Reporter’s Notebook: Marijuana Cuisine Goes Gourmet With ‘Medibles’


By Rachel Gotbaum
Guest Contributor

For medical marijuana cuisine, it’s been a long, strange trip.

I remember walking down the stairs of a non-descript building in San Francisco’s Castro district where I was told a new underground (literally) club for medical marijuana was located. I was a young reporter in the mid-1990s and California was engaging in a battle to legalize marijuana for medical use. The state would eventually become the first in the country to do so.

At the time, local San Francisco law enforcement looked the other way to allow these underground pot bars to thrive, but often there would be raids by federal drug agents. What I found downstairs, I could not believe. It was as if I had been transported to some club in Amsterdam, where “space cakes” and joints were sold openly. The room was filled with pot smoke.

(Torben Bjørn Hansen/flickr)

People were lounging around couches smoking joints and others were crowded by the “bar” where they were surveying bright green buds to purchase for medical use. These “patients” brought notes from their doctors — though none of this had been legally formalized yet. Some of the people selling behind the bar were nurses and other medical professionals.

The man who brought me to this underground pot club was Dennis Peron, one of the most vocal and colorful advocates for legalizing marijuana for medical use in California.

As we left the club, my clothes and hair now saturated with pot smoke, Peron handed me a book. “Brownie Mary’s Marijuana
Cookbook — Dennis Peron’s Recipe for Social Change.”

But the recipes went beyond typical pot brownie fare. The cookbook (part foodie, part pro-pot manifesto) included a fairly elaborate shrimp casserole recipe, where ground marijuana is mixed into the skillet along with white wine and seasoned croutons. There’s also spaghetti sauce (tomato based) and an ambitious chestnut stuffing calling for 2-4 grams of “seedless flower” sautéed with butter.

Inscribed in my book it says “Rachel, The Dream Lives On — Dennis Peron, San Francisco.”

What may have been a little California dreaming back then seems these days to be an expanding reality. So-called “Medibles” have gone gourmet, with food businesses starting to sprout up in states where medical marijuana has been legalized.

Indeed, since California legalized pot for medical use in 1996, seventeen other states have followed.

Massachusetts and Connecticut voters approved medical marijuana earlier this month. Colorado (where marijuana for recreational use was just approved by voters) has allowed dispensaries to sell pot and “edibles” for medical use since 2009.

The Ganja Gourmet in downtown Denver claims to be the biggest edibles marketplace in the state. According to manager Mike Brodeur the Ganja Gourmet used to be a restaurant serving marjiuana infused lasagna, hummos and pizza. But when the state decided to restrict the consumption of medical marijuana a little over a year ago, the business became a supermarket for marijuana cuisine. He says business is growing.

“More pot doctors are recommending edibles,” says Brodeur. “We focus on patients in their 50s, 60s and 70’s who haven’t smoked since high school and want to try edibles.”

“More pot doctors are recommending edibles,” says Brodeur. “We focus on patients in their 50s, 60s and 70’s who haven’t smoked since high school and want to try edibles.”

Brodeur says the baby boomers may find eating pot is more effective for treating pain than
smoking it. “A friend of mine had hip replacement surgery and he says he is still getting relief for his pain days after he consumed the edibles,” he says.

Cannabis butter (Cannabis Training University, Wikimedia Commons)

Mary Mulry, Ph.d, is a food scientist who helped Dixie Elixirs create many of its cannabis food products. She said the company’s most popular items include tootsie rolls, gourmet crispy treats with chocolate chips, truffles and a caffeine-infused energy drink. But they also make serious food, for instance, Ganja pizza or LaGanja with medicated garlic bread.

Mulry says the best way to use marijuana in cooking is to make a cannabis butter or oil. “You can replace the fat in pretty much any recipe that calls for oil or butter.” she says. “But you cannot fry with it because pot cannot be heated above 140 degrees.” Patients often prefer eating pot to smoking it, she says: “Smoking can be harsh on the lungs. And it’s not socially acceptable to take a joint to work. You can’t just light up.”

Despite the increasing popularity of marijuana edibles as a result of more states legalizing pot for medical use, Mulry says she doesn’t envision marijuana cuisine ever going completely mainstream. “I don’t see people using marijuana as a common cooking ingredient unless they really need it.”

Rachel Gotbaum is a New England-based health care reporter.

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  • Stephen C Hendrickson

    Tea is great..Maybe pesto..

  • BlueDog_2

    What’s with all the fascination over marijuana? It’s been around
    forever. Some of the founding fathers of this country grew hemp. Putting
    marijuana in food is nothing new.

    • ms

      True… but it’s the cult that is created by prohibition, not MJ itself. If it’s legalized nationally it’ll quickly loose its mystique and become just an average thing. Kinda like having a beer or a nice whiskey.

    • hacimo

      MJ stimulates the appetite something marvelous. Combining it with food is a no brainier. People will eat garbage and think it is Foie Gras if there is enough pot in the recipe.

      • cdgraves

        actually the “Munchies” are a side effect of smoking, not so much from eating. Edibles take a good 45 minutes to take effect, and really only work on an empty stomach. Eating it continuously would be a real waste of weed.

  • Richard in Minneapolis

    How do you put pot in lasagne, pizza and brownies without heating above 140 degrees?

    • Rachel Z.

      Good Question. Regarding heating temperature, here’s an excerpt from “The Official High Times Cannabis Cookbook” by Elise McDonough and the editors of High Times:

      “The key chemical reaction involved in doing it right takes place when cannabis is combined with your chosen fat and heated at a low temperature (122°F–145°F) for no less than twenty minutes, and ideally up to an hour or more, stirring often…. Anyway, after sixty minutes you can rest assured that most of the THC molecules will have left the plant matter and migrated to the butter or oil. The process is called “decarboxylation,” which describes a chemical reaction that converts non-psychoactive THC acid found in the raw plant into psychoactive THC. Cooking cannabis over high heat for too long will degrade the THC, hurting potency…”

      • cdgraves

        The TCH is always psychoactive, it just needs to get out of the plant. Overheating causes it to evaporate, not “degrade” it.

  • alice remembers

    wha? no props for alice b. toklas?

    incomplete for lack of historical context.

    btw good on washington and colorado for freeing up medical personnel to prescribe cannabis for those who actually medically benefit and letting the others sort themselves out.

    • W Richard Stark

      Did Ms Toklas and Gertrude Stein smoke pot?

      • alice remembers

        actually it was a bit of an eleaborate ruse. in alice`s cookbook (published in 1954) she put in a guest contribution:

        “Take 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, 1 whole nutmeg, 4 average sticks of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon coriander. These should all be pulverized in a mortar. About a handful each of stone dates, dried figs, shelled almonds and peanuts: chop these and mix them together. A bunch of canibus sativa can be pulverized. This along with the spices should be dusted over the mixed fruit and nuts, kneaded together. About a cup of sugar dissolved in a big pat of butter. Rolled into a cake and cut into pieces or made into balls about the size of a walnut, it should be eaten with care. Two pieces are quite sufficient. Obtaining the canibus may present certain difficulties…. It should be picked and dried as soon as it has gone to seed and while the plant is still green.”

        the recipe, expurgated from the u.s. edition, guaranteed the cookbook`s sales on the best of marketing tools – notoriety.