No matter how seasoned a cannabis veteran you might consider yourself to be, many of us have had at least one hellish experience with edibles. How could you forget that one time you gorged on your buddy’s space cookies and momentarily forgot how to read? That said, there are innumerable pros to consuming THC-infused food and beverages, from the health benefits (smoke-free lungs, snacks with healthy ingredients) to the creativity — just peep our edibles recipe column. But if you aren’t careful or dance with a mystery product, the high THC levels and intense psychoactive effects can turn a seemingly-harmless brownie into a purgatorial nightmare.
A main problem people face when it comes to edibles is that they don’t know how to dose, and often consume too much before the effects kick in. But time-released highs may soon be a thing of the past thanks to Quigley’s, a cannabis company with an innovative new product. Developed by founder Tony Alfiere, a veteran in the industry, Quigley’s Cannabis Shot is a petite bottle filled with two-ounces of liquid that uses patent-pending technology to deliver a fast-acting, long-lasting, and more controlled high. Not unlike a 5-Hour Energy in appearance, it also boasts a light berry flavor and comes in zero-calorie or lightly sweetened form. Outside of their own product line, the fast-acting concoction is also being used as a base ingredient in other edibles on the market. You can even use it in place of that suspicious shake while making your own cosmic treats. "It can be frozen or mixed with anything you see fit," says Alfiere.
The primary difference between this product and other cannabis-infused items is that Quigley’s Cannabis Shot includes the compound Delta-9-THC rather than Delta 11-Hydroxy-THC, which is found in most traditional edibles and gives consumers that sleepy and sometimes overwhelming high. Instead of digesting an edible through the stomach and having it processed through the liver, this THC compound can be absorbed directly into the soft tissue of the upper digestive tract so users can feel the effects of THC in a matter of minutes, or even seconds. According to Alfiere, the Cannabis Shot complies with all food and safety standards Colorado requires for cannabis products, and it's been reviewed by independent scientists. "It's a formulation based on known technologies,” he says, suggesting it’s safe to use.
Already on the market in Colorado, the company is preparing to roll their product out in California and Arizona in the coming months. Quigley’s is aiming at both the recreational and medical market, and they already offer Cannabis Shots with varying amounts of THC — from 10 milligrams to 100 milligrams — depending on the wants and needs of consumers and retailers.
Alfiere’s technology might be new to the market, but he’s been heavily involved with the cannabis industry for over 20 years, working in a variety of manufacturing and entrepreneurial positions, as well as regular consulting work. MERRY JANE recently caught up with the mastermind behind the nuanced product to learn more about the science behind the Cannabis Shot. Over the phone, Alfiere also explained how the effects differ from traditional edibles and smoking, as well as why he believes that his product will revolutionize the industry.
MERRY JANE: What inspired you to create this fast-acting edible technology?
Tony Alfiere: About five years ago, a friend of mine, a young girl in her 20s, was diagnosed with a neuroblastoma, an inoperable brain tumor, and she had about six months to love. She wanted to use Rick Simpson Oil. She calculated her dosage at 500 milligrams a day based on some data she found on the internet, and we found out that she would need to take ten or fifteen times that amount through edibles internally in order to receive the THC because of the absorption rates. We were basically going broke from feeding her oil — we had an entire grow dedicated to her — but we could just not keep up with her demand. And worse than that, she spent the entire day asleep when she took the oil because it was so sedative.
So, over a few years, I basically put it in my head that I had to figure out a way to make an absorbable dose with a normal amount of THC in it. That way, she would get the THC, not go to sleep, and also stay off of the other meds. We found out she stopped [taking] the oil because it would just make her go to sleep. She didn’t want to live her life in bed. During that final stretch [of her treatment], she was only a few months away from death and was actually [contemplating] suicide. Around that time, I cracked the nut and created this formulation that works immediately, and you only had to take a small dosage. It also didn’t turn create that sedative effect that makes you go to sleep. My friend ended up beating cancer thanks to a variety of reasons, and now, four years later, she [still uses Quigley’s] and is able to fully live her life.
Can you tell me about the science behind the Cannabis Shot?
I’ve basically taken cannabis oil and put it into a substance that allows it to be emulsified properly with suspension [meaning, the THC content in the liquid product is uniform and spread evenly throughout] — you can even turn it into powders or topicals from there. Once it’s gone through that process it become absorbable in the upper GI [gastrointestinal system].
