I have spent more than two decades as a cannabis advocate. At times, like many others, I have done so in the face of great risk and adversity because I fundamentally believe cannabis is a miracle plant with myriad benefits for humanity. Just a few short years ago, I had high hopes for the legal cannabis industry. I was stoked that we’d finally broken through the stigma and misinformation around cannabis and were poised to share life-changing plant medicine with many who needed it. Recently, I have become increasingly concerned as I have watched our industry shape into one that fails to honor the very thing it’s built upon: the cannabis plant. My goal is to change that.
It’s an unfortunate reality today that many of the cannabis-infused consumer products on the market barely resemble the plant itself. So many brands hide the scent, flavor, and color of cannabis behind more familiar ingredients — masking the plant to make it feel more “accessible” to consumers who are presumed to have no palate for real cannabis taste, nor the ability to develop one. In fact, many manufacturers chemically extract isolates or distillates to actively ensure there’s no resemblance of cannabis color, taste, or smell in their final products. The industry’s apparent lack of respect for the single most important ingredient in these plant-based products is truly problematic. We are missing an important opportunity to reduce the stigma around cannabis through education and exposure to quality cannabis products. In doing so, we are also missing the opportunity to maximize the potential of the plant to improve people’s lives.
Honoring the Plant
My goal as a cannabis advocate is to help bring in a new wave of cannabis education and appreciation — a wave that celebrates the plant in its entirety, preserving its natural nutrients to maximize efficacy and remain true-to-the-flower. I call this honoring the plant. Honoring the plant is important in reducing cannabis stigma (as consumers see more products that resemble the plant, they’ll become more accepting of it). It is also essential to delivering efficacious, clean, and natural plant medicine — a factor I believe will directly inform the integrity and longevity of our nascent and still precarious industry.
The Entourage Effect
Today, many manufacturers chemically extract isolates or distillates to create their cannabis products. This process sequesters single cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD) and removes most other molecules including terpenes, chlorophyll, phytonutrients, and other cannabinoids. Isolates and distillates are useful to manufacturers because they can be easily measured and infused into products like topicals or beverages without changing the color, scent, or flavor of those products. However, research shows that the compounds found in the cannabis plant act in synergy to boost therapeutic benefits of any cannabis-infused product. This phenomenon, known as the “entourage” or “ensemble” effect, essentially means that “CBD-only” or “tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-free” CBD products, as well as THC-dominant products that have been created using isolates or distillates, simply aren’t as efficacious as those created using the whole plant. [1-3]
To me, one of the greatest ways to start establishing an industry standard that truly honors the plant is to explore the entourage effect. At Papa & Barkley, we use three solventless (chemical-free) whole plant infusion processes — lipid infusion, kiefing, and rosin-pressing — to craft our products. These methods maximize the entourage effect by keeping the plant’s natural, full spectrum of cannabinoids, terpenes, phytonutrients, chlorophyll, and plant fats intact, so they can be consumed together. This way, we can be sure our products deliver the greatest efficacy to our consumers.
Our co-founder, Adam Grossman, developed our first-ever pain relief balm in a borrowed crockpot. The proprietary lipid infusion process Papa & Barkley uses today is simply a professionalized, larger-scale version. To infuse our oil, we soak the whole flower and trim in coconut or medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil with oscillating heat and pressure. Think of this like a delicious, slow-cooked meal. All the plant’s natural nutrients, like chlorophyll and terpenes, are infused into the base oil, preserving the green color and earthy flavor of the plant. We use our infused oil in our Releaf body oil, balm, capsules, and tinctures.
Our Releaf gummies are infused with kief hash. To make our kief hash, we tumble cannabis flower in a cold room and then collect all the beautiful, cannabinoid-rich trichomes. Once collected, instead of pressing our kief hash into rosin, we soak it in coconut oil and pour it into our gummy formula. Our hash-infused coconut oil lends a delicious, light cannabis flavor — a perfect complement to the gummies’ fruity taste. This process ensures our Releaf gummies deliver an enjoyable, true-to-the-flower experience.
Papa & Barkley’s fresh-pressed rosin process involves pressing our kief hash between two heated plates to produce a highly potent, sticky, sap-like substance. We infuse our rosin into our Releaf patches, body lotion, repair cream, and chocolates. In our Releaf chocolates, the rosin adds a subtle cannabis flavor and rich texture that blends beautifully with our Fair Trade Certified™ cacao.
While all these methods are more difficult and time-consuming than chemical extraction processes, I truly believe they’re worth the extra effort because they produce the cleanest and most natural true-to-the-flower experience.
The Future of Cannabis
I am confident that most of us are in this industry because we believe in the therapeutic power of the plant, and we want to advocate for it. It’s up to us to champion the plant by honoring its characteristics, letting them shine in our products, and helping consumers develop an appreciation for them. When we create products that maximize the entourage effect, there’s a greater chance they’ll work for consumers, and consumers will want the industry to stay alive, will fight for federal legalization, and will believe in the plant the way we do.
It’s up to us to help consumers become educated about this miracle plant and develop a palate for cannabis. I see a future in which people actively seek out products that honor the plant — because they’ll know those products work best, and because they’ll truly appreciate the scent and flavor of cannabis. Brands need to set the standard for cannabis consumers and celebrate the plant, paving the way for post-prohibition cannabis consumption. Join me in honoring the plant.
 Russo EB. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Br J Pharmacol. 2011;163(7):1344-1364. [journal impact factor = 7.73; times cited = 717]
 LaVigne JE, Hecksel R, Keresztes A, et al. Cannabis sativa terpenes are cannabimimetic and selectively enhance cannabinoid activity. Sci Rep. 2021;11:8232 [journal impact factor = 3.998; times cited = 0]
 Pamplona FA, da Silva LR, Coan AC. Potential clinical benefits of CBD-rich cannabis extracts over purified CBD in treatment-resistant epilepsy: Observational data meta-analysis [published correction appears in Front Neurol. 2019 Jan 10;9:1050]. Front Neurol. 2018;9:759. [journal impact factor = 2.889; times cited = 56]