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Edibles aren't just about brownies anymore, as coffee and gourmet food joins the pot boom

Somatik Cannabis Coldbrew
Source: Mr. Joe Montana | Somatik
Somatik Cannabis Coldbrew

Pot-infused coffee could be coming to a barista near you.

Somatik, a San Francisco-based cannabis startup, recently partnered with popular local coffee company Ritual Roasters to create a cannabis chocolate-covered coffee bean. The company already sells a cannabis-infused cold brew, the latest entry to a thriving legalized pot-economy that includes a growing number of edible products.

Still, that jolt of pot-infused brew doesn't come cheap: An eight ounce bottle of Somatik — only available for now at local dispensaries the Bay Area — sells for at least $11, depending on where a customer places its order.

In the midst of the U.S.'s slow embrace of legalized marijuana, Somatik founder Chris Schroeder explained to CNBC that the stars have aligned for weed-flavored coffee in other ways as well.

"Infusion technology has really improved in the last few years, that's part of what made it the right time for this product," Schroeder said in a recent interview, making it easier to combine flavors in ways that are more appetizing.

"Two [or] three years ago if you picked up a beverage, there was an oil floating on top, you would shake it kind of like salad dressing. There was oil on top, it would separate," he said. "The infusions we use are water soluble so you don't get it separating."

While edibles and cannabis innovations have been around for a while, a cannabis company partnering with a more mainstream and established business like Ritual is unique, and may signify a new phase in established brands jumping on the pot trend.

It also helps when the product in question is coffee, a staple in the diets of millions of Americans, and with San Francisco being fertile ground for coffee upstarts. In particular, data from the National Coffee Association shows that Millenials consume the gourmet variety in vast quantities.

"Coffee to me is something we always drink when we're catching up with a friend, you can drink it by yourself when you're reading a book. It's something you do as a part of your routine," said Schroeder.

Somatik Cannabis Coldbrew
Source: Mr. Joe Montana | Somatik
Somatik Cannabis Coldbrew

Schroeder came to the cannabis industry through Gateway Works, an Oakland incubator and coworking space. He came up with the idea after a chance encounter with Eileen Rinaldi, the founder of Ritual Coffee Roasters, who also was a positioning her company as a disruptor in the coffee market.

Somatik is working on a expansion plans beyond the confines of San Francisco, but is constrained by the fact that cannabis can't be shipped as marijuana cannot travel over state lines — at least for now. As is the case with other pot-based businesses, Somatik would need to set up additional facilities in every expansion state that embraces legalized marijuana.

Meanwhile, the terrain in Somatik's home state is also not as clear-cut. Although California recently voted to legalize recreational marijuana, regulations for retail sales outside medical dispensaries may take until next year to put in place.


Medicated steak and pasta

Medicated Steak with Savory Bread Pudding
Source: Melissa Parks
Medicated Steak with Savory Bread Pudding

However, some states are already riding the legalized marijuana boom, which helps companies like Somatik. According to Colorado's Department of Revenue data, the state has distributed over $40 million in retail marijuana excise tax revenue to public schools last year. After making weed legal statewide in 2012, Colorado revenue from pot topped $1 billion last year.

Colorado's experience has raised expectations for places like California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada, a handful of other states that passed measures to legalize recreational marijuana recently, and may soon profit from the booming industry. According to a report by Arcview Market Research, total legalized weed sales in the U.S. hit $6.7 billion last year.

Enthusiasm for edibles isn't just confined to brownies or coffee. Melissa Parks, a private chef with a background in organic chemistry, creates cannabis-infused dishes for customers that suffer from lymphomas, breast cancer, migraines and food allergies.

Since she began cooking with weed, Parks has also co-authored 'Herb: Mastering the Art of Cooking Cannabis," a book that features recipes such as medicated butternut squash soup, seared bone-in rib eye with garlic-herb "cannabutter" and medicated Mexican hot chocolate, among others.

Medicated Pork Loin Pasta
Source: Melissa Parks
Medicated Pork Loin Pasta

The mushrooming market for cannabis products begs the question of when marijuana will become fully mainstream.

For her part, Parks believes the day is drawing closer than some might think, saying she foresees a day when pot-infused food and liquor pop up in stores.



"I think in the next few years there are hurdles that are going to be put up because this is the first time this question has been approached. A regulation will go up, then they will refine that regulation. It slows down that forward movement but it's still movement." Parks told CNBC.

"In the next five years, I for sure see something happening, I don't know what but it will be visible"

—By CNBC's Deborah Findling.