As American consumers bicker over plant-based faux-meat items appearing on fast food menus, one Colorado-based company has figured out a way to legally offer another plant-derived product, CBD, alongside its burgers and fries.
Illegal Burger, which doesn’t yet directly infuse CBD into its food due to federal restrictions outlawing CBD-infused edibles, has five locations in Colorado and is opening a sixth in Texas. The company also owns Illegal Pizza in Florida.
Technically, under Colorado law, CBD can be added to food. However, Illegal Burger’s owners are playing it safe by not directly infusing the cannabis compound into their food. Instead, they offer packets of emulsified CBD powders — made through another company that they own, called Illegal Brands — so customers can add it to their burgers, fries, sauces, or drinks. Illegal Burger locations also sell flavored-water mixes that contain CBD. The only CBD-infused product the franchise sells is unflavored bottled water, which is not considered food under the FDA’s rules.
The franchise’s founders noted that while most of their customers come for the CBD, the quality of the food is just as important as the weed powders, too.
"It's not just the [CBD] thing that sets us apart,” Jim Nixon, one of the founders of Illegal Burger, told Denver’s Westword. "We want people to feel welcome and want to eat here.”
"The product that we give out, and the choice of toppings and buns and so forth — we go above and beyond,” he continued, “and that's what makes us feel like we really put our best food forward and created such a special brand."
Foods and snacks infused with CBD aren’t new, however. Last April 20, one Carl’s Jr. location in Denver, for just one day, offered its own CBD burger to commemorate the world-famous stoner holiday of 4/20. In other states, smoothie and shake shops offer to spike CBD into their drinks for health and wellness purposes, despite the federal ban. And you’ve likely seen CBD chewing gum and such at your local convenience store, too.
Nixon and his family, which manages and operates the Illegal franchise together, got the idea to combine stackers and sliders with CBD after Jim and his son Jordan discovered that the cannabis compound worked wonders for treating their multiple sclerosis. Medical researchers are still investigating CBD’s short- and long-term effects on the human body, and so far the FDA has only approved one CBD product — Epidiolex — for treating rare seizure disorders.
As for where the Nixon family and their Illegal brand will go from here, they “want to keep it simple.” Although they’re considering opening new locations in Colorado and other states, they don’t plan to add any new CBD products to their menu. So, you likely won’t be seeing CBD toothpicks, lip balms, lotions, or breath sprays at any Illegal Burger or Illegal Pizza spot any time soon. Or ever, really.
"We don't want it to get too crazy," Nixon said. "We're a restaurant.”