Step off See's Candies and move over Russell Stover. Now that adult-use cannabis is legal in the Golden State, this Valentine's Day presents a gift-giving alternative to those with a pot-loving beloved: luxury-level edibles that combine chocolate and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical compound in marijuana that gets you high).
Below are four of the high-end brands that have not only caught our eye and piqued our palate, but are packaged so exquisitely that they're worth tracking down — at a state-licensed dispensary — for your Valentine. (If you're new to the legal weed game, it's worth checking out a website called WeedMaps.com, which has a very accurate, frequently updated list of what's in stock at participating dispensaries.)
Before that, though, there are a couple of key things to keep in mind if you — or your beloved — aren't an experienced consumer of cannabis-containing edibles.
First off, THC that's ingested, as opposed to smoked, metabolizes as a different chemical compound. That means the high can be very different than what even the most seasoned smoker might expect — and can also vary greatly from person to person.
Second, and most important, the substantial lag time between consumption and the feeling of the effects (anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours depending on an individual's metabolism) means enthusiastic but impatient neophytes may end up consuming far more than they should. (There's even a word for this rookie movie: "Dowding" — named after New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd who, in a 2014 visit to Colorado, famously overate her way into eight hours of hallucinations, panting and paranoia. Consider yourself warned.)
Third, under state law, cannabis-containing edibles for recreational use must be scored or separated into pieces that contain less than 10 milligrams each, and the total package may not contain more than 100 milligrams of THC. (The rules are slightly different for medical cannabis, but it's important to point out since many of the currently licensed dispensaries cater to both the adult-use and medical market.)
Finally, if you're the kind of person who holds out until you see the "organic" label, you're out of luck. Although many of the companies below use organic ingredients — including chocolate — that designation falls under the purview of the USDA, and since cannabis and cannabis-containing products remain illegal under federal law they can't be labeled as such.
Lilly Cabral and Mia Pham, who launched the line last year, give cannabis-infused edibles the truffle treatment; the outside of each gold-foil-wrapped serving is dark Belgian chocolate and the interior is one of three flavors: cherry (which Cabral says is a "fan favorite"), matcha or mint. Each jewel-shaped truffle contains 10 milligrams of sativa-strain, sun-grown THC sourced from Humboldt County's craft cannabis cultivators. And the entire line is vegan and gluten-free.
An added bonus – particularly if there are young ones in the house – is that the truffles are packaged six to a sleeve in gorgeous boxes covered in geometric Art Deco that are designed to be child-proof (which makes them a safe and sensible hostess gift as well). $40 each. www.calivolve.com
Oakland-based Défoncé (the name translates from French as "stoned") took home a 2018 Greenstate Cannabis Award for best sweet edible for its line of cannabis-infused chocolate bars, and it's not hard to see why. With cacao percentages that range from 31% (for white chocolate bars infused with vanilla bean or green tea matcha) to 81% (for the Dark+ flavor), each 3.5-ounce bar is scored as a series of interlocking, raised triangles (with rectangles at each end) that make it as much a thing of beauty as the box it comes in — black paired with pale pastel shades including lavender, turquoise or lime on the outside, and all-over patterns in the same shade inside. The triangles are as functional as they are decorative. Each one contains 5 milligrams of THC for a total of 90 milligrams per bar.
The company, which describes itself as "seed-to-bar," sources its THC from purveyors of single-origin, sun-grown, biodynamically farmed cannabis from the Sierra Nevada foothills, which makes it as appropriate and thoughtful a gift for the cannabis connoisseur as the high cacao percentage and commitment to fair trade sourcing does for the chocolate lover. $20 a bar. defonce.com
If there's one name in L.A.'s luxury edibles game that should be on (not to mention past) your lips, it's Lord Jones, the makers of a range of cannabis-containing confections that include old-fashioned fruit-flavored gumdrops, dark chocolate espresso chews and dark-chocolate-covered sea salt caramels. It's the last of these – packaged four to an elegant pale blue box emblazoned with a crest that features prancing bucks and the motto "for your royal highness" – that will likely melt your loved one's heart as surely as the salt-sprinkled cubes of Ecuadorian-chocolate-robed caramels melt in her or his mouth. Available through MedMen in two strengths. The lower dose serves 5 milligrams of THC per sweet treat (20 milligrams per box) and retails for $15; the stronger dose delivers 10 milligrams per caramel (40 milligrams per box) for $20.
For those interested in baby-stepping into the edibles arena (or sending a fun Valentine's Day gift to someone beyond the California border), Lord Jones also offers dark chocolate espresso chews that contain hemp-derived CDB (cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive compound that's also found in cannabis that's prized for its pain-relieving, mood-stabilizing properties) instead of THC. Because they're THC-free, they can be ordered online and shipped nationally. The individually wrapped chews contain 20 milligrams of CDB and are sold five for $30. www.lordjones.com
If you're looking for a THC-tweaked take on the standard-issue Valentine's Day treat of chocolate-dipped strawberries, Satori (in Zen Buddhism, satori means sudden enlightenment) has the answer in the form of cannabis-infused wild strawberries in milk chocolate. (Last year, High Times named the confection one of its top edibles.) Also available in a dark chocolate version, it combines dried, hand-picked strawberries (from the Italian Alps) with cannabis-infused chocolate, resulting in a 3-ounce box full of something that resembles a very grown-up version of Raisinets and clocks in at 100 milligrams of THC per box (approximately 3 milligrams THC per piece) and sells for $20.
Speaking of raisins, Satori's product mix also includes milk-chocolate-covered raisins, as well as salted caramel cacao beans and salted caramel almonds (both covered in dark chocolate), as well as a range of cannabis-infused bars (90 milligrams of THC per bar, $18) using chocolate from Berkeley-based chocolate maker TCHO. satorichocolates.com