“We’re still in the Wild, Wild West, but there’s room for everybody, especially in the category we’ve created,” says Gladys*, as she spreads some cannabis-infused padrón pepper jam on her linguiça sausage. “The world is our oyster right now.”
In business since February, Toasted Jam Co. has already garnered attention from outlets like EdiblesMagazine.com and 420FoodieClub.com. Started by Gladys and her business partner Mitch*, the company features two types of jams, Blackberry Kush OG and Toasted Padrón. Both are made from organic materials, including locally sourced padrón peppers and local cannabis, too. The blackberry jam features the Blackberry Kush, an indica strain from Marti’s Garden in Felton, and the pepper concoction features Sour Diesel, a sativa strain from Tres Arboles Farms.
They send batches of each to SC Labs for testing of cannabinoids like THC and CBD, a non-psychoactive chemical compound found to have anti-inflammatory properties. Unlike many companies, Toasted Jam uses unprocessed kief, a part of the plant from the flower’s crystallized pollen, or trichomes. Kief is faster-acting than other parts of the plant—allowing a consumer to try a little bit, wait 20 minutes or so and then see if they want more.
“This means the consumer has the power to ‘turn up the volume.’ They can pair it with a grilled cheese sandwich, [put it] on their buttered toast or on carnitas,” says Gladys, who’s also a culinary school graduate and a sommelier. “People have more control because we’ve all had that bad edible moment of overconsumption.”
Gladys and Mitch periodically update the Toasted Jam Instagram account with sweet and savory recipes for amateur chefs that would impress even the most skeptical of food critics.
After 56 percent of voters approved Proposition 64 last year, cannabis has been legal in California. A framework to actually buy and sell the drug legally without a medical card, however, won’t be official until the beginning of 2018, at the earliest. And there are many unanswered policy questions from the federal all the way to the local level, especially after the county’s cannabis licensing official resigned last month.
But the Santa Cruz industry has seen a bloom of interest with new edible cannabis manufacturers, CBD oils and phone apps popping up.
“There’s a giant opportunity to have a new kind of progressive development in town,” says Pat Malo, executive director of Green Trade, which aims to be a chamber-of-commerce type organization for those in cannabis. “The tax revenue—along with job creation—can help with some of the city’s major issues.”
If the gourmet market of specialty jams isn’t for everyone, there are plenty of options for those seeking a more classic cookie, like ones sold by Big Pete’s Treats. Although the founder, “Big” Pete Feurtado, has been making medicated cookies since 1979, his company didn’t start until 2009.
“When I was cultivating [cannabis] we had all this extra product,” Feurtado remembers. “So I thought, ‘Shoot, why don’t we make cookies?’”
Eight years later, Big Pete’s Treats is one of California’s leaders in medicated cookie products. Located off 17th Avenue, the company’s high-quality delectables can be found in dispensaries from Shasta to San Diego, featuring 12 different flavors, with gluten- and sugar-free options available.
Like Toasted Jam, Big Pete’s cannabis comes from local farms, and Feurtado doesn’t miss the days of relying on Humboldt for supply.
Their cookies, which are also SC Labs certified, have earned a reputation—having won multiple awards, like the 2015 Santa Cruz Cup for “Best Cannabis Edible,” and two first-place awards at the 2014 San Francisco Hempcon.
Other local entrepreneurs have found similar success lately. Cosmo D’s Outrageous Edibles, based in the Santa Cruz Mountains, took home the “Best Edible” and “Best Dessert” awards at the most recent Hempcon, after being in business for only a few months.
As marijuana emerges from the black market, experts have done more studies on the healing properties of the plant. Shane Santucci, a Santa Cruz resident, has been extracting cannabidiol from cannabis to manufacture a number of products, including a healing cream he calls Grateful Dude Balm, which boasts a list of all-organic ingredients.
“There’s a whole list of herbs for healing,” Santucci says, “like the marjoram in it is really good for women experiencing cramps.”
The dreadlocked Sacramento native started Grateful Dude in 2015, when a friend showed him a different ointment, and he felt inspired. An experienced chef from the realm of edibles, Santucci realized the potential for such a powerful cream and created his own version the next day. Initially just made for friends, Santucci knew he had something special when he tested out Grateful Dude at Burning Man that year.
“That’s when I first started believing in it,” he remembers. “Now I’m waking up everyday to emails from paraplegics and cancer patients saying it’s the only thing that makes [them] feel good.”
Santucci makes batches of 10 to 37 pounds, keeping his operation relatively small for quality control, and also has his products tested at SC Labs. The balm is available in one-, four- and eight-ounce jars, through his website, thedudebalm.com, and at some dispensaries throughout the county and state.
“I love Santa Cruz because everyone is open to [cannabis] as a healing agent,” says Santucci. “If I wasn’t here, I wouldn’t be making this.”
The tech industry, too, may be finding a seat at the table, and the newly launched, iheartjane.com, hopes to lead the way.
Socrates Rosenfeld, who’s originally from Santa Cruz, created the website, working with local dispensaries to inform customers which products they have on shelves and how much of it.
“People go online because it’s convenient but the same product you bought from Amazon could be down the street,” says Rosenfeld. “But those small businesses don’t have the capability to showcase their product in real time.”
Rosenfeld—a West Point and MIT graduate with Silicon Valley experience—along with his business partners and his two co-founders have already expanded their market to Colorado, and they’re looking to open up in San Jose and San Francisco soon.
“This is Santa Cruz,” Rosenfeld says. “In just this little town there are so many cool, small businesses … We’re trying to make connections with all of them.”
*Name has been changed to protect source’s anonymity.