IS DELTA-8 THE PERFECT PARTY WEED?
Meet the hottest new cannabinoid on the block
Sup stoner fam, welcome to weed month! In the lead-up to the high holiday of 4/20, we’re diving deep into the world of cannabis, which is thrumming with so much exciting NRG these days thanks to New York finally (FINALLY!) legalizing that shit. Today we’re gonna explore this trendy new* cannabinoid everyone is buzzing about called delta-8, and by “everyone” I mean: the weed industry girls, the New Yawk Times, and my next-door neighbor, who I just overheard out of my window gabbing about how obsessed she is with it.
First, the basics: there are hundreds of chemical compounds in the cannabis plant, and ~66+ are considered cannabinoids. These special compounds bind to our receptors and regulate memory, appetite, pain, etc, producing all the effects we associate with weed. The famous cannabinoids are THC and CBD, but others like CBN, THCA, and CBG are gaining traction, popping up in special strains and tinctures (if you know where to look). Technically, these #alt cannabinoids aren’t new since they’ve always been present in the plant—they’re just hitting the market rn thanks to better research/tech… and the desire to find the “next big thing” now that the CBD craze is kind of over.
Obviously, discovering subtle shades of different highs from all these #alt cannabinoids is extremely exciting to us drug nerds!!! The consensus is that delta-8 is a smoother, more lucid, and less paranoid high than delta-9-THC (aka “regular” THC)—earning delta-8 the title of “diet weed.” I feel like delta-8 is also perfect for partying—it takes the edge off without inducing anxiety, which is actually the perfect level of lit.
So, to explore this emerging intersection of weed and party culture, I’m stoked to debut this newsletter’s first ~SPONSORED CONTENT~ in collab with Wunder—a sparkling weed drink that contains a combination of delta-8-THC, delta-9-THC, and CBD. Ya’ll know I would never endor$e a brand I didn’t seriously fuck with, and honest-to-god, this one tastes fucking delicious.
Below, I go deep with Wunder’s co-founder Alexi Chialtas on the emerging delta-8 market, converging cannabis trends, and future of weed parties. We’re also going to send ya’ll some free dranks so you can experience the wunders of delta-8 for yourselves—scroll down for instructions on how to cop.
Michelle: How does Wunder—and the general concept of weed drinks—fit into this new paradigm of creating a social culture around cannabis?
Alexi: When we were first getting started in 2019, we started throwing a “Wunder saloon” around 5pm, like an impromptu cannabis happy hour. We noticed that with weed, people really sunk into their skin and felt more comfortable. Cannabis has the ability to help you tune in. Many people take it to level 100 and are overly tuned in, like paranoid. Having a nice on-ramp helped people to open up, so they don’t feel like this is too crazy.
M: When you say “on ramp” do you mean delta-8 specifically?
A: We locked into delta-8 as our key ingredient for a smoother high, in combination with CBD. The other thing is low-dose, so you can have six drinks versus having one drink and needing to leave the conversation. Drinks are different compared to anything except maybe a joint, in that it’s truly an experience that goes over time. A vape’s presence is very quick—you pull it out of your pocket and it goes back into your pocket. Any other mode of cannabis consumption, like gummies or chocolate bars, are also very fleeting in their presence in a social dynamic.
M: I love that. A weed drink has a presence through time. The difference is that a joint can take up all the attention—it’s smoking and smelling, while a drink can be a companion in the background without taking up all the space in a room.
A: You’re not imposing yourself on others. Smoking very much has a history of that with second-hand smoke. Weed drinks are a way for you to be yourself without having others adjust their comfortability.
M: You’ll appreciate this: at my last Weed Rave we had a weed bar with a mixologist who made a custom menu of weed drinks, some were like inspired by strains and some of them were kind of demonic, like we had one weed martini laced with an Adderall rim that was for people who were afraid of falling asleep. Ultimately, weed drinks are a pretty new phenomenon. Did you meet any resistance or hesitation?
A: Every day. People get stuck in an idea where it’s black and white—weed or alcohol—while in reality, there’s often multiple substances involved. 50% of people who drink alcohol and consume cannabis do both at the same time. When we started to get excited about delta-8 in 2019, we had it with a beer, and it was very relaxing and good—it accentuated the beer.
People were also colored by their early perceptions of weed drinks. In the early days, like in 2017 or 2018, there was a lack of innovation, so you ended up with products that didn’t taste great or weren’t at a level that was willing to justify seeing it at a Whole Foods or Erewhon, rather than living in a drug den or dispensary.
M: What changed?
