Ron Silver, owner and founder of Bubby’s restaurant in New York City, started working a line of all-natural CBD sweeteners and edibles about seven years ago with one mission in mind: to tackle the “edible problem,” as he deemed it. He believes he helped solve it with Azuca, a collection of fast-acting, reliably dosed edibles. His entry into the industry was a result of wanting to see people view CBD and cannabis as a healer. His inspiration was little old ladies.
After surveying several people, Silver found that the biggest problem surrounding cannabis was the difficulty in controlling its effects. So, he jumped with a focus point in mind, hoping to fix that by creating a way to measure intake in real time.
The journey started when he went to visit a friend who ran a cannabis hedge fund. Silver sat in his friend’s Las Vegas office, listening to the current climate of the industry, and after beginning to understand where the cannabis business was headed, he decided he wanted in. His advantage: being a chef versus being a scientist.
Studying upwards of four hours a day for his second business venture, Silver was able to invent and introduce TiME™ Technology to his products, which is a four-patent pending innovation that makes cannabis molecules more hydrophilic, allowing them to bypass the liver’s detoxification process and quickly activate the endocannabinoid system. In other words, with his groundbreaking technology, edibles consumers will now be able to measure their intake and feel the results in minutes instead of hours.
“One of the main things about this technology, about the thing that we have, is that it’s very much analog and so it doesn’t require a lot of tech or big machinery,” Silver says. “What it requires is my brain trying to figure stuff out. I carry my brain around with me wherever I go, small and compact as it is.”
Now it seems the real work begins as Silver positions himself as an expert inventor in the industry, with the overarching craving to help other companies make their edibles better and hopefully help reduce the lingering stigmas involved in CBD and cannabis use.
So where did you make the first batch?
Well, somewhere not entirely legitimate.
You want to talk about that experience?
Can you explain the TiME™ Technology to me?
Basically, all edibles are made out of cannabis oil extract, and that oil is very thick and doesn’t absorb in the body at all. So, when you eat it, it has to enter the liver, and your liver can break down two to six percent of it in one to four hours. So there are a lot of variables, and it’s a small amount of medicine that you actually absorb.
With TiME™ technology, each one of those molecules is individually wrapped and packaged into the smallest particle size possible, which is basically two molecules, and that formation allows it to absorb into the soft tissue and bypass liver function. That’s why it kicks in within three to eleven minutes. All of that is with oil, and we’re also developing a way of bypassing oil extraction entirely and delivering a full entourage: whole-plant edible, fast acting, with high bioavailability, and that’s really going to be interesting.
You created this technology?
How did you think to do this?
Well, I’ve been a chef all my life, and so I have a lot of innate skills that come from that. Emulsification is one of those things: How oil and water work together is something that I understand on a deep level. Also, because I dropped out of school in eighth grade, I’m very good at being self-taught and just reading things that normal people maybe wouldn’t read, like textbooks, theses and things like that. I really studied hard, and the combination of science and culinary skills allowed me to figure a lot of stuff out.
Why do you think you’re the first person to do this?
That, I can’t tell you. One is probably that I’m interested in it on a deep level. I’ve smoked weed as soon as I could pick up a bong, since I was 12, and it’s not just that I like it, I love it. But, you know, I really understand it on a deeper level, and I’m willing to take some chances being a chef. The difference between scientists and chefs is that scientists need a lot of data and they’re kind of dumb in a way because they need all this data to move. Whereas being a chef, I can just think of an idea without having an attachment to it, except if it’s good, and I’m totally willing to fly by the seat of my pants on that.
How did you not compromise the taste while experimenting to create it?
Well, I wouldn’t say that it worked out that way in the long run, but my intention was just to make it work better, and the technology that I ended up creating had the added benefit of covering up bad flavors and enhancing good ones. It’s kind of lucky.
So how many tries did it take you?
I was on the right track probably five years ago. We had iterations that really worked well, but it took me until a little less than a year ago to really figure out a bunch of stuff. All this whole-plant stuff is maybe two months old. So it’s all very real time.
Beyond cannabis, how long have you been using CBD?
That’s a good question. I do use CBD sometimes, mostly if I’m having some sort of physical issues—I have a fucked-up back sometimes—so I’ll take CBD for that. It’s effective for me, but I mostly use cannabis.
Were you using CBD products before you dabbled into this?
I had never even heard of CBD before.
How do you recommend using your products? In coffee or shakes?
Our product right now on a commercial basis is available. The CBD is available in sugar packets, and that is a good way to use it. It’s accurately dosed, and it’s a good solid dose, like 25 milligrams per sugar packet. Those sugar packets can be used in coffee or tea, and you can also cook with it if you want or make a simple syrup and put it into cold drinks.
