The first infusion kitchen in Arizona has always been special to me. The Green Halo has brought their unique broad-spectrum edibles to our cannabis market. You might have been to The Green Halo DIspensary, cleverly disguised as a “gas station”, but most patients know the Halo through their products like: Aunt Ellie’s, Cannabliss, Canna Confections, Pure & SImple, as well as Chronic Health. As it happens, some of the same brands I buy most often because they have always been reliable and effective. That said, I grew up in Arizona, and the drive into Tucson always gave me anxiety, as I had nothing to relate to in Tucson. The beauty of Club Congress, or the hangouts like Eegee’s are favorite places for a visit. It wasn’t until I first visited The Green Halo Dispensary years ago that I felt as though I found a place for me, and this dispensary shared many of my beliefs about cannabis.
The Green Halo has been around since day one of medical cannabis in Arizona, and had the first cannabis infusion kitchen. Halo’s brands were some of the first brands I was introduced to upon becoming a medical patient. It was well known among staff and patients where I worked that the medical benefits were authentic. The Halo’s product lines are both broad and diverse, but created by a group of like minded individuals selected for their skills, compassion, and outstanding patient-focused attitude. To say The Green Halo team cares is not saying enough; their dedication to the goal of formulating consistent, high quality infused cannabis products does. While the world has faced so many new challenges in recent months and years, this Arizona original has helped many patients navigate it; whether their needs were managing their pain, or simply coping with the stress of quarantine. I was recently given the opportunity to tour The Green Halo and their infusion kitchen, and talk about what they have on their horizons as Arizona cannabis evolves.
We arrived at the dispensary and were caught off-guard by the comforting ambience of the waiting room after walking in from the adjacent gas station. Immediately we were welcomed, and we made our way to the dispensary floor. The dispensing area is a relaxed, intimate sales floor, with an accessible layout for the many options available. The cannabis on display is colorful as the displays where you can choose from their wide selection of edibles. The staff is knowledgeable and ready to answer any questions you may have. An updating menu also offered a great selection of concentrates that I found myself tempted to shop for. We moved from here to the Infusion Kitchen which is housed in the same building. There, we met everyone involved with production, packaging, and logistics. All of whom were working in concert to best coordinate production to meet product demand at dispensaries transitioning to adult-use or coping with new testing mandates. We gown up in full head, hair, feet, and torso coverings to ensure strict adherence to their cleanliness standards. From there, we meet the infusion kitchen chefs while working on a batch of gummies who pause to show us how they’re made.
We meet Vanessa Chairez, who leads the infusion kitchen and who walks us through the complex four-step process of the gummie manufacturing. I notice right away that the kitchen, storage, and overall conditions are immaculate. Gummies are made using starch molds which are stamped with star imprint using a custom corn starch shape press. The gummies are made with astounding accuracy in front of us, sugar, infusion and colors go in. The gummies are made from scratch, fully infused and gelatin-based for easy digestion. A hot gummy mixture is speed-poured into starch molds and set overnight, then a vibrating sifter removes the starch after the cure. To achieve the unique sugar coating, the gummies are steamed and sugar sanded to prepare for packaging. Everything is made with broad spectrum concentrate which is less processed, and maintains far more of the original plant’s lesser cannabinoids and phytonutrients, including phenolic acids, such as flavonoids and anthocyanins . The Halo’s Cannabliss brand gummies have 5 flavors which are color coated: Strawberry (red) Blueberry (blue), Watermelon (green), Pineapple (yellow), Mango (orange). You can see the infusion in each gummy as the depth of color is related to the intensity of the concentrate used.
The infusion kitchen team is laser focused on precision in everything they do, suggesting a very disciplined approach to their craft. Movements are deliberate with a true dedication to producing top quality edibles. Using a cornstarch mold isn’t common (except in very large volume operations), but to achieve the unique texture for the Halo’s Cannabliss gummies, it was a necessary approach. To press the star-shaped molds and produce the gummies with a hot mixture that cools in about 10 minutes by hand, is not easy. Considering the multiple processing stages including steaming (scaling), and sugar coating, plus two independent curing steps, it’s no wonder their texture is so unique and appealing. Halo’s goal is to produce the highest quality products, and that means making edibles and topicals that consistently deliver the same, pleasant experience at a reasonable price to patients.
The Halo’s edibles are in a league of their own. Items like their infused juices or chocolate bars have dedicated production equipment to ensure quality, and efficiency through volume production based on common Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP). Halo’s ambitious plans include a new high-volume gummy production system from Australia, larger beverage bottling and capping systems, automated labeling and packaging, and more. Halo’s commitment to best practices doesn’t end at their infusion kitchen as we continue to observe operations.
Viewing the weights and measures department, where cannabis and packed flowers are processed, weighed, and stored. We saw the same attention to detail. Matthew Ybarra who coordinates packaging had his team working on flowers being weighed, stated that on average they process more than 50 pounds per week. This room is clean top to bottom with fresh filter air and climate control running to assure the best conditions for the cannabis. As we move through this area, it strikes me that the entire team at the Halo has really worked hard to become an industry leader. We conclude our tour, and are left with the sense that our market will not only recover but improve. The Green Halo and Halo Infusions & Extractions will undoubtedly strive to reach new heights, and continue to deliver the best possible products for those seeking relief. We had the opportunity to ask about future plans and how The Green Halo is navigating adult-use and testing requirements.
How did Halo start, and where did the name originate?
We were one of the original applicants for an AMMA Medical Dispensary Licence in 2011. Once the state moved forward with application and then dispensary licence approval, we opened our current location at I-10 and Wilmot Road. That was January 1st, 2013.