A: The first is capital. It’s the innovator’s dilemma, where if people don’t value your innovation it’s hard to spend on it. It’s also access. In 2018, cannabis was just becoming legal recreationally [in California]. So dispensaries were very new, and they didn’t want to carry drinks because they were heavier, take up more space, and in terms of a dollar per unit of volume, they’re not as efficient as a concentrate [for vapes and dabs] that you can sell for $50 or $100.
Also, if you wanted to make a cannabis drink before 2018, you had to build your own manufacturing, because you couldn’t access co-manufacturers where sub-contractors make your drink for you. To do that at scale costs millions of dollars.
M: Sorry to sound like a suck-up, but how do you make your drinks taste so good?
A: There are different technologies now that help to mask our flavor. Cannabis oil doesn’t mix well with water, it’s a fat-based product. So we have to encapsulate it with something water-soluble, and shrink the particle size down so it gets absorbed more quickly in your body. This also helps the cannabis effects be felt more quickly, like in 15 mins. Before, it was more like an edible that takes 60-90 minutes.
M: Ah, that’s the nano-emulsification thing that’s so trendy right now.
A: Right, micro or nano-encapsulation. So with these technologies, you can focus on the flavor profiles and ingredients that you want, not just, “fuck we also need to build a manufacturing plant.”
M: Why did you decide to create a weed drink in the first place?
A: I worked at this company called Zynga, we made a pioneering social game called Farmville that spammed everybody. That was the beginning of several trends, like the intersection of social platforms and gaming, so I didn’t need to pay $30 for an Xbox game, I could access it over the internet for free. Those trends came together to accelerate social experiences through games. Right now there is a similar dynamic happening with cannabis: several exciting macro trends that are accelerating changes in social experiences. People are more conscious about what they put in their body, drinking more than they want to, and looking for alternatives. There’s also cannabis legalization and adoption. Those trends coming together makes it really exciting.
M: This dovetails with what my whole thing with Cali Sober. People are getting really interested in exploring different states of being and socializing around cannabis or psychedelics. The word “sober” tends to be a binary but I believe it can be a spectrum, and you can be alcohol abstinent but not necessarily see it as a on-off switch. This kind of relationship to sobriety and drugs and ways of being more mindful around consumption feels more accessible than calling yourself an addict in a way that really evokes harm—rather than holistic approaches to how you want to be in company.
A: You’re at the forefront of this. Whether you’re talking about ketamine or psychedelics, those trends are just at the beginning stages, and cannabis is the first to go mass market because it’s so widely used and people have gotten to the place where they accept it. It’s all about the right on-boarding. People who were in the War on Drugs-era have woken up.
M: I still feel like there’s some fear around consuming cannabis in social settings, especially in cities where weed is low-quality and ravers cant picture using it except in a post-party situation when you’re curled up in a fetal ball. The way delta-8 is being marketed right now as “diet weed”—it seems to be targeting people who are afraid of getting too stoned. It’s also angled as “if CBD wasn’t working for you, maybe this will.” So it’s like, this intermediary between CBD and delta-9?
A: There is a lot of hype about CBD from 2017 to 2020. But consumers were like, maybe this isn’t worth a 50% increase in price for like, a latte with CBD in it. I think people are open to the idea of wellness, but CBD was made mass-market very quickly, and became complicated by nuance. For example, CBD by itself is very different than CBD with other cannabis compounds, and we’re at very early stages of that learning.
M: The New York Times framed delta-8 as an exploitation of the Farm Bill [which legalized industrial hemp]. So delta-8 is sort of trending in places where people might not have access to recreational cannabis, and there are concerns that it’s synthetically derived and sprayed on the plant. It’s basically a legal loop hole. At the same time it’s funny that maybe politicians didn’t understand how complex the cannabis plant is, and they accidentally unleashed all these cannabinoids that we’re learning more about now… anyway, this was a really fun chat. Thanks Alexi!
I guzzled a can of Wunder’s new 20mg drink last night, and it definitely hit different. Usually, I’d be scared of that much THC knocking me the fuck out, but this felt light and lucid: I was able to prep for this interview and do a workout before bed. I would love for ya’ll to experience the wonders of Wunder (and delta-8!) so we’re gonna do a lil giveaway :) Share this post on socials and tag us (@michellelhooq + @findwunder). If you want extra credit, include a caption with your thoughts on our interview or personal experiences with delta-8. We’ll pick our favorite(s) and send you a box of their 5mg drinks in flavors like blood orange bitters, lemon ginger and grapefruit hibiscus. (Cali-based readers only, sorry Euro + Asia fam… we’ll try to get you next time!)
SPEAKING OF WEED PARTIES…
I’m hosting a virtual weed brunch next Sunday (4/18) and it’s going to be cute!! Would love to bake stoned scones + dance to disco with the Rave New World crew… more info + RSVP here <3