The ‘Ben and Jerry’s’ of cannabis ice cream
on November 30, 2014
When 6-year-old Isaac Lappert started serving ice cream in his family’s Sausalito business, he was too short for customers to see him behind the counter.
It wasn’t until last year, when his father told the now-24-year-old a story about a famous ‘80s rock n’ roll band, that Lappert got the idea to start his own business: Cannabis Creamery.
If you’ve been in any of Richmond’s medical marijuana dispensaries recently, you’ve probably seen Lappert’s locally-sourced ice cream in the ‘Edibles’ section. It has only been around for a year, but his THC-infused specialty ice cream is already available “from Sacramento to San Diego,” Lappert said.
The Lappert family has been making ice cream in Richmond for the last 13 years, at a licensed dairy facility a few miles south of the Hilltop area. Lappert declined to reveal precisely where, due to the risk of break-ins.
For the last year, Lappert has been making his own special blend at a different facility in the city, also a secret location.
Lappert, whose shaggy brown hair and scruffy beard are de rigueur for his industry, quickly found that he was a long way from Sausalito. In his first week making THC-infused ice cream, a botched drug deal led to a shooting. A man in a car was shot, and the car crashed into the factory doors.
“We got a nice welcome to Richmond,” Lappert said.
Since then, things have improved.
“Everyone is super nice there,” Lappert said of Richmond. Once or twice a week he crosses the Richmond Bridge from San Rafael to stir up batches at his facility here.
The novel business has already won several awards, most recently at the HempCon Kush Kup in San Bernardino last October. Lappert won the award for “Best Dessert Edible” for his Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream, which packs 60 mg of THC.
“I lab-test every batch,” Lappert said, who admits to obsessing over the quality of his product. Precise, consistent dosage is important, he said, before voicing his displeasure at what he considers his competitors’ lax standards.
“If you buy a cookie from someone in the park, you might get stoned, or it might not hit you at all,” Lappert said. “It’s horseshit, man!”
His frustration at the lackadaisical process of other edibles-makers also partly stems from his time in culinary school, where he learned the importance of precision.
Lappert never attended high school or college. Instead, he spent his time working in the family business and traveling, before ending up at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in San Francisco. It was there he first started experimenting with edible marijuana products.
Lappert would make THC-infused edibles and sell to people in the park to put a little extra money in his pocket. But his decision to start his own company came when his father, Michael, told him a story.
In 1983 his father was approached by a ragged group of hairy musicians who wanted to know if he could make some “special” ice cream for their upcoming party. Michael obliged and made a cannabis-infused batch of high-fat ice cream for them to take to their party. As it turned out, the group was The Grateful Dead.
“They must have liked it because they ended up ordering several more times,” Lappert said.
“This is what we got in the business for. Whatever people want, give it to them,” Michael told Isaac.
Isaac figured he could do what his father did, but legally, and so began Cannabis Creamery.
Lappert says the business is picking up, and he plans to expand for 2016. Things may change dramatically that year if a proposition to legalize recreational use of marijuana passes. His family business and licensed dairy facilities in Richmond give him a leg up on the competition, Lappert said.
But for now, he’s focused on refining his product and expanding within the medical marijuana market. Richmond has authorized the operations of several marijuana dispensaries in the city. California allows cities to approve or deny medical marijuana shops, but the product is still considered illegal by the federal government, creating a legal gray area that keeps proprietors on edge. Local dispensaries all carry his product, and they don’t hesitate to lavish praise on the young entrepreneur.
7 Stars Holistic Healing Center at the Pacific East Mall is one of them. An employee, who preferred to be named only by the letter ‘Z’, said Lappert’s ice cream is one of their most popular products.
“It obviously does better during the hotter months, but I think patients like it because it works quicker than other edibles,” ‘Z’ said.
The Green Remedy Collective at Hilltop Mall in Richmond is another spot where Lappert’s ice cream does well.
“We’re almost sold out actually!,” said Swaylo, a store manager who declined to give her last name. “His product and packaging are really great. He’s like the next Ben & Jerry’s of cannabis ice cream!”
Richmond Confidential is an online news service produced by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism for, and about, the people of Richmond, California. Our goal is to produce professional and engaging journalism that is useful for the citizens of the city.