New York, New York
Fast-acting technology for cannabis edible
"First of all, I've used cannabis all my life," says Silver. "For some reason, I'm like Rain Man with weed, and I've always have been. I've always been overly committed to it at the expense of all other things."
He's also committed to helping "little old ladies," he adds. "Old women have a lot of problems. They're old and alone, and doctors tend to just dish out medicine to them."
It follows that Silver started researching fast-acting delivery systems for edibles largely to help share the benefits of cannabis with senior women about seven years ago. Cannabis is "much more beneficial than a cocktail every night, or two, or three," he says. The big hurdle is "getting through the stigma of it."
In 2013, Silver asked contacts in the cannabis industry, "What's the biggest problem in cannabis? Every single one of them said, 'A controlled-dose edible.' That sounds right up my alley. Let me go figure that out."
Silver leveraged his culinary background as chef/owner of Bubby's in New York to start experimenting with cannabis-infused brownies. Following several years of R&D and a series of "cowboy partnerships," Silver's breakthrough came in the form of a novel delivery mechanism that works in concert with an innovative emulsification technique. "We really have an interesting technology," says Silver. "We have two patents about to issue, and like 17 other patents filed."
Azuca uses an acronym, TiME: thermodynamic individual molecular encapsulation. Instead of a 30 minutes or an hour, onset takes place in about five to 15 minutes after consuming the edible. "Azuca's mechanism replaces standard emulsification," says Silver. "It replaces nanolipid emulsification with a thermodynamic process."
Azuca has a CBD brand and is working with Mayflower Medicinals on THC products in Massachusetts. Moving forward, the business model hinges on licensing. "Mostly, our play is to help other brands make better products," explains Silver. "It's like an Intel Inside type of thing."
The first licensing deal in the West is with Wana Brands of Boulder, Colorado, for exclusive use of TiME technology in gummies. The company's new line of Wana Quick Fast-Acting Gummies includes three different SKUs.
"We met [Wana CEO] Nancy Whiteman a year and change ago," says Silver. "There was mutual attraction right away. They really run a legit ship, and they're straight up people -- they're not dodgy."
Other deals are in the works, he adds. "Everything takes time. It's good for people to live with this thing for a minute and then apply it to what they want to do."
Azuca's licensing model doesn't hinge on manufacturing, but the company has completed a GMP audit and is FSMA-certified in order to interface with the industry on a professionalized level. "We do operate within those ideals and are set up so our supply chain is completely traceable," says Silver.
Challenges: Standing out in a crowded field. "It's important to rise above the din of noise," says Silver. "It's a challenge." However, Wana Quicks appear to be rising above the fray, he adds. "They're not able to keep them on the shelves."
Opportunities: "The big opportunity is to help other people make better edibles, and also to make quality delivery mechanisms that taste good," says Silver.
But Silver has his sights set on more cannabis innovation. High on the list: cannabis fermentation. "All of the American weed is green," says Silver. "It's half-baked." His methods turn it yellow, like well-known Acapulco Gold. "I figured out a way to take dry buds and ferment them to make gold buds. All the chlorophyll is baked out, but a lot of different things happen. It's like the difference between a cucumber and a pickle."
Fermented cannabis maintains "260 cannabinoids and 1,100 terpenes and flavonoids," he notes, that are stripped away in typical extraction and distillation processes. "I've developed a way to take whole flower and make it an edible, bypassing extraction," says Silver. "This edible is a different cannabis experience."
Needs: "We need for our team to hold it together and stretch thin without snapping," says Silver. "Team-building is going to be fun to do."
Another, he adds, is "raising capital, but it's not the thing we are pushing on right now."
More pressing: "Azuca needs to have patience."