The spliff is pretty darn hard to improve upon. As a weed delivery system, it’s practically perfect: it stretches a stash further, brings you to that sweet spot between creative stimulation and time-space travel, and is way less intimidating for casual experimenters than a bong rip. Valarie Sakota has always loved spliffs in theory, except for one little thing: the tobacco.
Before she co-founded Barbari, a cannabis lifestyle brand “for those that like to get lifted but keep their feet on the ground,” Valarie was a BFA student at the University of Oregon using cannabis to inspire a second wind for homework or to turn off her brain before bed.
“I found that I didn’t like to consume too much or I would lose my ability to be coherent and productive,” she says. “I did, however, enjoy the ritual of taking 10 minutes to enjoy a joint on the front porch and collect myself.” So Valarie started researching how to soften the potency of cannabis with smokable herbs instead of tobacco, and she shared the experiments with friends. Since this was 2011, it didn’t hurt that the fragrant herbs helped mask the smell of the weed, so they all could worry less about getting busted.
Since adult-use legalization, Valarie has perfected her botanical blends designed to enhance specific experiences, and today Barbari is rolling out their first Herbal Spliff. The blend is called Muse, a bouquet of raspberry leaf (an herb smokers commonly use to kick the habit because it burns similarly to tobacco), sage, peppermint, and jasmine flower—and cannabis, of course, grown by farmers who use clean and sustainable agricultural practices. Valarie describes Muse as an invigorating daytime blend; the jasmine is a stress-relieving mood uplifter, while the peppermint works like a refresh button for your brain and mouth.
“The raspberry leaf and sage are the base of our current loose-leaf blends, because they provide a really beautiful and smooth smoke density,” says Meryl Montgomery, Barbari’s other half, who often shared those original experimental porch sessions. Meryl is referring to the precursor to the Herbal Spliff, Barbari’s much-coveted Herbal Blends, which are mixed sans cannabis but can be burned as incense, steeped in a mug of tea or the tub, or rolled up with flower to make your own herbal spliff. No matter how many Youtube rolling tutorials we watch, though, some of us will never not fumble a joint—and we’re the ones Barbari created their prerolled Herbal Spliffs for.
“We recommend pairing it with activities where you want to be creative, productive, or social,” says Valarie, explaining that the effect is mildly intoxicating; each Herbal Spliff contains a low dose of THC. (They also make a CBD-only version.)
When they first started in the cannabis space, Meryl says that “there wasn’t a brand or a product that spoke to consumers like us: regular cannabis consumers who are ambitious in our careers and care deeply about family and community.” Since then, they’ve taken part in the first generation of The Initiative, a Portland-based women’s cannabis business accelerator, and connected with “a rad community of women-run companies, cannabis professionals, and highly engaged (no pun intended) consumers in Portland, which has had a major emotional impact on the product we’re making and the company we’re building,” says Valarie. “Portland has been an inspiring place to get creative and break some rules.”
One of those rules ripe for breaking is that stronger weed is better. Against the push for higher-potency cannabis products, Barbari has been intentionally crafting approachable, low-dose products since the beginning. “We smoke regularly, but in much lower doses than prerolls being offered today,” says Meryl. To that end, the effect of the Herbal Spliff is intended to be a daydreamy elevation of your native mindset.
“It’s like driving down a long, straight road on a warm summer day with the windows down and your favorite album blasting,” muses Valarie. “If you look into the distance, you see the heat dancing on the pavement, distorting your path, but you never catch up to it so as to be consumed in the wavy mirage.”