Nude Clear and Connected hemp drops, $75
Hailing from the world of fine dining, Jewel Zimmer, founder of the San Francisco-based cannabis brand Juna, thought it unimaginable to settle for substandard flowers when she was developing her new line of wellness tinctures, Juna Drops.
“I am accustomed to having the best of the best ingredients,” says Zimmer, whose culinary credentials include serving as pastry chef at Washington, D.C.’s CityZen and as assistant pastry chef at La Folie and Fifth Floor in San Francisco. “I didn’t want plants that were growing in someone’s basement.”
The British Columbia native boasts of once making a Fraisier cake for Julia Child at La Folie and considers her history of enjoying weed using the time-honored methods of our hippie forebears to be minimal.
Zimmer, whose journey to Juna Drops began on a biodynamic farm in Northern California, recommends adding the liquid—in any combination of formulas for desired effect—to beverages for slow release.
In 2009, Zimmer developed a high-end line for Barneys New York called Cocoa Absolute, a precursor to such trendy beauty-food brands as Moon Juice and Sun Potion. The single-origin chocolate was fortified with an additional concentration of healthful raw-cacao extracts that included the “bliss molecule,” also known as anandamide, a neurotransmitter that has a chemical structure similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.
Down an herb-lined rabbit hole she went.
Zimmer transitioned from pastry preparation to cannabis candying via chocolate in 2016 and founded Juna two years later. “If you tell me that I can take something that’s going to balance my hormones, ease my stress, make me a little bit happier, help me sleep more soundly, have better sexual wellness, then hand it over,” she pauses. “I’m in.”
So, when Zimmer’s quest for superior cannabis yielded a frustrating chain of below-par grow operations, she decided to seek out farms around Northern California’s storied Emerald Triangle that were cultivating produce for weekly delivered-to-your-doorstep Community Supported Agriculture boxes, figuring that high-quality, locally grown vegetables might lead her to premium bud. Her hunch led her to a biodynamic farmer whose vibrant, sticky, aromatic flowers had been cultivated in soil, under sunshine and among other beneficial plants, possibly absorbing their flavorful and fragrant terpenes (linalool, for example, is responsible for lavender’s calming effect, and limonene is an immune-booster found in lemons) and reinforcing cannabis’ natural plethora of such healthful compounds. Eureka.
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“I was floored by this stuff—it was that good,” says Zimmer, who suddenly found herself on the cusp of another frontier—farm-to-table-inspired cannabis wellness. “I realized that if I were working at a Michelin-starred restaurant, I’d be getting my produce from this place.”
With confidence and scientific understanding, Zimmer set out to create a new chocolate line infused with extracts of the transcendent bud’s more than 80 botanical actives, including feel-good CBD, THC’s nonpsychoactive co-conspirator; chlorophyll, an anti-aging accomplice; anti-inflammatory flavonoids; and heart-helping omega fatty acids. But, circa 2015, the idea of premium cannabis edibles was still taboo in mainstream society.
“I could not give the chocolate away,” says Zimmer. “No one would try it.” Since crossing the confection-cannabis border in this way seemed too radical for a culture that, at the time, could not reach the gastronomic potential beyond pot brownies wrapped in cling film, Zimmer opted for a more apothecarial approach.
Juna Drops—cannabis extracts suspended in brain-fueling coconut MCT oil—are packaged in amber glass vials with microdosing droppers. At your wit’s end? Nude, a hemp CBD formula, can alleviate stress. Shut-eye hard to come by? Jade is an anti-Ambien potion made of equal parts CBD and THC. Not in the mood? Gold is a THC-dominant aphrodisiac for the modern woman. No, seriously—the formula doesn’t have the same arousing effect on men.
Zimmer still plans to launch the cannabis chocolate as Juna’s sophomoric offering. For now, she recommends adding the drops—in any combination of formulas for desired effect—to beverages for slow release (obviously, dosing directly under the tongue works faster). She enhances her morning coffee with a dropperful (2.5 mg) of Nude and creates cannabis mocktails for special occasions—her refreshing yuzu botanical water, for example, is made with fresh yuzu, crushed pink peppercorn, mint and a dash of hemp CBD. Field-testing Juna Drops in this way seems to have turned Zimmer into an armchair sociologist. “It’s so interesting to see how the conversation shifts at a party when cannabis is involved,” she says. “With alcohol, the volume in the room goes up and the talk is a little more liberated. Add cannabis cocktails to the bar and all of a sudden people are more grounded, subtle, intellectual. It’s really fascinating.”
Photography by: Bethany Vargas; KIA NISHIMINE