Ganjalas

It’s baaaaaack! The born-in-Telluride, single serving, cannabis-infused buttery caramel edible known as the Ganjala is returning to dispensary shelves in Telluride and elsewhere by the end of this week. (Courtesy photo)

Telluride’s own single-serving marijuana edible is back after a long hiatus. The Ganjala will return to shelves in three locally owned dispensaries this week, as well as broader distribution. The story of its invention and how it grew from becoming a local favorite into one of Colorado’s most in-demand edibles is, like all Telluride stories, as unique as the individuals telling the story.

The cannabis industry has long been a hotbed of innovation and creativity. Since the legalization of medical and recreational cannabis sales in Colorado and beyond, entrepreneurial opportunity has attracted all manner of weed-loving creatives. Horticulturalists, marketing whizzes, graphic designers, accessories manufacturers, retailers and even those with culinary inclinations have jumped into burgeoning world of weed that, as of 2019, has become a $14.9 billion industry. Given Telluride’s attraction to those with big, out-of-the-box ideas and boundless energy, it should come as little surprise that something as successful, delicious and euphoric as the Ganjala was born in the valley.

Geneva Shaunette’s first job in town in 2012 was with Alpine Wellness. She was there when Alpine Kitchen concocted a flavored caramel chew for the shop’s medical patients. It started as a chew with no name. Shaunette will allow that naming the treat is a matter of debate, but she’s pretty sure she came up with the name that Alpine’s co-owner Michael Grady eventually selected. The Ganjala was born.

“We had to come up with something that sounded good,” Shaunette said. “It took us a while to get there. It’s the ultimate ski bum inside joke.”

Alpine Kitchen once cranked out all manner of elevating treats, including rice cereal squares, brownies, cookies, turtles and special holiday editions like Valentine’s shortbread cookies, but the Ganjala was the leader of the pack when it came to sales.

The secret of its deep, smooth flavor is butter.

“The chemistry of cannabis moves in perfect symbiotic rhythm with the chemistry of the human body,” the Ganjala website explains.  “Endocannabinoid receptors embrace cannabinoids and terpenes like the ancient friends they are, and the natural chemistry of butter is one of the most biologically efficient, and delicious, means of facilitating this reunion.” 

The 10mg THC dose came about, like many great discoveries, as a mistake.

“We did the math wrong and we made a batch that was just 7.5 mg instead of 25,” Shaunette said.

What the Alpine team discovered was that, at a time when state regulations allowed for 25mg THC levels in edibles in the recreational market, customers were happy with 10mg. (That dosage has since been adopted by the state as the maximum dosage for recreational use.) They stuck with the leading edge decision.

Between the lower dosage and its single serving packaging, the Alpine team, Shaunette said, “knew we were on to something.”

The early years were heady. Elena Levin joined Ian Murphy in the kitchen, adding her culinary expertise to the mix. The single serving bag was unheard of at the time — “It didn’t exist,” Shaunette said — and the team worked closely with a packaging company to design their invention.

“We were all in our 20s and had no idea what we were doing,” she said.

But what they were doing was creating a product that eventually demanded adding on Laura Idema Shaunette as wholesale manager with distribution statewide to more than 100 dispensaries.

Eventually, the finances of operating growrooms, a kitchen and a retail presence became unwieldy. After six intoxicating years, Grady drew down to a scaled-down retail operation, closed his indoor grows in favor of establishing outdoor and greenhouse facilities, and turned the lights off at the kitchen. Additionally, Shaunette (Geneva) was elected to Telluride Town Council and she and her wife Laura started a new company, Back Pocket Creative. Levin started Ghost Town Coffee. Ganjalas, no longer being made, were only available until the last chewy slice was slipped into some lucky soul’s pocket before they went on a hike.

But, the door was kept cracked open as Levin and the Shaunettes picked up the lease on the kitchen and let the marijuana license there lapse, (it is now Ghost Pocket Kitchen) and acquired the rights to the Ganjala recipe.

And so we come to today. With a stacked design team of art director Stephen Rockwood, Ian McMullen and Ridgway design firm Latitude Studio, lively copywriting (story-telling, really) by Megan Honea, and armed with the lessons of the past, the Ganjala team is ready to reintroduce the beloved edible. The autumn of 2020 was spent training the Denver manufacturing team to create the Ganjalas exactly to specifications, and now, with a fresh website and a massive feeling of accomplishment, reborn Ganjalas are set to hit the shelves at Alpine Wellness, Delilah’s and The Green Room sometime late this week.

“(The Alpine years) were six years of our lives and we thought it was over,” Shaunette said. “But we had the opportunity to own the thing we were most proud of creating.”

In the beginning, the sole flavor was Original, a plain caramel, which was joined by Black Cherry, Blue Raspberry, Strawberry Lemonade, Orange, Green Apple and Watermelon. The newest iteration of the treat under the new branding has six flavors — Black Cherry, Blue Raspberry, Strawberry Lemonade, Green Apple and Watermelon — with Mango replacing Orange. Original has been retired.

Distribution will, once again, be statewide. Though it will depend on each shop’s mark-up, Shaunette said the treat is anticipated to be priced in the $5 range.

“We want it to be like grabbing a pint of beer,” she said.

To learn more, visit ganjalas.com or Instagram (@ganjalas).