Oregon’s cannabis industry is in a major state of flux. Our massive oversupply, plummeting prices, and widespread industry consolidation have been a boon for consumers and for tax revenue, but it’s come at the cost of overshadowing the value of Oregon’s craft cannabis producers.
To be fair, sometimes consumers simply want the lowest possible price. That’s completely understandable, and the cheapest stuff often comes from large-scale operations. No one should be shamed because of their limited budget, particularly medical patients on a fixed income. (Side note: Cannabis products covered by Medicaid and other insurance needs to remain a goal for the industry.)
But many of us do have an interest in local growers and processors, as well as what goes into their production methods and ingredients—the same as any quality craft product. I probably pay more for vegetables at the farmers market, but I have a more trusted relationship with those farmers than I do with the produce buyer at Safeway or Target.
Peak Extracts has been around since 2014, having first started in the medical marketplace. The company is the creation of business and life partners Kate Black and Katie Stem (Kate and Katie), who, like many craft brand owners, have a long and deeply personal relationship with the plant. Stem was an Oregon Medical Marijuana Program patient with Crohn’s disease for nearly 10 years, and she served as her own guinea pig to determine which strains, recipes, and extraction methods worked best. Her preferred delivery system was homemade chocolates, which were exclusively strain-specific in content. (A participant in the R&D for this kind of project is where I hope to go when I pass.)
Stem’s efforts were built upon her knowledge base that included a pre-med track, her degree in traditional Chinese medicine, and her being a licensed herbalist and acupuncturist. Her partner, Black, brought complementary business experience and skill sets in design, chocolate making, and culinary management. Peak Extracts hit medical dispensary shelves with a line of vegan, gluten-free single-strain couverture chocolates. (For Whitman’s Sampler lovers, couverture is a high-quality type of chocolate.)
Peak Extracts transitioned from medical products into Oregon’s adult-use program in 2016 and received the state’s first edible processors license. Peak’s something of a rarity in the cannabis processing community: two queer women in an overwhelmingly male-dominated industry. Stem and Black have years’ worth of stories of enduring mansplaining and “look, honey” exchanges.
In December 2018, Stem told Dope magazine, “I think women have been more successful in this industry because it is new and has been less entrenched through generations of preferential treatment. Although there are more female CEOs in cannabis, such as me, the trend towards consolidation almost invariably results in a male being in charge of the parent company. If we’re not careful, all of the inroads made in the first several years of the industry will be lost.”
Those who dismissively referred to them as “the girls” have watched Peak become the second-largest cannabis chocolate producer in Oregon. In addition to their award-winning chocolate line, they have a pain-relieving topical called Rescue Rub, and a collection of strain-specific CO2 cartridges. I sampled two—a sativa-dominant strain called Panama and a CBD blend. My daytime schedule of needing to stay engaged with meetings and calls was well served by the terpene-rich Panama, and the CBD calmed my motormouth and mind as the workday hit hour 10.
Peak Extracts is just one of several Oregon brands where product quality is always the first consideration. When spending your cannabis dollar, you should seek out whatever combination of price and quality you can afford. But with prices at historically low levels, you should also think about trying out some brands that represent the best of what Oregon stands for with cannabis. We have an embarrassment of quality cannabis riches. (I’ve been to Vegas dispensaries—trust me.) And with so much to choose from, the “who” and “how” should count as much as the “what.” peakextracts.comCorrection: An earlier version of this article misidentified one of Peak Extracts' CO2 cartridges as "Panama Jack" when its actual name is "Panama." It has been corrected and we regret the error.