Cannabis now has a third place in Portland.
It's not a smoking lounge, and there's no flower or oil for sale. It's something entirely new—a chocolate and coffee counter, where the baristas possess the knowledge of learned budtenders.
At Grön CBD Cafe, you can order a mocha made with Grön's CBD-infused chocolate syrup, sample a few varieties of Grön CBD chocolate bars and buy a couple CBD bonbons to go. You can sip on a cappuccino while learning about the cannabinoid system and cannabis compounds, all without anyone asking for your ID or to wait in line for the next available cashier. There's never been anything quite like it, inside or outside the legal cannabis space.
"It's fun to have a place that isn't a dispensary to try product and learn more," says Christine Smith, Grön's CEO.
How can such a thing exist without dispensary protocol?
It's because Grön's CBD chocolate products are not made with CBD derived from cannabis. Instead, they're made from lichen and lemon peel rich in the same cannabinoid. CBD is a naturally occurring compound that can be found throughout nature. And while the chocolates produce the same meditative, clear-headed effect as cannabis-derived CBD, it isn't regulated the same. In fact, it isn't regulated at all.
CBD is everywhere these days. Maybe you've noticed tinctures popping up in Whole Foods checkout stands. You can order "CBD oil" by the gallon from China via Amazon. Because cannabis products with less than 0.3 percent THC don't have to be regulated by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission's recreational cannabis program, local cannabis businesses see a faster, more financially viable path to extending business beyond dispensary counters and state borders with CBD products.
With so much CBD hitting shelves across the retail spectrum, it's been a gamble to judge safety and efficacy when trying products from someone who doesn't know the name of the farmer who grew the CBD. Smith sees Grön's CBD Cafe as a means of helping people navigate CBD both in and out of the cannabis market.
"There is CBD coming from China that is latent with chemicals. No one is regulating it; no one wants to touch it. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gives zero oversight to supplements. At least there is some oversight in Oregon by the Oregon Department of Agriculture, but it isn't like it is for THC."
To set a standard for CBD products, Smith has everything at a CBD-only kitchen tested the same way the OLCC-regulated THC chocolate must be. Smith and her husband, Jasper, are growing AC/DC on their farm at home to provide most of the plant material, and they work with farms like East Fork Cultivars for the rest. Grön is also one of the few producers that proudly carries product liability insurance, which she notes "no dispensary has ever asked for."
"It boggles my mind," says Smith. "With CBD, we can't even set up at a farmers market without proof of insurance. Then, in the cannabis industry, it's not even required."
Smith hopes that the CBD Cafe can be a baby step for people curious about cannabis and its compounds that are not quite comfortable with visiting a dispensary just yet—a place where people can learn that not all CBD is created equal, and teach consumers what questions to ask when trying CBD. Although it's a step away from Grön's THC-infused roots and the dispensary community, Smith sees it as an opportunity to help more people learn about cannabis from professionals.
"We're leaving cannabis," she says, "in the hopes that we bring more people back in."