The classic cowboy archetype is an image that’s synonymous with the American West — a rugged man on horseback, clad in leather riding chaps and a wide-brimmed hat; rifle, revolver and lasso at the ready; a wad of tobacco curled into his bottom lip.
Modern cowboys and cowgirls are more commonly associated with rodeo events like barrel racing and bronc riding, and horses have generally been replaced by pickup trucks and ATVs. And in the ever-growing world of legal marijuana, that chew might not be made of tobacco anymore.
Two separate companies — one based in Washington, the other in Colorado — are in the process of rolling out cannabis chew for the consumer market.
But the concept of chewable marijuana isn’t just for cowboys and cowgirls. Castle Rock Naturals and Hippie Dip were created when several cannabis entrepreneurs saw chew as one of the last unexplored territories of cannabis infusion.
Castle Rock Naturals
During the Fourth of July holiday in 2015, Dallas Carroll and Gavin Pehl spent a lot of time talking about cannabis, cancer and the general health of loved ones. They were discussing better medical alternatives to the smokable products and edibles that were already available to patients.
“My family and Gavin’s family were at a coffee shop and my wife asked the question: ‘Why can’t you just chew it?’ Gavin and I looked at each other and had the light bulb moment,” Carroll explains. “We are both dreamers and doers, so from then on we jumped in head first.”
Carroll and Pehl co-founded Castle Rock Naturals on the basis of those early conversations. The tandem called their product “Castlerock Cuff” and adopted the tagline, “Are you cuff enough?” They signed a licensing agreement with Honu, a Tier 3 producer/processor, to be the sole supplier of Cuff in Washington, as long as minimum production requirements are met each month, Carroll says.
Castle Rock Naturals (www.castlerockcuff.com) is in the process of seeking out licensees in other states. It has a verbal commitment from an Oregon company, and has also gained interest from companies in Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and even North and South Carolina.
Licensing agreements are the most cost-effective way for the company to go national, Carroll says.
“Producer/processors from each state, both medical and recreational, can buy the rights to this turn-key business and patent-pending product,” Carroll says. “Castle Rock Naturals seamlessly plugs a new product into their established business practices.”
The company has faced plenty of challenges to get up and running and put product on retail shelves. Carroll calls it “11 months of go, go, go,” and a non-stop procession of meetings with attorneys and investors, contract negotiations, research and development, quality assurance testing and budget analyses.
“If it was easy, everyone would do it,” Carroll says, adding that he decided a long time ago that the company would be successful if he surrounded himself with smart people, established the right business connections, supported supply chain partners and treated people with kindness.
“If we can figure out how to get everyone to be successful the way they desire to be successful, then we will create a solid foundation to grow and sustain this dream of a business,” he says. “Has it been hard? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes.”
Castlerock Cuff has the same look and feel as chewing tobacco, but does not contain tobacco or nicotine. It will be available in a variety of different flavors and cannabinoid profiles.
Carroll says the company’s mission is to “stop causing cancer, and start healing cancer.”
“That’s where this really began for me and Gavin — helping family who are beating cancer and other health problems,” he says.
As a chemical dependency counselor and adjunct faculty member at a community college, Carroll says it was a challenge to reveal the cannabis aspect of his life to certain people.
“Gavin and I have had some family, friends and professionals that are choosing to not be supportive of us and our business due to their understanding of cannabis, yet the overwhelming majority of family and friends think it’s a great idea and support our process and message,” he says. “And 99% of the consumers who were part of research and development are pumped about this product.”
In 2001, Mark Silen was injured in a crash caused by a drunken driver. Like many people with chronic pain and other ailments, he found relief with medical cannabis. There was just one problem: His home state of Texas had some of the toughest marijuana laws in the nation.
When police raided Silen’s house over three grams of cannabis, he decided he’d had enough of the Lone Star State. He packed up his belongings and headed north for the friendlier pastures of Pueblo, Colorado.
The former nurse originally planned on getting a job as a trimmer or working for a dispensary, but he had an epiphany while perusing a local shop. There were infused sodas, candies, baked goods, ice creams, condiments and more — pretty much every consumer product imaginable was infused with cannabis.
The one thing Silen didn’t see was chew. Within eight days, he had established Hippie Dip Inc. (www.hippiedipinc.com), and he has been working on product development and market testing ever since.
Silen hopes to get licensed and have product on retail shelves by January 2017.
For now, he says he’s playing by the rules and only manufacturing small-batch samples.
“I’m just happy to have rules to play by,” he says, comparing the vast differences between Colorado and Texas.
Just like Castlerock Cuff, Hippie Dip contains no tobacco or nicotine, and is made of all-natural ingredients. Hippie Dip is honey-flavored, and will come in different varieties.
Because cannabinoids are absorbed through the mucus membrane, the effects set in within five minutes and consumers can spit it out as soon as they’ve achieved the desired high.
“You’re in control of your medication,” Silen says.
Silen is currently seeking investors, and hopes to license the product for use in other states. He’s been speaking with a company in Maine about bringing Hippie Dip to the East Coast.
So far, Silen says he’s received great feedback about the product.
With tobacco being almost a trillion-dollar industry, Silen hopes he can snag even a small portion of Skoal or Red Man consumers.
“The possibilities are unlimited,” he says.