Updated Dec. 30, 2015 at 1:17 p.m.
BOULDER — Mood mixers, marijuana cocktails and cannabis genomes — these concepts may be unfamiliar to casual followers of the burgeoning Colorado cannabis scene, but they will likely be the driving forces behind an industry that is on track to generate $1 billion in sales for 2015.
As changing demographics and evolving regulation continue to shape the industry, Boulder County businesses remain near the epicenter of the rapidly changing cannabis landscape, crafting healthy edibles and driving research into the plant that has captivated consumers, scientists and investors alike.
High, but not stoned
According to the Pew Research Center, nearly half (49 percent) of Americans 12 and older say they have tried marijuana — but only 12 percent have imbibed in the past year, and a mere 7.3 percent had used in the prior month.
To Charles Jones, founder of Boulder startup Chooze, those statistics are proof positive that people want a more “gentle, pleasant high” than can be obtained with the current cannabis offerings.
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Jones, a cognitive scientist, classifies himself as a wary user of marijuana — “I like what it can do, but I can’t stand being impaired,” — and so, at Chooze, he developed vaporizer pellets that are 50 percent THC (the psychoactive compound in weed) and 50 percent CBD (a non-psychoactive compound touted for its pain-relieving properties).
The products come in a variety of “moods” such as ambition and sedation, and are specially formulated to achieve that state, without typical side effects of smoking pot — paranoia, memory loss, disassociation.
“You don’t get stoned on our stuff,” he said. “You get high.”
CBD: The next aspirin?
Chooze is one of many companies tapping into the purported medicinal properties of CBD, the lesser-known cousin of THC commonly culled from industrial hemp, which became legal to grow in Colorado for the first time in 2014.
Sales for products infused with CBD oil will top $85 million in 2015, according to a recent report from the Boulder-based Hemp Business Journal, though industry insiders say that figure is likely a low estimate.
Bluebird Botanicals in Broomfield, a leading provider of CBD oil, is projecting $3.75 million in sales this year, up from $3.2 million in 2014.
“Our first month, October 2013, we sold a handful of bottles for $500,” said founder and president Brandon Beatty. “The very next month, we did $27,000. The month after that, we did $60,000.
“Managing the growth (has been) crazy,” Beatty said. “CBD just seems to becoming more and more mainstream.”
Kurt Forstmann, director of product development for Denver’s Dixie Brands, said customers increasingly want the pain-relieving and calming properties of marijuana without the high.
For them, CBD is an attractive option for managing their health naturally and sustainably, replacing aspirin as a treatment for headaches, prescription pills like Xanax as anxiety fighters — even anti-itch creams for pets.
Keep reading: Mapping the cannabis genome, new edibles trends and more for 2016