Originally written by Dan Skye for High Times
Industrial kitchens inspire awe. I visited the Heinz factory in Pittsburgh on a sixth-grade field trip, and the memory of swimming-pool-sized vats of mustard and ketchup bottles on an interminable assembly line remains with me still. Whether it’s a foundry, factory, brewery or bakery, serving a huge customer base requires sophisticated automation.
The cannabis industry has reached the point where it, too, has embraced the technology of mass production—and while it’s not on the scale of Heinz (yet), the new era of machinery designed to help legal cannabusinesses thrive is definitely here.
I’m standing in the industrial kitchen of Cheeba Chews in Denver. It’s nothing like a conglomerate’s food-processing plant—perhaps a mere 25 by 25 feet, with a couple of small offices situated adjacent to the action.
But you should never judge a kitchen by its size. Cheeba Chews is America’s—if not the world’s—leading brand of cannabis-infused candies, available in medical dispensaries in California and Colorado, as well as in the latter state’s 300-plus recreational cannabis shops. These days, across its licensed entities, more than 50,000 Cheeba Chews candies are produced every week.
Food-grade thermoform trays are sealed and cut into multi-dose recreational 8-packs of Cheeba Chews.
The brand got started in the personal kitchen of CEO James Howler in 2009. As Colorado’s cannabis industry was taking root, Howler noticed serious flaws in the production of edibles: There was no consistency in dosages, which meant that consumer trust was shaky. A licensed medical grower, Howler had access to plenty of trim, which he’d been selling to dispensaries. But the void in the area of cannabis edibles pushed him into the kitchen instead.
Medical marijuana patients are thankful for these discreet, professionally packaged candies (nothing about a Cheeba Chew screams out “Pot!”), which are made with a blend of either indica- or sativa-dominant strains. The premium cannabis oil used in the company’s recipes is tested at three different stages—the harvested flower, the oil and the edible itself—to ensure a consistent experience for every Cheeba chewer.
Howler cites the company’s core values: “We make sure we provide a consistent edible that consumers and budtenders can rely on. Plus we go the extra mile in testing and preparation to ensure that Cheeba Chews maintain a high level of potency. People know they’re getting an…