Denver, Colorado

Owner Amy Nudelman’s patented cannabinoid chewing gum can be found at dispensaries across Colorado — with more states expected to bubble up on the horizon.

Talk about walking and chewing gum at the same time. Nudelman’s cannabis chewing gum can do two things — maybe, even more — simultaneously.

First off, Joygum acts as a drug-delivery device. “As you start to chew and your saliva starts to build, [THC] releases from the chewing gum,” explains Nudelman. “Because it’s water-soluble, [the THC] dissolves into your saliva and is absorbed sublingually and through your oral mucosa.” According to Nudelman, her cannabis-containing chewing gum is a sublingual product, not an edible (so don’t swallow the gum). And, as opposed to most edibles, Nudelman calls the sublingual route “quick and effective.”

These days, medicated chewing gums contain everything from anti-nausea ingredients to nicotine (to assist with smoking-cessation) to vitamins. At one time, Nudelman’s husband Dave — who Amy calls her “gum scientist” — worked on formulating a caffeine-containing gum for the U.S. military to promote alertness in the field. “There’s very few people in the world who know how to make chewing gum,” says Nudelman — and Dave counts among them.

There are also benefits that come from the act of chewing gum itself, notes Nudelman, who was a dental hygienist for 30 years: “It’s a stress reliever, that’s a fact. It’s really good from a dental perspective: sugar-free [gum] actually helps prevent dental disease and decay for a number of different reasons.”

And for many people, chewing gum is just plain fun. “I like chewing gum!” says Nudelman.

Here are some of Joygum’s product options: a bubblegum-flavored version containing 10 milligrams of THC per serving or a mango-flavored gum containing five milligrams; a blueberry and lime-flavored option with five milligrams of THC and five milligrams of CBD; and a peppermint-flavored gum with ten milligrams of CBD and one milligram of THC. “It’s not a heavy-hitting product,” says Nudelman of Joygum, which is designed with an older consumer base in mind. “You want a light-hitting product: you don’t want to be really high. You just want to get relief for whatever your issues are.”

And while a few of the Joygum selections are sugar-free, Nudelman adds, “Even our sugar gum has such a small amount in it that it’s still zero calories.”

Joygum has been on the market since 2018 in Colorado, but this year the Nudelmans and an additional partner received a patent on the process, after first filing their claim in late 2017: it’s titled “Chewing gum having encapsulated cannabinoids.” In the beginning, the Nudelmans made the gum at their own rented space in Aurora, but they’ve subsequently licensed production to a contract manufacturer, RMZ Colorado. Nudelman says, “They are well-known. They are trustworthy. They are fantastic!”

Joygum can be found at more than 200 dispensaries in Colorado, including chains like LivWell and The Green Solution. In the near future, Nudelman hopes to license its manufacture within additional states. And she’s getting set to release the company’s next product: coated fruit candies called Joybombs that clock in at 2.5 milligrams of THC per piece. (Joygum and Joybombs both have panned coatings, similar to what covers the outside of many popular candies.)

When she first presented her product to dispensaries, the reaction was positive. “There was no gum,” says Nudelman. “They love something new. They’ve seen a hundred different gummies, everything’s the same. We got a great reception because it really is gum: We actually manufactured [gum] products before [making one with] cannabis.”

Nudelman — a cannabis legalization proponent — first got the idea for the product in 2006, while Dave was working on a gum-related project in Antwerp. After partaking of some cannabis she’d purchased in Amsterdam, her mind drew a connection between the two pursuits and she blurted out, “Ah-ha! We ought to make THC chewing gum!” But her next thought was: “I think we’re 10 years away.”

That more or less proved to be the case. It took Dave over 300 batches to hit on “a decent gum that the public will accept,” she says. “We needed something water-soluble. We needed to do something more than just put cannabis oil into chewing gum. It wasn’t going to be as easy as we thought.”

Through an encapsulation process utilizing gum arabic, they made the THC water-soluble — and thereby effectively-released after being mixed into the gum base. “It almost looks like pudding,” says Nudelman. Even after their first product hit the shelves, the feedback they received about the flavor (“it’s too hashy”) caused them to alter that aspect of the product.

Photos courtesy Joygum

Unlike the proliferation of cannabis gummies, Nudelman isn’t worried about multiple cannabis gum brands suddenly emerging and bursting her bubble, given how long it took an experienced hand like Dave to come up with the gum’s formula. “For him to have to take that many tries, you know it was tough,” she says.

Furthermore, the sourcing of the raw materials might prove difficult for those who don’t have the same industry connections that Dave has. And then there’s the wide-scope of the Nudelmans’ patent — which covers adding encapsulated cannabis to several different styles of gum.

Regarding potential bubblegum competitors, Nudelman says with a laugh, “Bring ’em on! That’s all I have to say.”

Challenges: Nudelman says, “To advertise to our demographic and to really be able to [reach] our customers. It’s near impossible.” She’s referring to “a more mature demographic,” aged “30-plus.” Given Colorado’s restrictions on advertising cannabis products, the company relies on social media.

Opportunities: “Licensing into new states,” says Nudelman. She envisions entering the Utah and Illinois markets by the end of the year. If federal law would be changed to allow interstate commerce — even if only between those states where cannabis is legal — that would increase opportunities, since Joygum could then be transported from Colorado, rather than having to be licensed for manufacture in each individual state.

Needs: Joygum needs tax laws to be changed to allow cannabis businesses to take many common deductions just like other industries. “We want to be treated fairly like any other business going by the rules,” says Nudelman.