When people hear the name of Bay Area rapper and entrepreneur Berner, it’s likely there’s a certain plant that immediately comes to mind.
A figure in the weed game since the Prop. 215 days, Berner now oversees operations for Cookies — a hybrid brand encompassing fashion, culture, and world-class cannabis. With Berner’s on Haight regularly drawing long lines of customers and Cookies’ name recognition so ubiquitous that it has become a synonym for pot in hip-hop culture, one could be forgiven for assuming Berner is fully focused on the present and future of legal weed.
But these days, he tells SF Weekly, it’s actually mushrooms that he can’t stop thinking about.
For Berner, Caps also represent Cookies taking another step forward as a leader in spreading the healing magic of nature’s bounty.
“With everything going on in the world, I’m definitely trying to preach about alternative plant medicine,” he says. “It’s been put here for a reason.”
Always open to learning more, Berner says his interest in mushrooms has evolved over time from a narrow interest in psilocybin-rich options to a more general appreciation for fungi.
“A lot of people in the Cookies crew have experimented with mushrooms and stuff like that, but as I got older and older, I started seeing the medical benefits of mushrooms and realizing how good they are for you, just when you just eat them in general in your food and whatnot.”
Thus, he found himself mulling over a question: was it possible to take non-psychedelic mushrooms and combine them with some of the beneficial elements of cannabis? From there, Berner went looking for an answer.
The process to get from concept to final product took roughly a year-and-a-half, with Berner seeking the expertise of Tony Verzura, CEO and founder of Blue River Extracts and Terpenes. Together they came up with a concept to blend non-psychoactive cannabinoids with terpenes and mushrooms together into wellness products.
“We wanted to make sure that we had something that actually worked, both for daytime and nighttime,” Berner explains. “The R&D process was really cool. Some batches were just way too strong: they would put you right out or have you feeling like you just drank three Yerba Mates. It took about a year or so to dial the formula in perfectly.”
The result is two varieties of Caps that Berner confirmed he now takes daily.
“I take the Clarity every morning with my green juice. It really opens your mind! For people who need a little boost of energy when they’re working, it’s incredible.”
Clarity features Lion’s Mane and Cordyceps mushrooms (much like the Santa Cruz-spawned “coffee alternative,” MUD/WTR). The Bed Head formula relies on a five-in-one blend of “immunity-boosting organic mushrooms.” In addition, both options also feature CBD. The Clarity formula furthermore adds CBG to the equation, while the Bed Head version instead pairs CBD with the sleep-enhancing CBN.
“For me, the Bed Head really helps relax my mind at night because when I lay down, my shit is spinning like a motherfucker,” Berner says. “I’m thinking about all of the conversations I’ve had that day and what’s next. This really helps ease the mind. Also, there’s the quality of sleep you get.”
Indeed, Berner’s quality of sleep has reportedly changed substantially as a result of taking Bed Head. According to him, he’s actually dreaming differently now.
“My dreams have been super clear,” he says. “I’m not making an official claim or anything, but I’ve talked to a few people about it, and the ones that are taking it every day also say it’s been happening to them. Our dreams have made a lot more sense and been a lot more realistic, maybe because my mind is finally relaxed?”
Naturally, there’s no formula that can fully stop Berner’s wheels from spinning. That’s why he’s currently at work on another addition to the Caps line: a formula that adds THC into the mix.
At present, the plan is to rely on strain-specific THC, with the strains selected to compliment the mushroom formulas.
“We’re going to pick some of our favorite strains,” Berner says, “like Lemon Pound Cake and maybe a Cereal Milk or a Lion’s Mane for the daytime, and we’re going to use strain-specific THC. No distillate or anything like that. We’re taking stuff from our gardens and mixing it in.”
Even as Cookies continues to blaze its own path, there’s also the always-looming question of when federal legalization might actually come to pass. So, given the rumblings out of Congress in recent weeks, is the impending prospect of major cannabis reform at the federal level harshing Berner’s newfound clarity?
“If it happens, I’m fired-up,” he says. “but if it doesn’t, we’re going to keep pushing. Hopefully it happens, but happens in a way where operators such as ourselves and other operators and future operators too can all still do what we do and it’s not some ‘go get it at Walgreens’-type shit. I hope it’s done the right way.”
Zack Ruskin writes about cannabis for the weekly column, Pacific Highs. Twitter @zackruskin