BY MARIE LODI
“The pain is gone,” my mom told me a week after I gave her Papa & Barkley Releaf balm. I’d recently convinced her to try cannabis topicals for her arthritis—the same woman who condemned marijuana after she once found photos of me circa my teen years, ripping a bong–and it was working. The knee pain that would usually keep her awake at night immediately dissipated thanks to the salve. It is the plant’s healing power, embodied in products like Papa & Barkley’s Releaf Balm, that has helped people, like my mom, get out from underneath the longtime stigma of cannabis, and finally understand its importance.
Before Papa & Barkley became California’s #1 cannabis topical brand, it started off as a passion project for founder Adam Grossman. In an effort to help his father find relief for his debilitating back pain, Grossman concocted a balm using cannabis, coconut oil from Whole Foods, and a neighbor’s crockpot. After applying it to his dad’s back, he was finally able to get out of bed. “The experience was eye-opening to me, to see the medicinal power of this plant,” Grossman explained during a tour of the brand’s production facilities in Eureka, California that I attended in September. Grossman began giving away samples to friends and family, and was met with positive feedback. Knowing he had something special, he teamed up with his partner, chief product officer Guy Rocourt, a master grower and extractor whom Grossman calls “an artist” with the plant. They launched the brand in 2016, naming it after Grossman’s father and Barkley, his 70-pound pit bull that comforted his dad every night.
For older people suffering from arthritis, like my mom, cannabis may actually be a better option than typical pain relief methods. “According to the American Nutrition Association, at least 16,500 NSAID-related deaths occur each year among arthritis patients alone and approximately 107,000 patients are hospitalized annually for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)-related gastrointestinal complications,” Boris Shcharansky, Papa & Barkley’s chief operating officer, explains. “Unlike NSAIDs, CBD is non-detrimental to the liver and stomach. It’s also all-natural, non-addictive, and the strongest anti-inflammatory agent found in nature.” In addition, Shcharansky points out that CBD doesn’t lose effectiveness over time, like traditional over-the-counter pain meds.
Papa & Barkley also uses a serious vetting process to create its products. It starts at their headquarters, located in Eureka, which is in the heart of the Emerald Triangle. Over 170 of the brand’s farm partners are located in the Triangle, which includes Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity Counties.“We choose our farm partners based on their involvement in the community, commitment to regenerative farming practices, and ability to provide clean cannabis that’s compliant with all California regulations when tested,” Shcharansky says. “Purchasing from farmers we know and trust enables us to procure cannabis that meet our high standard of using the cleanest cannabis on the market.”
Since Papa & Barkley’s Releaf products, which come in balms, oils, capsules, patches, and tinctures, are available in different ratios, Shcharansky says that when they source cannabis, they focus on cannabinoid counts rather than strains. “We make sure we source THC-rich plants as well as CBD-rich plants that pass all California testing requirements, so we can infuse those plants into our carrier oil and create formulations with the correct ratios of CBD to THC,” he says.
The brand also employs its own triple-testing process, ensuring that their products are free from pesticides, mold, mildew, and heavy metals, while making sure all the good stuff—like the cannabinoid and terpene profiles—remains unbothered. Once the flower and trim is procured, it goes through its first test, then is extracted via a solventless, lipid infusion technique. “Our Whole Plant Infusion process allows us to keep the cannabis plant and all its beneficial compounds intact, which our Scientific Advisory Board and research partners in Israel believe results in products with maximal healing benefits,” Shcharansky says, referring to the Entourage Effect. “Rather than extracting isolated cannabinoids in a chemical process, we infuse our MCT oil base with cannabis, so all of the therapeutic plant components infuse into the oil and chemicals never touch the product.”
The Releaf Balm’s final form is marked by a light green hue and an earthy and minty aroma brought on by the presence of peppermint, eucalyptus, tea tree, and lavender oils. It is bottled at Papa & Barkley’s Eureka facility before getting shipped off to people who can benefit from its healing magic. “We have a real mission here, and that’s rare, and not only do we have a mission, but we have the wherewithal to make it happen,” Grossman said. “And at the center of it is this amazing magical plant that is curing disease and taking away people’s pain.”
Try Papa & Barkley’s Releaf Balm at your nearest MedMen retail outlet.