It was a few days before the election and I was three episodes into a Sex and the City mini-marathon. As the credits rolled, it suddenly hit me that I hadn't checked my phone since I’d turned on the TV — but instead of scrambling to find my iPhone, my reaction was relief. That’s the exact moment when I realized I was really going to like CBD chocolates. I gushed about it to my friends the next day. When was the last time they had just sat on their couch at home and relaxed without scrolling through the endless stream of vaguely funny memes on Instragram, selfies on Snapchat, and humblebrag posts on Facebook? Most of my friends couldn't remember. And if they could, it was always part of some mindful digital detox, never an accident like what I had experienced. That SATC marathon night was my first time trying cannabidiol, better known as CBD oil. I've smoked normal pot before (hey, no shame, it's 2016) and frankly hated it, no matter the environment or company. While all my friends would be laughing at Seinfeld with squinted eyes, I'd be in the corner, stressing and paranoid. "My boss definitely hates me. I'm definitely getting fired tomorrow. Where is my phone?! I definitely left it in a cab." For the record, my bosses have (almost) always liked me, I've never been fired, and I've never lost my phone. So with half-a-dozen bad experiences with cannabis under my belt, I was skeptical that CBD would be any different. The night of my Sex and the City binge, I settled in on my couch, turned on HBO, popped a chocolate (I chose the ones from Sakara) and forgot about it. It was kind of huge: The effects of CBD didn't knock me over the way I had felt when I smoked. It wasn't until over an hour later that I realized I was much more relaxed and less anxious than before. I wasn't "high" by any stretch of the imagination; if anything, I was more in control of my thoughts than usual. I was relaxed enough to logically realize that, at 11:30 p.m., there was really no need to check my work email. I'm not that important — and that's a wonderful thing.
With half-a-dozen bad experiences with cannabis under my belt, I was skeptical that CBD would be any different.
Sakara, best known for its pricey-but-delicious weekly meal service, introduced its CBD-infused chocolates in October after cofounder Whitney Tingle encountered the cannabis compound on a family visit to Boulder, CO. "As a busy entrepreneur, I can get stressed out and CBD offered a nice, mellow way to take the edge off without opting for a glass of wine or taking time to meditate," Tingle tells Refinery29. Sakara's newest product capitalizes on a shrinking stigma of marijuana in the U.S. After Colorado legalized the drug for recreational use in 2012, states have jumped to follow suit; after the November 8 election, eight states, including Washington, D.C., now allow for non-medical use of the drug. However, the rules around CBD are slightly different — and still evolving. A little chemistry lesson: The weed laws that most people talk about specifically address THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the most well-known active compound found in the cannabis plant. CBD, the other active compound in the plant and the one used in Sakara's chocolates, is a different story. It’s been credited with many of cannabis’ potential medical benefits and doesn’t give you the high THC is known for (nor does it show up on most drug tests). "CBD oil is in a really interesting area of debate and is very much in a legal grey area," says Sam Tracy, a marijuana consultant at Massachusetts-based 4Front Ventures. CBD isn't technically illegal, because states usually regulate THC, not CBD. But Tracy says it's not 100% legal, either, because it's incredibly difficult to completely isolate CBD from THC, kind of like how decaf coffee still has a little caffeine or non-alcoholic beer has a minimal amount of alcohol. And now, things have gotten even trickier — last week, the DEA announced that CBD is now considered a Schedule 1 drug, a.k.a. the same category as heroin, LSD, and MDMA (yikes), which means CBD products can’t cross state lines and companies that make the products will need to apply for a new type of registration. (Sakara says the DEA findings will not have an impact on their product, and it will continue to be available.) It all seems pretty intense when you consider the famously subtle effects of CBD (effects I can now attest to personally). According to Tingle, the compound been shown to "reduce stress and anxiety, calm the nervous system and provide a mood-lifting, blissful effect" — even recommending them for trips to the DMV and first dates. Basically, it’s good for anytime you want to de-stress, but pulling out a bottle of Merlot or chanting "om" might not be socially acceptable. And believe it or not, you actually wouldn't be embarrassed to whip these out waiting in line to renew your license. Unlike a lot of pot-related products out there, the packaging on Sakara's chocolates is understated. You could even call it chic. There's no tie-dye on the label or big green marijuana leaf on the jar — it doesn't look like it came from your college boyfriend's dorm room. In fact, if you didn't already know what CBD was, you'd have no idea you were holding a cannabis-related product by just looking at the label. It's refreshing. According to Tracy, this is essentially the first time that a relatively well-known company has taken CBD into the mainstream. Most other CBD products are sold exclusively at dispensaries or websites and stores specializing in marijuana-related products. Until Sakara's introduction of the chocolates, if you weren't already a marijuana user, you probably wouldn't have stumbled on CBD, Tracy said. In Sakara's case, each small, pyramid-shaped chocolate packs two milligrams of CBD, an amount Tracy called "a sizable dose." For context, the potency of a standard edible product sold in a state that allows marijuana use is five milligrams of THC, Tracy told me. For 30 chocolates, a package will set you back $39 plus shipping, which, at face value, is an obscene amount of money to pay for a small jar of treats. But two things to note: First, our friends at Sakara recommend limiting yourself to just one or two pieces a day. Second, it may seem super pricey for a dessert, but it's about the same price as a two-week supply of wine (in my house, anyway…). To me, having a legal way to forget Twitter and Facebook for a couple hours — sans hangover — is well worth it.