The name is a bit lost to history, but early on we named a beloved canine mascot for The Halo and the name has stuck ever since. We are enormous fans of dogs and cats at the Halo!
What is Halo’s mission statement?
We began as patient-focused and we’ll remain customer-focused, even as we ultimately move to open for Adult Use. That means we really want to give our patients what they want and need. We think of that as quality, consistency, and value. Give our patients quality products that are consistent in the experience they provide and are a good value cost-wise.
How big is the company?
We are a medium-sized company consisting of 57 employees between our Phoenix and Tucson operations. We’re growing rapidly.
What sets you apart from other dispensaries?
We were actually the 3rd dispensary to open in Arizona as well as the first Infusion Kitchen. That gave us an early start and a lot of name recognition early on. We got an enormous amount of feedback in our early years as we offered one of the few if not only infused product lines. And we listened to that feedback. That’s why we believe so many people like the products we make — our approach uses minimally-processed, or ‘crude’ cannabis oil which is precisely what the renowned ‘entourage effect’ is about. It’s more than just about THC.
The Green Halo is also a known edible name in Arizona, what are some products people might know?
We’re known for many products, from our tinctures and ointments to our brownies and gummies. We’ve won over 50 awards for these products over the years:
Cannabliss Gummies: Fully Infused, Broad Spectrum Star Gummies
Aunt Ellies’s Super Mega Brownie 225mg: High Potency Medical Only Brownie
Chronic Health Line of Ointments: Award Winning & Loyal Patient Following
Cannabliss 420 Green Pepper & Hot Sauce: Only Cannabis Hot Sauces in Arizona
What are all of the edible companies related to Halo Infusions?
We have five current product lines, based on product type. They include:
Aunt Ellie’s: Baked Goods
Cannabliss: Gummies & Snacks
Canna Confections: Candy’s and Treats
Chronic Health: Tinctures & Topicals
Pure & Simple: Juice and Juice Blends
What sets the edibles apart from others?
We fully infused all of our products. We don’t spray with cannabis oil, or ‘massage’ them as one well-known vendor does. We infused right into the product matrix to enhance ingestion during the digestive process. And because we use minimally processed cannabis oil, you get the full entourage effect — less intense, more balanced. Simply better.
Broad Spectrum Cannabinoid Therapy refers to capturing the broadest possible range of cannabinoids (and other compounds) when infusing products. In practical terms, no current production process today is able to effectively extract and recombine all of the known and potentially beneficial compounds in Cannabis and Hemp. Full Spectrum is a misnomer and does not actually exist.
In practice, Full Spectrum is Broad Spectrum after a “winterization” stage that removes waxes and cellulose.
Our processes employ extraction, storage, and infusion techniques that significantly help minimize the loss of key compounds. And while no method is foolproof, we strive to deliver cannabinoid and terpene profiles that are as complete as possible and truly representative of the original plant and its benefits.
What are some other products people should check out from Halo?
We just launched a line of Cannabis Lollipops @ 15mg/each, made with Tapioca syrup. These lollipops are free of high fructose corn syrup, and are available in 6 flavors: Strawberry, Watermelon, Pineapple, Mango, Pomegranate & Blueberry Banana Cream.
420 Green Pepper Sauce
Coming soon: THC Syrups
Will you have some of your products available to adult-use?
Yes, our menu will contain both Adult Use and Medical products.
Can people expect some changes with adult-use?
Yes, like everyone else, we’re moving to a 10mg/serving and 100mg/package model. All of our product lines either have a current product offering suitable for Adult Use, or soon will. We continue to be committed to our Medical customers and expect to continue manufacturing higher dose/serving products for patients that need more THC.
Any advice for those who are new to Halo brands and products?
All Halo products are made with Broad Spectrum Crude Concentrate, a minimally processed extract expressing a broader range of the plant’s original cannabinoids. We never use isolate or distillate. Expect a pleasurable edible experience in the shape of a bell curve, easy up, easy down. As with any edibles, always start slow.
The CBD products from Halo are fantastic, why is that?
Halo Infusions CBD Products are made from either Hemp Flower or concentrate and not solely the hemp seed. Our 0:1 Hemp Derived CBD Gummie, Tinctures & Ointments contain other trace cannabinoids, testing under .3% THC — too little to produce any physiological effects.
I’ve always found education to be essential, Halo has some of the best educational materials around, why is that?
We realized very early that our wholesale dispensary customers and their patients were desperate for information. So we wrote a series of information cards to provide basic guidance on edibles, topicals, ingestion methods, and other topics. We specifically avoided making something too flashy or self-promoting. As a result, we print tens of thousand of them per year, which we provide free to our customers and their patients.
Has the legalization of Adult-use affected Halo at all?
Adult use has caused a dramatic increase in both retail and wholesale demand. Our retail operation is seeing a lot more new patients who don’t really want to compete with the lines at Adult Use dispensaries.
Wholesale interest has increased across-the-board, with every product category seeing increased demand.
Have you experienced any issues with testing?
This is the greatest challenge that our industry faces right now. While the state’s testing plan is basically sound, the labs were not even remotely ready. This led to huge backlogs in waiting for test results, which has seriously impacted product delivery. We’re finally getting past those problems.
What can people look forward to in the future?
We have a line of THC Syrups coming out this Summer 2021! Halo Infusions kitchen is always looking to evolve and grow with the changing needs of the AZ market, Follow our Instagram for launch updates.
Where can people find the Green Halo Dispensary or more information on some of your products?
Check out more awesome local businesses.
Adrian Ryan was born in New Mexico and attended school since elementary in Arizona, his time growing up split between the two states. He hopes to work towards recreational cannabis, enjoys reading, writing, film, music, and also writing music.