Here's a prediction: In 20 years, most of the people consuming weed will be doing so without touching anything that looks remotely like cannabis. People will be taking little pills filled with microdoses of THC, nursing homes will be full of people rubbing pot lotions on their arthritic hands, restaurants will be serving desserts infused with weed alongside a cognac digestif, and it will be harder and harder to find someone who wants to split a bowl with you.
After all, pot smokers are still a minority of the country. Most people are turned off by the idea of inhaling smoke or vapor into their lungs. But if the legal weed industry is able to convince weed-shy folks to try pot without the smoke, it will considerably increase the market's size.
Enter PEARL2O, a brand-new product in Washington's legal market that might be the furthest thing from pot that can still get you high.
It's a mineral water that doesn't smell or taste like pot in any way. You can do almost anything to PEARL2O, and it will still get you high. The water can be frozen into ice cubes, it can be blended into a smoothie, and it can even be boiled while retaining the active THC and CBD, which is how I ended up getting high off instant ramen.
It was easy, really. I just snagged a bottle of PEARL2O infused with 50 milligrams of THC and 50 milligrams of CBD ($30 suggested retail price according to LemonHaze.com) and poured about six ounces into a saucepan. The bottle said that would be 20 milligrams of both THC and CBD, which in edible form usually gets me medium high.
The mineral water, which has a milky white color, started to boil—I mixed in my trusted packet of ramen seasoning and then plopped in the square of noodles. The broth tasted like normal beef ramen but with a bit of a chalky aftertaste, though I couldn't taste anything remotely like cannabis in it.
I left my kitchen and headed to Ballard to meet up with some friends—and within about 30 minutes, I started to feel the warm sensation of a body high. I could feel my heart sending blood in pulses through my entire body. As I walked down Market Street, I started to laugh at the constant stream of dogs and their owners: the absurd wrinkled grin of a bulldog, the crouched hips of an all-white German shepherd that looked like a member of the Stark family, a tiny black Chihuahua that probably didn't weigh a pound. Was I high? I think I was high. Which led me to wonder: How did all of that THC get infused into PEARL2O?
Most edibles are based on a fat solvent, because THC is highly soluble in fat, but there didn't appear to be any oils in the mineral water. The makers of PEARL2O didn't want to disclose the specifics of how the mineral water was made, so I reached out to Shanel Lindsay, a cannabis entrepreneur and lawyer in Massachusetts who, in addition to helping write the initiative that legalized pot in that state, has more than a decade of industrial experience with pot edibles.
Lindsay told me that PEARL2O was probably made with a machine that uses ultrasound waves to combine a distilled cannabis concentrate with water. This same process is already being used by a number of other companies to make weed waters in other states, although most of those waters have CBD but not THC in them.
"The ultrasonic emulsification actually breaks down the molecule so it becomes very tiny—with ultrasonic, you are really changing the chemical structure of that material," Lindsay said.
Lindsay said this ultrasound emulsification method also reduces the flavor of cannabis in the final product—which accounts for how I was getting high without ever tasting a terpene or any pot flavor. PEARL2O isn't the first product to give users a way to consume cannabis without tasting or touching anything that resembles pot, but its mineral-water design makes it one of the subtlest I have found.