized; the same goes for edibles. Gone are the days of stale weed brownies — nowadays, consumers can get their high from a variety of beverages (beer, soda, coffee, even sparkling water), candies, chocolates, and more. Even Big Food and Drink companies are getting in on the game: Molson Coors, Heineken, and even Coca-Cola have all teamed up with cannabis companies to create marijuana-infused beverages.

“We’re beyond the stoner culture now,” said Gilbert. “But what makes people hesitate when it comes to edibles is the unknown.” Hopefully, TraceTrust can help cut through the haze of smoke currently covering cannabis edibles.

Gilbert will be speaking at the Smart Kitchen Summit on a panel entitled “Edible Cannabis: The New Functional Food?” She’ll be joined by Scott Riefler of Tarukino, an innovation group which develops cannabis-infused beverages, and Linda Gilbert of BDS Analytics, who tracks and analyzes the marijuana consumer market. If you’re interested in learning more about the future of edibles, don’t miss it!

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