Posted by Greg Campell on Wednesday, February 16, 2011
In my freezer is a Ziploc bag of pot brownies that are about a year old and which will probably never be eaten. I made them myself, following a recipe on YouTube, but I screwed them up badly … infusing marijuana’s active ingredient, THC, into cooking oil is a lot harder than I had expected. If you heat it too much before dumping in your weed and sautéing for 20 minutes, your house will fill with black smoke that smells like you’re sacrificing Rastafarians. The resulting brownies worked fine for their purpose but with a flavor like burned tires, they’re hard to choke down.
Like everything else having to do with marijuana in my house, the brownie experiment was part of my research into medical marijuana for my forthcoming book, tentatively titled Pot of Gold. Marijuana-based food products — known as “edibles” — are an important part of the MMJ business in Colorado and other states that have allowed pot to be used by those with a doctor’s recommendation. Not everyone who uses marijuana medically wants to — or can — smoke their weed. Smoking anything is an acquired and unhealthy habit, one that also creates a distinct smell that leaves little to the imagination about what one has been up to. For many patients, it’s preferable to eat a brownie (or a cookie, a blondie, a Rice Krispie treat, a lollipop, some ice cream … anything, really, that uses butter or oil in the recipe).
But while the retail medical cannabis industry is more well established in Colorado than any other state, lawmakers who seem intent on screwing up a system that, overall, is working well, are still tinkering it with. One example is a bill at the state legislature that would ban all edibles from being sold in the state’s extensive network of medical marijuana centers.
My friends who live in states where marijuana is still illegal for any purpose always think I’m lying when I describe them, but these MMJ centers are the 7-Elevens of the pot world. Patients can choose from scores of marijuana strains on display in glass jars, they can buy starter clones to grow at home and they can pick from a virtual grocery store of edibles that are limited only in what the owner chooses to stock. A wholesaler called Ganja Gourmet sells everything from cheesecake to pizza to “pot” pie. It’s gotten to where ordering a brownie is like ordering tap water at a wine bar.
The benefit of this selection is that the recipes — and therefore, importantly, the dosages of THC — are relatively consistent, especially when compared to what you can make at home if you’ve got little experience cooking with cannabis. Proprietors can advise you on what to expect. I’ve bought brownies before at one of the many local dispensaries and have been warned to only eat a few nibbles if I expected to do anything other than sleep afterward. This sort of advice can’t be overstated. When I cooked up my batch of brownies, I was taking my cue from stoners on YouTube whose first step in the recipe was to fire up your bong before even getting out the skillet. The brownies produced a thermonuclear high because the potheads in the video used enough marijuana to sod my lawn. This is fine, if you’re expecting it. But a quirk of ingested cannabis is that it takes longer to kick in than if you smoke it and usually packs a bigger punch than you might be expecting. Luckily, I knew this and didn’t give in to the temptation to take another few bites after 30 minutes of nothing happening. I knew because a caregiver at the dispensary where I’d bought the pre-cooked kind had told me.
The bill’s sponsor wasn’t available to tell me why she introduced this bill (I’ll update this post if she returns my phone call), but I assume it has to do with the old saw of “protecting the children.” This is the default excuse for anyone arguing to limit or repeal existing medical marijuana laws and to lobby against efforts to pass new ones. If you didn’t know better, you’d think dispensary owners look at playgrounds full of children like foie gras chefs look at a gaggle of geese.
It bears repeating, although it’s getting tiresome to make the same obvious point, that kids who want pot have never had very much trouble getting it, whether it’s legal for medical use in a state or not. This is why the War on Drugs is a $1 trillion-and-counting failure — outlawing marijuana hasn’t prevented its use.
There are no hard numbers on how much revenue the state derives from sales of edibles versus raw weed, but anecdotally, dispensary owners say it makes up a large percentage of their sales. “Infused product manufacturers,” as they’re laboriously called in statute, create jobs and help the economy. More importantly, however, edibles are necessary for medical patients for whom smoking is out of the question — someone using pot for chemo related to lung cancer, or who is on (highly flammable) oxygen, should be able to eat a plate of professionally prepared cookies rather than spark up a joint.
Those who are worried that children will get their hands — either accidentally or intentionally — on their parents’ pot lollipops are again equating medical pot users with Cheech and Chong, who are apparently the only point of reference for most politicians wondering how pot people behave. Since the beginning of modern pharmacy, medical patients have used personal responsibility and common sense in conjunction with a simple tool to keep their kids safe from an entire galaxy of drugs that are far more dangerous than weed.
That tool is called a medicine cabinet.
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