• Posted by Califia Suntree on February 23rd, 2010, 12:48 PM

    Welcome to the first installment of Ask Spooning, where experts answer your culinary queries…

    Q: “I notice that edibles are a huge part of medical marijuana dispensaries. Where does this food come from? Is there a  regulatory system of some kind? The edibles also list dosage–how is that determined and maintained? Finally, I’ve heard of cannabis butter, but how are the other things made, like beverages and candy?” –Anonymous, Los Angeles

    A: The process of getting to the bottom of this question lead me to discover that–perhaps unsurprisingly–folks in the marijuana trade are a little bit hard to pin down. And squirrely about revealing anything about themselves or their product. But, two of the companies I reached out to here in Los Angeles–where pot dispensaries outnumber Starbucks–gave me a general idea of the process. I’m lead to believe that their answers were vague because the legal and procedural guidelines of this brave new marijuana world are themselves vague still pretty undefined.

    Adam, of Counter Catering, a non-profit collective that produces and distributes edibles to local dispensaries, says spiked foodstuffs are so popular because they are “a much safer alternative to smoking, a practice that many patients cannot physically participate in, whether it be due to illness, age, or personal preference.” Edibles are also particularly helpful to patients on chemotherapy or who suffer from illnesses that cause wasting–essentially starvation due to lack of appetite.

    Also per Adam, edibles “are supposed to come from medical marijuana collectives that specialize in the making of medicinal edibles” and “made by licensed food handlers who are also medical marijuana patients.” However, a pastry chef who also produces edibles commercially wasn’t so sure. “As of right now, there are no definitive regulations except that the product must be made in a certified commercial kitchen, specifically for cannabis edibles….The city is currently mending the ordinances.” Both Adm and the pastry chef have medical marijuana prescriptions, which is presumably necessary to obtain the pot that they then transform into food and sell back to the dispensaries. Adam suggests that “patients ask to see a copy of the kitchen license that is related to the edible they are about to acquire. If the dispensary cannot produce a copy of the kitchen license/health certificate, they should consider going elsewhere.”

    Baked goods are made from cannabis butter or oil (the buds are cooked in fat until the lipids absorb the TCH, and the plant matter is then strained off before use), while beverages and candy can be made from infused alcohol or glycerin. Alcohol is prohibited in dispensaries, however, so glycerin is generally the go-to medium.

    Dosage is a trickier question. Per the pastry chef, “each company doses their product individually. Our products maintain a dose of 1.5g per package. The medication is consistently tested and weighed out before going into the product.” Adam notes that “dosage is different for every patient, much like alcohol affects every person differently.  For example, one brownie made by our collective is considered one very strong dose, or two strong doses. I feel that half of the brownie is one very strong dose, where others feel that the entire brownie might be a mild dose.” And I’ve, um, heard, that one brownie could also put an elephant in a coma…

    His final helpful hint: “Heat sealed, polyurethane bags are one type of packaging that is considered safe for food by the FDA. Patients should be wary of any edible packaged in foil or cling wrap, not only because it is not approved packaging, but also because the shelf life will be very short.”

    That, and who knows what could be in that cookie! Aside from, you know, drugs.

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