"1906 was built for high-functioning adults for whom cannabis could be a potential alternative to alcohol or big pharma," says Barsoom. "What we do is give people the highest-quality cannabis and other plant medicines -- which are a healthy toolkit for modern living."
And how does Barsoom define "high-functioning" adults? "They're not looking to see purple dragons," he says, referring to the heady effects that high amounts of THC have on some people. "They're looking to be more connected in their body and more connected in their mind -- and to just feel that much better today."
In addition to the company's initial chocolate products, 1906 began marketing pills dubbed Drops in late 2019. The Drops are infused not only with single-strain THC, and oftentimes CBD, they combine other ingredients like herbs and amino acids, as well. The company also licenses a fast-acting technology, which can kick-start the onset of the effects "in under 20 minutes."
"When we think of medicine outside of cannabis, what is the predominant way in which we take medicine?" asks Barsoom. "It's in the form of a pill." He adds, "Pills are discrete, they are gluten-free, zero calories, vegan." The company cites a poll it commissioned of over a thousand people; the majority of people say that they're being overprescribed pharmaceuticals, and that they'd be receptive to alternatives, such as cannabis medicines, if they're proven effective.
1906 products are individually formulated to achieve specific effects: for example, to act as cognitive-enhancing nootropic; to aid sleep; to overcome social anxiety; and, even, to act as an aphrodisiac. Barsoom says, "For us, it starts with the question: How do you want to feel? It's not about getting high. It's about feeling a particular way."
Take the formulation Go, which Barsoom calls "a very clean source of energy without the negative side effects of caffeine and other stimulants." Although the product does contain some caffeine for a boost, it also packs the amino acid L-theanine, which "reduces the jitteriness of caffeine," Alpinia galanga, an herb which "elongates the tail effects of caffeine, so you don't experience a crash," and theobromine, "which lowers blood pressure." Barsoom calls the combination "a really powerful energy stack." THC and CBD add mental enhancement to the package.
1906 also vends a product called Love. According to the company's website, "Love uses optimal doses of five herbal aphrodisiacs and sense-enhancing cannabis to create the best sex drug in the world." In addition to THC and CBD, it contains damiana, which Barsoom says, "helps you get out of your head and more into your body." Theobromine provides a short burst of energy. Muria puama and catuaba "increase blood flow to the pelvic area." And, according to research cited by Barsoom, ashwagandha "improves orgasms for women."
Barsoom says the company spent three years working on its Drops, before releasing them in December: "We develop all those formulations with pharmacologists and chemists and herbalists. There's a lot of science that went into the development of these formulations."
The products are made just northeast of Denver in Commerce City at a facility which contains both an "industrial, modern-day pharmaceutical facility, next to a modern-day chocolate facility," says Barsoom. "It's like the Willy Wonka of Weed," he says of the confection side.
1906's products can be found in "about 250 dispensaries" in Colorado. The company plans to expand over the next few months into Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Michigan. In order to fund that expansion, the brand recently raised $18 million. As a New Jersey native (now living once again in New York), Barsoom would also like to bring his Colorado-founded brand to his home state. He has touted New Jersey's potential as a cannabis hub to Rolling Stone, and secured the advisory assistance of former New Jersey Governor Jim Florio to aid his mission.
Barsoom thinks that states with less of a "legacy cannabis background" could be most receptive to 1906's Drops. "New consumers are coming into the market that don't have as long a history either of smokables or of gummies, for instance, so [the pill formulation of Drops] will feel a lot more familiar," he says.
As Barsoom seeks to bring "modernity" to the way consumers approach cannabis, his previous work on Wall Street, prior to entering the cannabis field, has helped inform his approach. "I've led other transformational endeavors in my finance career, and this was the culmination of years of work in another regulated industry," he says.
Challenges: Barsoom points to the legal gray area that cannabis companies currently occupy. "The lack of a coherent federal framework, because it's illegal [for the products] to cross state lines. And navigating the complexity of state by state laws is one of the biggest challenges of operating in this business."
Opportunities: Barsoom foresees COVID-19 accelerating change nationally on the cannabis front, given the budgetary shortfalls states are experiencing as a result. "I think we're going to see the pace of cannabis legalization expand, given the economic needs of states," he says.
The company's name, 1906, derives from the pre-prohibition date of an early law criminalizing cannabis. Barsoom says prohibition has led to a "war on people -- particularly black and brown communities that suffered based upon the prohibition of cannabis."
Needs: "I think it's out-of-state expansion," says Barsoom. "And with that, capital. Our need is to get our product out to consumers across the country."