Minnesota's hemp-derived THC edibles and drinks are called "low-dose" because for experienced marijuana users, 5 milligrams is a low dose.
But for beginners, it could seem frighteningly high, not knowing how they'll respond. That's a lost customer.
To reach the would-be cannabis users unwilling to risk a bad trip, a Minnesota company is offering 1-milligram THC edibles to help folks "find their dose."
Twin Cities-based Mary & Jane launched this fall in the face of the prevailing trend in the cannabis industry: higher and higher potency. The initial product, Sunny, is a dissolvable melt that mixes a microdose of THC with the trendy mood-elevating herb kanna.
"A lot of people who have never tried cannabis feel like they can take it and have control — and then they can feel more comfortable to go up to higher doses," co-founder Laura Roos said. "For someone who's not a user, they can feel like: 'Good, that's the minimum, that's where I can start.'"
To reach a more risk-averse customer base, Mary & Jane eschew the typical marijuana aesthetic and use soft, muted tones and typography reminiscent of women's clothing boutiques.
There are few other products offering a similar introductory-level dose in Minnesota, as the 5 mg maximum (or 10 mg for drinks) is often the default.
National THC beverage company Cann offers 2 mg THC drinks, and there are 2.5 or 3 mg gummies and seltzers made locally. But for Mary & Jane, it was initially difficult finding support to hit that 1 mg dose.
"We were getting some pushback, that people won't feel anything," co-founder Rachael Dillon said. "But that's the difference — no one is doing the 1 mg."
Minnesota's legal cannabis market is expected to reach $1.5 billion in annual sales by the end of the decade, and that will come from extremely potent flower and dabs as much as low-dose edibles.
"One of the things I love most about the cannabis industry is the creativity and interest in connecting consumers with a spectrum of experiences and entry points," said Laura Monn Ginsburg, partner and principal at Blunt Strategies. "Cannabis is an extremely versatile plant and it's exciting to see myriad options for those who are canna-curious."
Research around microdosing, like most cannabis research, is limited due to marijuana's continued illegal status at the federal level. But a few studies have shown that taking a small amount of THC can have therapeutic benefits that differ from the pain relief or euphoric buzz sought from high doses.
"All other things being equal, THC appears to decrease anxiety at lower doses and increase anxiety at higher doses," a research review from the Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute at the University of Washington found.
The precise amount can vary widely based on a person's tolerance and other factors, but generally a microdose should not make the user feel stoned and typically falls between 1 mg and 5 mg.
"The term microdosing, when applied to cannabis, refers to using THC for health benefits at a dose that's below the threshold of psychoactivity," according to a guide by Dustin Sulak, a medical cannabis expert in Maine. "The most important thing is to understand how much is too much for you, and you can do this safely by starting low and gradually increasing the dose."
That was Dillon's goal after she decided to dabble in cannabis with a 5 mg THC seltzer — since that seemed to be the low, entry-point dose.
"I drink the drink, I go to a Timberwolves game, two hours later guess who is so high?" Dillon said. "The next day we're thinking about it, and the problem with cannabis is not understanding the dose — so let's come up with something."
The company's dose discovery kit comes with a booklet to track onset times and feelings and provides a reference to some of the terminology — terpenes, entourage effect — that will be thrown around when Minnesota marijuana dispensaries open in 2025.
"It can be intimidating when you go in and they're not speaking your language, and I think that keeps people away," Roos said. "So if you give people the lingo, they'll feel more comfortable shopping for products."
Leili Fatehi, a partner at Blunt Strategies, said Minnesota's low-dose and now microdose market is a "game-changer."
"It challenges the prevailing market model by introducing products that offer gentler effects, thereby attracting a wider audience," she said. "Minnesota's approach could very well inspire other states to reconsider their product strategies, potentially leading to a more balanced and inclusive cannabis market nationwide."
Roos, who founded the Minnesota-made gift box service Minny & Paul in 2017, and Dillon, who until recently worked for Aveda, said they set out to create something with a "functional" benefit, not a tranquilizer.
"We think of this as a wellness product with THC in it, not just a cannabis product," Dillon said. "This can be for everyone — except kids."