Though often associated with the nutraceutical and supplement spaces, pill and capsule formats can also serve as convenient vehicles for delivering cannabis.

Consumers understand the pill and capsule formats, and they can also get the benefit of oral consumption without added sugars or calories present in other edible applications, said Chelsea Place, marketing director of partnerships, 1906.

“Outside of cannabis, a pill is the most commonly used medicinal format in the world,” Place said. “Many seeking out cannabis for medicinal use find familiarity and comfort within this format. You shouldn't have to eat candy, or add sugars and calories into your diet each time you choose to consume. A tableted pill provides an easy, guilt free way to enjoy your cannabis.”

BDSA reported that pills occupied 8% of the edibles market in 2022. Overall sales dropped 6% between 2021 and 2022, but the category saw growth in the Arizona, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada and Pennsylvania markets over the same period.

Pill and capsule manufacturers are leveraging the accessibility of the format to offer tailored effects and a range of dosage options to serve all types of cannabis consumers.


Manufacturing considerations

Precision is key when it comes to manufacturing compact capsules, noted Sarah Hines, chief operating officer at Proof Cannabis.

“Being in California and in the regulated market, we have a lot of testing requirements, and those testing requirements also require that we are within 10% of our potency claim, and 10% of 0.5 mg is 0.05 mg. That’s our threshold that we have to hit,” Hines said. “It’s extremely important to have really calibrated machinery and really calibrated scales, and to test your inputs at every step of the process. It’s pretty exact science.”

Proof Cannabis uses plant-based hypromellose capsules (HPMC) to keep their offerings vegan and cruelty free. They’re also free of sugar and gluten.

“Having a vegan product, especially for a lot of patients but also for a wellness brand, it’s been very important to us,” said Julie Mercer-Ingram, co-founder and CEO of Proof Cannabis.

Chris Emerson, CEO and founder of LEVEL, noted most active ingredients in tablets are in salt form, offering moderate to very good bioavailability. However, this isn’t the case for lipophilic cannabinoids, so other formulation techniques are needed to improve bioavailability. 

He added LEVEL recently secured a patent for the technology the company used to launch its Protab range.

“Product design is imperative to achieving the desired outcome for the patient and consumer,” Emerson said. “This is especially true for the tablet form factor. It takes considerable technical expertise and knowledge to create a tablet product that stands out.”


Product innovation

Emerson said LEVEL’s process for converting cannabinoids into a powder format allowed the company to easily develop its portfolio of tablet products.

“Not only does this provide an opportunity to create and optimize manufacturing processes that are incredibly efficient, it facilitates the underlying mission of LEVEL — creating effects-based cannabis products utilizing emergent cannabinoids in ratios that are not accessible from the plant alone,” he said. “With a suite of cannabinoid powders of known potency, it is very easy to create a vast array of different products.”

LEVEL’s Protab range includes Sativa, which features 25 mg THC and 1 mg CBD per tablet, as well as Indica and Hybrid options, which feature 25 mg THC. There’s also a 1:1 option featuring 12.5 mg THC and 12.5 mg CBD per tablet.

The company’s Protab+ line turns to minor cannabinoids to support specific intended effects. The Boost option combines THC, THCV and CBG to provide focus and energy, while the Light’s Out offering pairs THC with CBG and CBN to promote sleep. The Recover option marries THCa, CBDa, CBG and CBC with the goal of relieving pain.

LEVEL also offers microdosed tablets under its Tablingual line, which includes Stimulate, featuring 4 mg THCV and 1 mg CBG; Calm, with 5 mg CBG; and Sleep with 5 mg CBN.

In 2020, LEVEL introduced its Hashtab range, which includes Sativa and Indica options developed with cold water hash. Available in California, each tablet has 25 mg THC.

“We anticipated that the California market would be moving toward solventless products over the next couple of years, and we wanted to provide a more ‘flower’-forward experience than the Protab, which uses a distillate product (with a full spectrum of cannabinoids) as the input,” Emerson said. “The effect difference between using this distillate versus hash is quite pronounced. It allowed us to provide a differentiated effect for patients and consumers, depending on their given use case.”

1906 has also zeroed in on specific use cases with its product portfolio, available in different formats and package sizes across Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and New Jersey.

“We find when consumers walk into a dispensary, there is generally a targeted effect they desire,” she said. “Whether it is your first time consuming cannabis, or you are an experienced user, you deserve to feel how you want to feel and when you want to feel it, and with 1906 you can. We created six targeted formulas to help you do all of the life stuff better.”

The company’s formulas pair cannabinoids with functional botanical ingredients. The tablet line includes: 

  • Bliss: 5 mg THC, 5 mg CBD, 20 mg kanna and 100 mg theobromine per drop
  • Chill: 5 mg THC, 25 mg CBD, 7.5 mg magnolia and 100 mg L-theanine per drop
  • Genius: 2.5 mg THC, 2.5 mg CBD, 125 mg rhodiola, 80 mg bacopa, 20 mg caffeine, 37.5 mg theobromine, 125 mg galangal and 40 mg L-theanine per drop
  • Go: 5 mg THC, 5 mg CBD, 110 mg L-theanine, 100 mg theobromine, 60 mg caffeine and 175 mg galangal per drop
  • Love: 2.5 mg THC, 2.5 mg CBD, 20 mg damiana, 75 mg ashwagandha, 100 mg theobromine, 125 mg muira puama and catuaba per drop
  • Midnight: 5 mg THC, 5 mg CBD and 100 mg stephania per drop

Place, who noted 1906 plans to introduce new pills this spring, pointed to the potential benefits in other plant-based ingredients.

“We can all agree cannabis is the greatest plant medicine on earth, yet there are so many other plant medicines on earth that can also lead to transformational experience,” she said. “We assembled a team of botanists, pharmacologists and researchers to find safe and effective plant medicines from around the world. Each 1906 experience has a unique blend of THC, CBD and other plant medicines to help you achieve the exact effects or relief you seek.”

Meanwhile, Mercer-Ingram said Proof Cannabis emphasizes potency over intended effect, since cannabis may impact consumers in different ways. The company includes a “high-o-meter” on its packaging to help consumers understand potency levels after they’ve left the dispensary.

“We are not an effects-based marketing company,” she said. “We want to help people understand how the cannabinoids are going to impact the endocannabinoid system of each consumer. Everyone is going to have a different experience with cannabis.”

Among Proof Cannabis’ capsule offerings are 1:1 Balanced capsules, featuring 10 mg each of THC and CBD, as well as options for those who need higher doses, with 30 mg and 100 mg THC per capsule, respectively. 

Proof Cannabis has also introduced Elixir capsules, which feature 5 mg each of THC, CBD and CBG, as well as Sleepy capsules, formulated with 5 mg each of THC and CBN.

The company also offers 20:1 capsules with 10 mg CBD and 0.5 mg THC each. Mercer-Ingram said Proof Cannabis developed these capsules based on a doctor’s recommendation to help a family member with cancer.

“We started off with a purpose to treat friends and family with serious ailments, and we stay true to that,” Mercer-Ingram said. “What drives product development is the people we care for, including our customers.”