Do you think you’ll make oils to rub into people’s skin?
Yes, we’re definitely going to do topicals, and our technology really helps the topicals absorb better.
Why did you move the manufacturing facility to Colorado?
Moving our operations to Colorado allowed us to operate in an environment that’s friendly to CBD. Their policies are sane and set, and a lot of other places aren’t like that, especially New York.
How did you meet the CEO, Kim Rael?
Well, that is a good question. The cannabis industry, especially four years ago, was like the Wild West so you’d end up in these little weird partnerships or exploring working with people, and most of those people really are not stable or business minded. As things got going, some started trying to find business people, and I ended up being friends with one of those guys. He’s on our board, and he was helping me figure out how to set up Azuca. He took another job with Mayflower and got one of his classmates from Stanford Business School to see if she would be our CEO. That’s how we met.
What was her vision and your vision, and how did you mesh those together?
Her vision is to work in health and wellness, and my vision is to make cannabis sane and understandable and accessible to little old ladies. Basically, my concern is helping little old ladies, and Kim’s concern is health and wellness. They kind of overlap a little.
One hundred percent. I mean, people think this is the direction wellness is going in.
One hundred percent, and the more I study, and I study a lot, the more I realize that (a) it is going that way and (b) it already had gone that way for 8,000 years before these [prohibition] laws came up. A lot of the research I do on applications of cannabis as medicine go back to Pliny the Elder, literally ancient Rome, Egypt and Greece. All those guys had ways of dealing with it that are somewhat recorded.
There’s also a lot of history in India and Afghanistan where they don’t have it recorded but they have a lot of set medical uses for cannabis, and it [reportedly] helps all kinds of things like childbirth, toothaches, tumor shrinking. These are things that they were saying back then.
Do you see yourself partnering with a hospital in some capacity in the future?
I see myself partnering with Pliny the Elder and staying the fuck away from the hospital because I don’t think that the medical industry is keeping track. First of all, we really do have a very good application for pharmacology, but they probably won’t be talking to me. That is what I would assume because the scientists don’t like me. They think I’m a variable.
Rael said in an interview that you brought a whole different perspective to the table as a chef that the scientists don’t have. What is that actual perspective?
I would say it’s a wide swath of stuff. I’m most concerned about the user experience and what that person walks away with. As a chef, I’m concerned with what happens when somebody walks away from my experience directly because they still have my food in their belly, you know? It’s just in my nature to be concerned about a lot of people’s wellbeing without ever touching them or seeing them.
My concerns as a chef are that things taste good, whereas if you take some sort of medicine, like Robitussin or cough syrup, they don’t care what that tastes like. It’s really just shitty syrup with food coloring and a bunch of preservatives and other weird stuff. If I was going to sell Robitussin, I would try to make it taste good and use real ingredients, but pharmacology doesn’t think like that. They think of one molecule doing one thing to one receptor and then getting it in there somehow. That’s as far as it goes.
Are you still on track to have the products in at least 10 states by the end of the year and in Canada by 2020?
Well, that’s a good question. I would say that we are more in line to be in a few very large states and geared towards growing to 14 to 20 states, plus we are talking to people in Canada. I would say that by the end of 2020, we’ll be in a bunch of states and Canada and Europe.
What’s your plan to help other companies with the “edible problem,” as you phrased it?
That’s a multifaceted situation. We want to help edibles companies to be able to formulate edibles that are understandable to their consumers so that their consumers will know when their edibles are going to kick in and how it’s going to affect them. It should be easier to learn how to dose their products quicker, so consumers can choose the dose they want through their products.
Keep in mind that edibles manufacturers themselves are on a steep learning curve and trying to figure things out. There’s a big learning curve, and everyone’s in it. We have a solution to a problem, which is how this medicine is delivered and how quickly it kicks in. We also have the ability to help companies formulate better products that taste better, with better delivery mechanisms, and just bring the sort of chef skills to the table as well as an overall understanding of how to apply cannabis to different things for different reasons at different strengths.
Everyone’s on a learning curve. I’m on a steep and deep learning curve. I literally study this stuff for four hours a day, and that’s no hardship because I’m really into it. I’m here until one in the morning watching and reading, and everything I read helps inform how we can do better so that I can then inform others.
One thing is working with edibles manufacturers. The other thing is small producers and small growers are under the most pressure, and they don’t have access to the machinery to make the oil, which is a better economic model. This new technology, the new application with the whole flower, allows small growers to take their whole crop and turn it into whole edible plants with a shelf life of five years. It takes up a lot less space, it doesn’t need to be kept moist, and it doesn’t degrade after six months. That puts a lot of power into the small growers’ hands instead of being beholden to somebody with a $250,000 extraction machine.
