The hard part is over: licenses, fees, taxes, and finding a kitchen. Now the women of Santa Cruz-based Higher Edibles—Donna Price, her daughter Kirstie Price, and Kirstie’s aunt Jenni Grillo—are having fun.
What began as a pipe dream two decades ago has blossomed into a legit and thriving canna-confectionary. Customers throughout the state are clamoring for Donna, Kirstie and Jenni’s cookies and their new line of savory crackers.
It takes a lot to stand out in the rather saturated market for cannabis edibles, but the family has consistently proven they have what it takes.
Higher Edibles’ proprietary blend of brown-rice-based gluten-free flour, zero processed sugars and ingredients, and minimal cannabis taste, make their brand of canna-treats-and-snacks unique. Numerous dispensaries around the Bay Area now stock a full line of Higher Edibles in their shops, giving the upstart company its biggest exposure yet.
Donna Price is an O.G. in the cannabis industry—growing, trimming, and cultivating cannabis for most of her life—and can take credit for coming up with the original concept of Higher Edibles. As an army vet who overcame ovarian and endometrial cancer, “Momma Donna” started making cannabis treats for her family and friends after the passage of California Proposition 215 in 1996. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that she turned Higher Edibles into a business.
Donna saw a gap in the edibles market, based on her own experience. Through numerous surgeries and medical procedures, Price found that her body felt the least amount of pain and inflammation when she adhered to a strict, pure diet, and avoided heavily processed grains and sugars. Her collection of edibles recipes had always been gluten-free and healthier than a lot of products in the cannabis market. She set out to perfect her line of edibles, and to show the industry that you don’t have to compromise flavor for health-consciousness. And she invited her family along for the ride.
Weed has always been a big part of Kirstie Price’s life, too. She started smoking cannabis at age 12, and quickly graduated to trimming and growing as an early teen. As co-owner of Higher Edibles, Kirstie has joined forces with her mom—who “as long as I can remember has always been making edibles.” Her fond memories of her mom baking, mixing, and laboring over cannabis-infused treats in her childhood home inspire her. Today, she, her mom, and her aunt work as a tight-knit crew, rubbing elbows and donning matching aprons in a modern, spacious kitchen—with the occasional gluten-free flour fight.
The three owners of Higher Edibles live together communally above Soquel’s Land of the Medicine Buddha. “My mom, my aunt, and I live in the mountains. We get to tap into a unique and magical energy,” Kirstie says. “The best part of my life is working with my family—kindred souls. Women who believe in higher vibrations, manifesting.” Then she laughs. “All of that hippie shit.”
Cannabis is the glue that holds the trio together as business partners. The plant has allowed them to peacefully coexist, communicate, solve problems, mend occasional differences, and forget the fact that they are with each other nearly 24/7. They wouldn’t have it any other way. “Being woman-owned-and-operated, it’s a different energy. We have a tight flow together. It’s unique and something I’ve never experienced before. Like-minded souls who finish your thoughts and sentences for you,” Kirstie says.
The trio spent a nervous year in 2016 waiting for a license from the state, and looking for a local kitchen large enough to house their fledgling baked-good empire. There were many obstacles along the way, but by the end of 2017, Higher Edibles was starting to take shape as a legitimate business. After months of disappointment, the women finally found their kitchen–a space shared with other small-ish canna corps Cosmo D’s Outrageous Edibles and Dollar Dose—and “we got to start having fun,” says Kirstie. “We’ll always have the regulations and licensing, but we could finally start to focus on the product.”
The first product from Higher Edibles—their flagship—was inspired by one of Donna’s earliest recipes: a 20-calorie gluten-free “Cinnamon Crisp” cookie. With 100% unprocessed maple syrup, and none of that gunky high-fructose corn syrup, the little-cookie-that-could began to attract a buzz and attention from local dispensaries. The Higher Edibles team knew they had the start of something special.
“Kind Peoples was the first dispensary to pick us up. They have a heavy focus on local products like ours. Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance, too. They serve veterans that are dealing with pain. Those dispensaries started carrying us because our edibles are different from other companies,” Kirstie says. “If you’re putting high fructose corn syrup in your body it will increase pain and inflammation—counteracting the very effects you’re using edibles for.”
After a few successful pitches and a bunch of “hell yeah, these are so good … can I have another?” comments, Kirstie, Donna, and Jenni were manufacturing Cinnamon Crisp cookies nonstop. Success came quickly, and Higher Edibles soon developed a devoted following and local foothold. But why stop there? To take their biz to the next level they needed a distributor—and a partner who had their own license and ability to take the business statewide.
Enter Mammoth Distributing. Pretty much overnight, the market for small-fry Higher Edibles’ products expanded 50-fold. Kirstie cultivated a close contact at Mammoth, and the cannabis distribution giant promised to provide a full sales team and distribution across the state of California. “We have grown so much locally, but now our growth should be explosive in the next six months,” Kirstie says.
The women of Higher Edibles know that one can only take so many cinnamon cookies, so they are often in the kitchen creating new culinary treasures. “Getting to play around and constantly experiment with cannabis—like a scientist in my lab—makes every day fun and exciting,” Kirstie says. The Higher team recently unveiled two new creations: the Lemon Crisp Cookie and the Almond Crisp Cookie. Crispy, and made with the same basic ingredients as the Cinnamon Crisp, these two cookies should help propel Higher Edibles into the future.
When most folks think “marijuana edibles,” they envision ooey-gooey brownies, sumptuous cookies, sweet-lil gummies, and maybe a chocolate bar or two. Most of us don’t imagine more savory items, like crackers. The company’s new line of gluten-free canna-crackers, with “Rosemary Herb” and “Jalapeno Garlic” flavors, have thoroughly impressed local pot-consumers and dispensaries, and quickly found space on coveted shelves. Light, crispy, packed with flavor (with little-to-no cannabis taste), there’s really nothing like them on the market.
Conquering California—and then the nation—is the ultimate goal for the team behind Higher Edibles, but Kirstie, Donna, and Jenni hope to remain in Santa Cruz as long as they can. “More so than any other place I’ve been, Santa Cruz County is really into community. Dispensaries and cannabis companies are more open to working together, and partnering to create an industry where we can all succeed,” Kirstie says.
They didn’t really set out to be the female voice in the male-dominated cannabis space, “but as our business has grown,” says Kirstie, “we have come to cater to a lot of women customers. We now brand to women as a female-run company.”
Yes, these women do get high on their own supply. When they’re not consuming their own delectable creations, the Price’s are definitely “Indica girls”—usually smoking flower or using edibles in the evenings to wind down after increasingly busy days.
Whereas smoking a J will give you an almost immediate high, most cannabis edibles take a while to kick in. You’ll have to wait a bit, but the high that connoisseurs know that edibles just get you … higher.