Meet the biochemist making cannabis edibles for seniors in New York

senior moments edibles for seniors

Seniors for cannabis! There has been a lot of hoopla and curiosity around cannabis recently, trying to understand the science behind claims of its health and wellness benefits and making sense of all the new cannabis products hitting store shelves.

Since the discovery of the human endocannabinoid system in the 1990s by esteemed Israeli chemist Dr. Rafael Mechoulum, evidence shows that the compounds in cannabis plants mimic the endocannabinoid system, which regulates our body for homeostasis. This means that not only can cannabis be consumed for fun but potentially for health benefits as well. 

To help seniors understand what goes into a cannabis product, we interviewed Corinne Devine, the biochemist creating products for seniors in upstate New York at Bristol Farms, to learn what goes into their product, Senior Moments. Corrine walks us through the seed-to-sale operations, why they focused on seniors, and how their products are specifically formulated for this demographic.

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Before we dive into Bristol Extracts, can you give us an overview of your background?

I joined the team at Bristol Extracts in July 2021 and have been doing cannabis processing for six years. I graduated from Binghamton University with my BS in biochemistry. Somehow, I saw the opportunity in cannabis as the country began to legalize it, and I knew these companies would need extraction technicians.

I moved to California to train in a mature market in cannabis processing, extraction, formulation, and quality control before moving back to New York in 2021, where I began working for Bristol Extracts just as they were awarded a license to grow and manufacture cannabis products.

Can you give us an overview of Bristol Extracts and the products you produce?

Bristol Extracts is a New York state-licensed hemp and cannabis cultivator and processor located in Bristol, New York, on a beautiful 30-acre campus with cultivation and a 20,000-square-foot CGMP processing facility. We grew our first harvest in 2022, extracted over 4,000 pounds of biomass, and launched three cannabis brands into the marketplace by March 2023. Our brands have pretty targeted audiences and clear messaging and stances. 

Why did your team focus on seniors for product development, and what does your market research say about their interest in cannabis?

We realized there was an opportunity in the consumer goods space for seniors, specifically in the cannabis industry. No brand spoke to this demographic, and we wanted to include them. The baby boomer generation is making a return to cannabis, and many people can benefit from the Senior Moments products because they are balanced and geared towards wellness. They are for people who don’t want to get blasted to Mars. They want something more mellow. 

Industry data tells us that inhalation products are inversely proportional to age. So the older you are, the less likely you are to buy a vape cartridge, and that’s why our senior line doesn’t have any inhalable products. We have edibles, and we will have topicals coming soon too. 

Our time machine citrus gummy is a 1:1 of five milligrams of THC and five milligrams of CBD per gummy in a delicious citrus tangerine flavor. And all of our gummies are vegan and pectin-based, making them a higher-quality product.

We also have a sleep gummy on the Senior Moment’s line: lemon ginger flavor with THC + CBN. Overall, it’s a super relaxing gummy. We aren’t doing high doses; they’re low doses to help seniors find what works for them in incremental amounts. We have mouth-dissolving mints launching in a few weeks. All of our products have scents and flavors that are familiar to this demographic, like cinnamon, peppermint, wintergreen, tangerine, and lemon ginger are very traditional and familiar flavors. So these are the variables in our mind when formulating the brand and products.

How do you view terpenes in your formulations?

Terpenes are potent molecules. Your olfactory system is something like 75 or 85% of your sense of taste. And so those are valuable facts to keep in mind. 

We use essential oils, and essential oils and terpenes are somewhat synonymous. Some in the industry disagree, but cannabis is a botanical plant with botanical terpenes. I also include Chinese herbal ingredients in combination with cannabinoids and terpenes as the backbone of my formulation for Bristol Extracts. Terpenes play largely into the effect of our products, as does the genetics of cannabis. 

Can you tell us about the farming operations at Bristol Extracts?

Our director of cultivation is Jason Partial; he is native to the Finger Lakes area and is a phenomenal cannabis grower. We have an acre of outdoor sun-grown cannabis, and we use organic growing practices and inoculate the field with microbes to support the plants naturally and make them strong and resilient. 

We need a resilient and strong plant in our environment and chosen cultivation method. As the extractor, I want the most potent product entering extraction as possible. And lots of care is needed in post-processing as well because you can ruin the final outcome of the plant if done improperly.

What do you think about nano-emulsified products that make edibles fast-acting to feel the effects quicker?

Traditional edibles go through your digestive tract. Once the cannabinoids enter the bloodstream, they are carried to the liver. THC is then converted into 11-hydroxy-THC in the liver, a more potent form of THC. This conversion process is responsible for the different effects experienced when consuming edibles compared to other methods.

Nano-emulsified cannabinoids (THC, CBD, CBN) is a process that breaks down the particle size of the cannabinoid and encapsulates it into water-soluble ingredients. This emulsion of small particles and encapsulated infused ingredients changes the edible experience because your body uptakes the cannabis extract quicker, and the onset of the product will be quicker. And so, it is a very exciting application of this pharmaceutical practice of nano-emulsified material into cannabis science. 

Although, I think more research is needed to understand the results of exposing yourself frequently to nano-emulsified products by bringing all those micro ingredients to all your cells. They can permeate most of your cells because they pass the blood-brain barrier quickly. You’re going from thousands of nanometer particle diameters to hundreds of nanometers. So you’re breaking it down to a 10th of the size of the original extract.

Cannabis products are legally required to be lab tested for unsafe contaminants. What information should consumers consider in a lab report or packaging label?

There’s a vast panel of tests that cannabis products undergo for standard testing to make it onto a licensed dispensary shelf. Some of the tests in the panel include cannabinoid potency, heavy metals, pesticides, residual solvents, filth, foreign matter, and total microbial mycotoxins water activity. It goes through much testing to confirm that this is a clean product and not contaminated.

Something I like to highlight is that inhalable products, such as heavy metals, have the strictest limits on tests. There are differences in the limits depending on the product type. And manufacturers must have their facility compliant with Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP) in New York State as a cannabis processor.

The cannabinoid potency information on the lab report will confirm what is advertised on the product’s label, which is important to help keep dosing and consumer experience consistent with the intended formulation. And it allows people to understand how much medicine they need at a given time.

Eventually, everyone will know their potency dosing level and what strains and cannabinoid combinations work best for them. The cannabis industry is in its infancy, and we have much to learn about its benefits, and knowing where and how products are made is a good start.

This article was submitted by a guest contributor to GreenState. The statements within do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GreenState, Hearst, or its subsidiaries. The author is solely responsible for the content.

Pam Chmiel is a contract marketer, publicist, podcast host, and a published writer specializing in the cannabis industry. She is based in Manhattan, NY.