Riste Ristevski began 2019 as the face of one of the most fervent followings in the ultra-craft premium cigar space. He ended the year as the undisputed leader of the uncharted market that is cigars-meets-cannabis. This began with a project known as Jas Sum Kral Nuggs, a Habano-wrapped premium cigar that has been infused with cannabidiol (CBD) through a proprietary process that Ristevski worked to develop over the course of more than a year. The cigar follows on the heels of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, making the sale of CBD legal in the United States, so long as it was derived from the hemp form of the plant (as opposed to the more processed marijuana) and contains no more than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the chemical that gives marijuana its psychoactive effects.

As CBD has become perhaps the most provocative remedy in the world of medicine—often billed as a cure-all of sorts, said to provide a relaxing effect by aiding/reducing anxiety, cognition, movement disorders, and pain—Jas Sum Kral (JSK) Nuggs Habano was quick to attract the attention of, not only premium cigar hobbyists, but other industries as well. This is compounded by the unique delivery process of cigar smoking, where the chemical is absorbed more quickly than conventional ingestion methods, such as liquid drops or pill capsules. And while JSK Nuggs Habano boasted a mere 20mg of CBD, Ristevski had grander plans for a project that had taken the craft cigar world by storm. JSK Nuggs Maduro followed in the fall of 2019, boasting an amped-up dosage of 100mg CBD. A THC-infused cigar was the next logical step in the cannabis-themed trajectory, materializing as the Jas Sum Kral Nuggs Kine Puro Selection, a forthcoming project that claims 20mg of THC and distribution limited to Colorado, where the cigars undergo their infusion process.

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But cigar smokers weren’t unanimously in favor of Ristevski’s direction, positing that such experimentation could bring added, unwanted attention from regulators—a battle that the cigar industry has been fighting for years now. These opposers view infused cigars as the chink in the armor of the premium cigar industry’s position, where regulations aimed at cigarettes and vaping are given passage into the adult nature of traditional premium cigar smoking. Conversely, as the country is seemingly transitioning from one form of smoking to another—turning a blind eye to marijuana while increasingly censoring tobacco—cannabis may be just the ingredient needed to highlight the mature intention of premium cigar smoking. It’s a growing sentiment in the U.S. that marijuana smoke equals healthy and tobacco smoke equals unhealthy—so what’s the consensus when the two are joined?

Regardless of your opinions on CBD, THC, or the virtue of the “Pandora’s box” Riste has opened, the potential impact on the world of premium cigars cannot be ignored. JSK as a whole has grown exponentially during the same timeframe, including the critically acclaimed Tyrannical Buc series and multiple shop-exclusive projects debuted throughout 2019. One thing is for certain, the entire industry is now fully aware of the name Riste Ristevski, keeping one eye in his direction, awaiting his next move.

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