Will Kleidon, a loquacious 27-year-old, and I were sitting in a restaurant called Food Harmonics here on Ojai's main drag the other day, sipping $5 mushroom coffee with shots of CBD elixir.
It was delicious, if slightly expensive.
If you have been paying attention to what's going on in the cannabis "space" (a perfect word for this industry, really), you have probably heard of CBD — cannabidiol — or wondered what it is.
CBD is one of two important compounds in cannabis.
The other, of course, is THC, which is responsible for pot's psychoactive power. Both THC and CBD have medicinal properties. But CBD, which can be extracted from hemp and is often sold as a dietary supplement, won't get you high (though CBD extractions generally contain a tiny amount of THC).
CBD oil is of increasing interest to growers, entrepreneurs, scientists and consumers.
It is a powerful anti-inflammatory and neuroprotectant that has been shown to relieve intractable epilepsy in some children. CBD is also used (particularly in Israel, the world leader in medical marijuana research) to treat war veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, and severe spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis.
Kleidon, a well-connected child of Silicon Valley, is the founder and CEO of a company called Ojai Energetics. The company's president, Stanton Barrett, is a NASCAR driver and stuntman whose grandparents created the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area.
Kleidon is passionate about a lot of things: sustainable farming and permaculture, chemistry, social justice and, of course, CBD oil, which he came across when he began having severe panic attacks in his early twenties.
Ojai Energetics sells, and is in the process of patenting, what Kleidon claims is the first water-soluble form of CBD-rich hemp oil made entirely of certified, organic ingredients. Without making your eyes glaze over from technical details, Kleidon says his product gets into the brain and body faster than most other ingestible forms of CBD oil, which can take up to half an hour or longer to take effect.
"I created this to be of service to humanity and the planet," he told me earnestly. I don't doubt that for a moment. But I told him I get a little skeptical when I hear people say cannabis is going to save the world.
"Hemp," he replied, "is a catalyst for things getting better."
I first met Kleidon a few weeks ago in downtown Los Angeles. I was having lunch at Spring, a lovely French restaurant whose interior feels like the inside of a particularly aromatic conservatory. I turned the regular lunch menu over and was startled to find an entirely different offering on the back: "Spring CBD Power Lunch."
Must be some fancy French abbreviation, I thought. The waiter said, no, it's exactly what you think it is, and the guy who provides it to the restaurant is sitting right there. He pointed to Kleidon, who was having lunch with a reporter from the LA Weekly.
Turns out, Spring's owners, Yassmin Sarmadi and Tony Esnault, live in the same downtown loft building as Kleidon's mother, Katie Galley, a senior vice president at Cornerstone Research, which advises attorneys involved in complex regulatory litigation. (His father, who lives in Silicon Valley, is also a Cornerstone executive.)
One evening last year, after the building's regular wine club meeting petered out, Sarmadi, Esnault and Galley ended up in Galley's loft, where she told them about her son's new venture and showed them his "Super CBD" elixir.
"Tony started making cocktails for us using the CBD," said Sarmadi. "We woke up the next morning having had a fairly significant amount to drink and said, 'Wow, we feel pretty good. We need to do something with the CBD.' "
The result is a $37, three-course lunch menu, featuring Esnault's exquisite food: citrus salad or mint pea soup, his famous vegetable plate with trout or chicken breast, and a lemon curd dessert with tangerine meringue or a chocolate ganache with lemon honey sorbet.
"I have been continually surprised at how many people try it and then come back again," said Sarmadi, who plans to expand the concept to Spring's dinner menu. They also plan to sell the elixir in the restaurant. (It retails for $75 an ounce, which contains 30 servings.)
"Have you heard one of Hippocrates' most famous quotes?" Kleidon asked me in Ojai. "Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food."
This is when they began to better understand how and why cannabis affects the brain and body.
Today, there is a large and growing body of international research on the compounds in cannabis and their effects on human health. (Studies are somewhat more difficult to undertake in the U.S. because marijuana is a controlled substance. Industrial hemp, which has little THC, however, may be cultivated for certain uses in some states.)
Pharmaceutical companies are hard at work isolating or synthesizing various compounds for specific illnesses and conditions, and in some cases cynically lobbying against marijuana legalization.
But entrepreneurs who believe in the curative properties of CBD have not wasted any time creating products.
A Sonoma-based medical cannabis company, Care by Design, makes high-quality sublingual sprays, softgel caps and vape pens with a full spectrum of CBD-to-THC ratios so patients can titrate their CBD and THC intake to control the psychoactive effects.
"I think in general CBD is a very safe compound," said Dr. Bonni Goldstein, a Los Angeles physician who treats medical conditions like epilepsy, chronic pain, anxiety and insomnia with cannabis. She has a "handful" of patients with schizophrenia who "seem to do well" with CBD. But she has other patients who do not respond to it.
"For the general public who is healthy," she said, "I do not think there is any harm with CBD."
I wanted to try Kleidon's elixir, so he squeezed a dropper of yellowy-green liquid onto my tongue. It was treacly sweet, then slightly bitter, then sweet again like honey.
I'm not sure the Earth moved, but I felt pretty mellow the rest of the day.