You can actually take this product internally and the THC will leave the liquid solution as you swallow it and coat your esophagus. It can be absorbed through those fat-absorbing sites [in the throat], instead of having to go into the stomach and getting processed through the liver. It works both topically and internally, basically by the same mechanism. Topically, it [gets absorbed through your skin and into] your bloodstream, while internally it will absorb through the throat and upper intestine.
What was the most difficult part of the development process?
I got the formula down in about six months; it took longer to keep the liquid in suspension [so THC is consistent throughout] than it did with anything else. Making it was easy; keeping it shelf-stable was the harder task. I would say we made two-and-a-half years of mistakes before we got it down to the point where we could keep it in suspension, keep it in a bottle, keep it good for a year or two without having it fall out of suspension or stick to the sides. That was the definitely hardest part, making [Quigley’s Cannabis Shot] a shelf-grade product.
How does this product deliver THC through the body differently than smoking?
With our formulation, you actually get more cell receptors that are covered by THC than you would if you’re smoking. Smoking is kind of limited to lung tissue, then you get some absorption into your blood, and it passes through really quickly. It’s actually pretty limited in its delivery. If you have a 250 milligrams [of THC] per gram, and you took a couple of puffs, you’re probably only actually getting 5 to 25 milligrams of THC. With ours, we’re delivering 36% of the entire dose, so it’s more of the reception of our dose than anything. We just give you the THC and it works, rather than smoking, which is a very inefficient way of getting THC into your body.
How “fast” does this fast-acting edible actually work?
The time it takes to hit you depends on the user. I’ve had a focus groups where we pulled in 30 experienced bud tenders, and about 25% of that pack immediately felt it. For the next group, it took about a minute. It think there’s a little bit of a misnomer as to when the smoking method takes effects. I always say my formulation is faster because you open up a bottle and drink it, you’re not going to have to pack a pipe or roll a joint or light it or any of that. To me, we have the fastest way to get stoned on the market.
How long do the effects of the Cannabis Shot last?
Typically it lasts about four hours. Again, it depends on the user. But normally, if you give a 50 milligram dose to an experienced user it will last about four-and-a-half hours. The reason that it does that is because it stays in your blood stream due to the efficiency of the dose, while smoking has a different effect. When you smoke, you get THC but you also got a lot of terpenes and other chemicals that create a strong effect, so you feel like that effect wears off sooner than it really has.
On average, heavy users will smoke every hour or so because there’s a really high plateau that you hit. You feel really stoned than it wears off, so you go back for more. With our formulation, it stays up and keeps on delivering the THC to the point where you don’t feel the need to smoke anymore. We actually call it a money saver because if you’re a frequent user and you take this, you won’t be smoking all day long.
How do the psychoactive effects of your technology differ from the average edible?
Delta 11-Hydroxy-THC is sedative, and it’s also four times as psychoactive as THC. So, an experienced user getting a hold of an edible can be very dangerous. You get the Maureen Dowd effect, where she was in the hotel freaking out all night. The kind of stuff happens because of how psychoactive Delta-11-hydroxy is. So we give you more of a smoking effect through Delta-9. It happens immediately, it doesn’t take you by surprise an hour later, it doesn’t have that horrible psychoactive quality that regular edibles do. And on top of all that, it doesn’t make you sleepy.
Have you licensed your fast-acting formula to other cannabis companies?
I’ve licensed it to a couple of different places. The most notable is Therabis, it’s a pet food company out of Colorado. Clinical trials are underway with our formulation, and I think they’re going to become a pretty big business. Unfortunately, that’s the only one I have permission to openly discuss right now.
How do you see your technology changing the cannabis market in the future?
We have a great patent-pending technology and we want to be able to put this into everybody’s hands through this market, as well as all of the manufacturers of edibles. I don’t believe that anybody is going to want to use traditional edibles once we get our products on the market all over the country. We’re trying to start early and get as many companies as we can to get onboard before it’s too late for them.
The greatest benefit of course is how fast it works. Since it works immediately, you don’t have to guess your doses, it’s not dependent on how much fiber is in your stomach, or any of the other things that happen with the traditional edible. Ours gives you the effect immediately. You know how much you’ve done and you can do more if you need, or just stay where you are. That takes away a lot of the crazy cannabis stigma about people overdosing accidentally. When it takes hold, it will be a major disruption in the industry.