It will also allow for strain-specific or chemovar-specific deliveries. In other words, you’ll be able to have the flower and read about terpenes, cannabinoids, the entire makeup, and right next to it, you’ll be able to have an edible with the exact same report. That doesn’t exist right now at all.
That’s really good for everybody, from the grower to the consumer. It provides a better product for the consumer, with more choices of different chemovars to use. It also does a lot to help level the playing field for the small guy and offer a more economically stable product for large producers.
It seems like you have invested a lot of time into Azuca. Has Bubby’s become a well-oiled machine that can operate more independently while you focus on this?
That’s a really good question. First of all, Bubby’s is a well-oiled machine, and I have an amazing team. Bubby’s is run by a bunch of badass women, and they just really keep things and the team buttoned down. I still pay attention to Bubby’s every day, and watching Azuca grow is a completely different thing. It really turns out that we have an international solution to an international problem, and it appears, at the moment, that we are really ahead of the curve on that.
There’s a lot to pay attention to, there’s a lot to communicate, and there’s a lot of education to be shared. Many edibles manufacturers understand that their knowledge is truncated and that there’s a whole other thing coming, but they just don’t realize it’s really real, if that makes sense.
Theoretically, they know that you really should be eating the whole [plant]⎯all the terpenes, flavonoids, cannabinoids⎯and that everything in there is helpful. Edibles only have THC or CBD, and every edibles manufacturer is busy trying to reintroduce aspects of the whole plant. However, when you make the oil, you’re stripping out 1,100 flavonoids and terpenes and 260 cannabinoids. You end up getting one cannabinoid, and that’s it.
When you start trying to reintroduce that, you might as well hang it up because you’re never going to achieve it. Being on the cutting edge of understanding how to apply this stuff means we will be able to deliver a technology to edibles companies that allows them to sell what they’re actually saying they’re selling.
In other words, if you buy an edible that says sativa or indica or cross or whatever, that is 100 percent bullshit. All these categories of indica, sativa and crosses are all very much archaic divisions, so a lot of confusion exists, and it’s perpetuated by marketing and manufacturing out of a need to pay lip service to the consumer. What we offer these companies is something that allows them to deliver exact chemovars or mixed chemovars or take whole full-entourage CBD because I can do the same thing with hemp and mix these full-entourage CBDs and more dominant THC plants to create a whole bunch of stuff.
There’s even more to it than that, which I can’t really go into, but it’s like every day is a real, actual learning curve. One of the things I’ll say is that I figured out this whole plant application maybe three months ago, and within three weeks, we had four patents filed on it, and we had introduced it to several large edibles manufacturers in America that want to use it right away. That just doesn’t happen in a regular company. Innovation in the market takes a long time.
I’m just amazed that we’re able to go from whatever thought process and get something into a physical form, showing it to our team, and then getting it right into the patent offices. It’s exciting and very different than Bubby’s.
Bubby’s is like a small community, and cannabis is a big world. My goal as a business person in general is to build actual communities, like people having babies and then coming back and moving around and having lives and ties for decades. I want to have that kind of community.
What are your thoughts on the current New York City CBD landscape?
I think they’re stupid, corrupt, fucking boring and completely bogged down in a bunch of dumb shit that is limiting opportunities in New York for all kinds of people and limiting New York’s ability to be on the cutting edge of things. The people who we work with are friends, like Barry Blitt who does all the New Yorker magazine covers. He’s doing illustrations for us, but then we have to go and show them in Colorado so that we don’t just get to hang our New York flag, which is something that I would like to do. It’s almost embarrassing to be from here when it comes to cannabis.
I was just reading this morning that they want to pass a banking act, but all these groups want to make sure that there are all kinds of reforms that go along with it. I agree with all those reforms personally, it’s just that these disparate groups are not talking to each other and they have their own singular motives, which is Tammany Hall, basically.
Tell me something exciting, anything.
The most exciting thing for me is really what’s going on in this company. We have the chance to help make cannabis a lot more sane in the entire world, and it is really helpful for a lot of people, especially my favorite people: little old ladies. So, it’s actually exciting.
Is there a little old lady in your life that you’re creating this for?
One hundred percent. I got a bunch of them, and one is Sylvia Weinstock. You know who that is? I’ll show you a picture of her. She’ll kill me for saying this, but I think you should print that, because, fuck you, Sylvia. You should really be our spokesperson.
She’s kind of out of her mind, but she really loves weed, and she had never done it [before]. Then her husband passed away about a year ago, and I told her she should really be taking cannabis instead of drinking alcohol. She was really nervous and asked me how long I had been hooked on it and how I could function. I told her it was fine, and she tried it, and now she takes it every night. She’ll text me and say she’s out of her stash, too.