Half baked

Marijuana cuisine

I know, I know, you don’t give a damn how they do it in California. At least until you start talking marijuana. The Golden State’s lax regulatory policies, premier growing conditions, and embracing culture are creating a safe haven for the drug. In October, I went to a music festival in San Francisco and have never seen such flourishing pot sales. There were roving hippies selling joints, but what caught my attention were numerous transient storefronts strewn about Golden Gate Park with vendors displaying caramels, brownies, Rice Krispies treats and gourmet truffles all making use of marijuana. So in keeping with the theme of this issue, let’s talk about eating marijuana.

Studies galore show marijuana eaten for medicinal benefit can aid a range of patients, including those suffering nausea from chemotherapy and chronic pain. For many, prescription marijuana is a viable natural alternative to pharmaceutical painkillers, to which many people have adverse reactions and which can cause liver damage. However, each person I spoke with about eating marijuana admitted their use of the drug was purely recreational.

When I asked Joe (not his real name), if he preferred smoking or eating marijuana he said, “One isn’t better than the other; they’re different. For starters, eating marijuana means you don’t have to taste the smoke, which is important for people with sensitive lungs or asthma. And its effects are different. Marijuana’s effects when eaten come on slowly, last longer and produce a much stronger body high.”

If you’re planning to simply buy some marijuana and eat it straight from the bag, you might as well wash it down with O’Douls because both accomplish little to nothing. Extracting marijuana’s active ingredient, THC, requires combining marijuana with lipids (fats and oils) and then exposing it to heat. Everyone I spoke with recommended making marijuana butter, or “cannabutter,” a more interesting substitute for butter on everything from your morning toast to sautéed onions in lasagna.

Recently an acquaintance named Paul (not his real name) graduated from Oakland California’s Oaksterdam University. Founded in 2007, its mission is providing students “the highest quality training for the cannabis industry.” This recipe for cannabutter comes from one of Paul’s textbooks:

1. After removing any stems and seeds, grind two ounces of marijuana bud in a food processor.

2. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and add one cup of unsalted butter.

3. After butter has melted, add ground marijuana and reduce heat.

4. Stirring occasionally, simmer this mixture for an hour.

5. Strain this liquid through cheesecloth, and squeeze all the buttery liquid from the remaining plant matter.

6. Place this in the refrigerator for a few hours.

7. The butter will solidify atop the water and can easily be scraped off, the water discarded, and the butter stored in the refrigerator for months.

Of course, proceed at your own risk. Wherever you cook cannabutter is going to smell incriminating as hell unless you mask it with flavor-imparting spices like cinnamon or cloves or burn an entire box of Nag Champa. Also, marijuana’s effects when eaten are considerably stronger than when smoked, so most sources recommend eating with restraint, maybe two teaspoons, until discovering your tolerance level. Further, because the effects generated by eating marijuana set in much slower than after smoking it, most people I interviewed had a time when they thought the stuff wasn’t working and ate more to compensate. The general consensus is, give it time, the stuff will work.

A final piece of advice for those planning to make cannabutter and store it in a common area: mark the container. A great time for you might turn into a nightmare for your hapless roommate when he smears butter all over his Eggos.