In the end, I felt nothing.
By nightfall on a recent Saturday, I had ingested 102 milligrams of cannabidiol, or CBD. I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting. As most consumers know by now, CBD is the non-intoxicating cannabis compound that's become increasingly popular as a means of relieving pain, calming anxiety and generally bringing about a sense of internal relaxation, minus the psychoactive properties of THC. You find it everywhere in Oregon these days, infused into everything from bug sprays to makeup to Victorian-style smelling salts. In particular, an increasing number of bars, restaurants and coffee shops in Portland are offering drinks laced with varying amounts of cannabidiol oil. So I thought, "Why not spend a whole day drinking CBD and chart the effects?"
So I did. Nine hours later, though, the only tangible effect was the usual stuff that happens to your bladder when you're averaging a beverage an hour.
What gives? Are my levels of stress so high I've built an immunity to CBD's benefits? Or is this whole thing just trendy snake oil?
Turns out, no one should really expect to slug a CBD-infused smoothie and immediately get a full body buzz. According to Anna Symonds, director of East Fork Cultivars' CBD Certified program, there are several factors that go into the personal CBD experience, from the source of the cannabidiol to the sensitivity of individual cannabinoid receptors.
"It's not that CBD is bunk; it's trying to figure out how to use it with precision," Symmonds says. "Because the body is complicated, and the plants are complicated."
In other words, it didn't work for me, but that doesn't mean it won't for you. So with that in mind, if you're looking to get yourself in a really mellow mood without setting foot in a dispensary, here's an ideal CBD drink crawl.
- CBD Mocha
Start the day by confusing the shit out of your nervous system. Mixing coffee and CBD seems like a vodka-Red Bull situation, in which your body won't know whether to chill or start doing the running man. Clearly, though, Jupiter Next is hoping you'll feel vibey enough to stay awhile. Outfitted with modernist furniture, the hotel's ground-floor cafe—basically a pastry counter set off from the lobby—serves mochas and lattes with beans from Proud Mary and sweetened with infused caramel from Grön. When the adjoining bar, Hey Love, opens in a few weeks, it'll offer a bananas Foster using the same sauce, so you can theoretically find your way back at night and get buzzed before bed, too.
The newly opened rock-'n'-roll brunch bar is making its name on another kind of infusion: bourbon syrup, which it dumps on everything from the chicken and waffles to cocktails. But because the place can't resist a good punk-related pun—who wants a round of Biafra shots?!—it's also devised the CBDB, a mimosa-adjacent beverage that mixes a grapefruit wine spritzer with a splash of cranberry and orange soda from Ablis, the ever-present Bend-based brand of CBD-infused drinks. It's sparkly pink, crisp and thoroughly more elegant than the classic, defunct shithole its name is a play on.
3. Iced Chocolate
As if navigating the cannabis marketplace weren't a total mindfuck as it is, edibles manufacturer Grön opened Portland's first CBD cafe in June, selling chocolate bars, bonbons and cappuccinos—only, its products do not contain cannabidiol as we've come to understand it. That is, it's not derived from cannabis at all, but rather molecules found in lichen and lemon peel, which are then synthesized into CBD in a lab. (The company prefers to call the process "natural product assembly.") The effect is supposedly more subtle—Grön owner Christine Smith compares it to taking aspirin. It didn't even do that much for me, but the iced chocolate is basically just a melted-down vegan chocolate bar that tastes like gourmet Ovaltine, so there's little to complain about.
4. Darling Smoothie
Even if you had no idea about Harlow's health-food predilections beforehand, the smell of wet wheatgrass that whomps your nose immediately upon walking through the door would tip you off. Given CBD's somewhat woo-woo medicinal properties, it's no surprise the Hawthorne cafe offers to put a whopping 33 mg shot of the stuff in its various teas, juices and "health elixirs." On my visit, I kept things pretty basic with the strawberry and banana smoothie, which, even without experiencing any notable effects from the CBD, at least made me feel less guilty about the midafternoon day drinking I was about to embark on.
5. Two Flowers IPA
Coalition released what it called "the first commercially produced CBD-infused beer in Oregon" two years ago, and it has since spread to taps all over the city. It's called Two Flowers because it's also got hemp in it, and as a result, the taste is pretty weedy. For some, that's probably a turnoff, but after a few hours of wondering what, if anything, this stuff was doing to me, being able to identify that this was indeed a cannabis product was actually weirdly gratifying. I'm not much of a beer dude, but I found the 6 percent ABV IPA easily drinkable, particularly while sitting on the split-level patio outside Coalition's original Laurelhurst tasting room.
When you order a frozen margarita at a dive bar, you're basically saying, "Please, pour a headache into this glass for me." So offsetting those ill effects with a dose of natural pain reliever makes sense. At this lovingly trashy tribute to Old Vegas, the "Marg-a-Weed-a" is just this joint's regular marg—a prickly pear slushie with a purplish Slurpee color and a chunk of lime on the rim—served with a hit of cranberry and blood orange soda from Ablis. But for regular Alberta bar crawlers, it was one of the secret hits of this past summer, particularly when consumed on the ramshackle back patio during that endless stretch of 90-degree days.
7. The Rum
Joanna Ware reopened her proudly self-proclaimed "inauthentic Asian restaurant" several blocks east of its original Fremont location this past summer and jumped on the CBD wagon by offering to add 25 mg to any of its cocktails. I ended my day of consumption with a bowl of risotto, grilled corn with gochujang sauce and a laced version of the Rum, which one of our food critics has accurately described as a "kombucha piña colada." Then I went home and nodded off on the couch. It could've been that all that CBD was finally relaxing me. But then, it could've just been my usual, naturally occurring exhaustion. Hard to say.