Monday, June 25, 2012

Cannabis Food For Thought

What is the proper dose of medication in edibles and how strong do you want the product, asked Elise McDonough, author of The Official HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cookbook who moderated the Edibles Discussion Panel. Although many had differing opinions on product strength and usage, one theme was common though out, the proper dose is different for every individual and what their medical need is. “It’s as different as our fingerprints” commented Sandy Moriarty, instructor at Oaksterdam University.Self-declared foodie and food writer prior to medical user, Cheri Sicard said, “It’s not a one size fits all proposition, everybody is different, and not only is each person different but each plant is different” Unlike other forms of medication, cannabis does vary in strength and content, regionally, how its grown, where its grown, and many other factors.

“Ask your budtender what their shop recommends based on how you want to feel,” Bryce suggested.  Frederick Nesbitt, head chef of Cannabis Catering, also donates his time teaching patients how to make and use extracts responsibly and infuse into meals. He stated, “Less is more, as you get developed you’ll understand a bit more.” Sandy stressed the importance of starting small and waiting twenty minutes between each dose. “The only way to control the affects no matter what you’re using is to do titrating and break it down into small pieces, then you won’t get beyond your comfort zone and you’ll have a pleasant experience.”  Scott agreed “Like a rollercoaster, once you get on, you can’t get off… Be respectful of the plant we are using.”

Bryce Torres of Shaman Healers considered 15mg-20mg equaled one dose of THC, whereas Scott Van Rixel of Bhang Chocolate uses 60mg as his standard multi-use bar, with a maximum content of 180mg.  Scott was adamant that all producers of edible products should have their products properly tested to reflect actual strength, because “the active cannabinoid content is for patients .5 mg of THC is not the same as 5mg of cannabis.”  There is much more to the process of making and standardizing medical food products than simply adding THC and following cook times.  THC disintegrates at 380 degrees, however will have little or no effect on the human body until decarboxlyzation occurs, transforming into THCA.  CBDs, CBNs, and other cannabinoids can offset the high of THC, 10-50% depending how much is in the product.  This is not necessary a bad thing, however it does alter the medical effect and is always a concern for any cannabis cook.  For producers, finding the balance of CBDs and THC at the right therapeutic level is a process of trial and error.

Elise next brought up the issue of patient product selection of commercial medical edibles, specifically their nutrition content, unhealthy food choices, and how we can meet the needs of patients by offing better options.  All speakers agreed most medical edible foods sold in dispensaries are loaded with sugar, like cookies, brownies, chocolates, candy, etc.  For patients that have preexisting medical condition, such as diabetes or are on strict diets, these products may relive one symptom but potentially have an adverse effect on another.  Producers agreed that the doctors need to act responsibly and treat cannabis like any other medication. Take time to educate the patients, suggest a proper dose for the symptom, and suggest options for treatment.  Scott demanded, “The only way that we as producers can be responsible to patients, is our products need to have accurate mg dosing and content.”  Bryce agreed, “Packaging is a big issue in this industry.”

Behind Closed Doors: Commercial Cannabis Kitchens

Bhang Chocolate prides itself on having an ingredient list and nutrition facts on each edible, becoming the first cannabis company to get full product liability on their chocolates.  This is a step in the right direction, but Bhang is just one of many edible producers and although the making of these products is not illegal, it is illegal for a cannabis food maker to run out of a commercial, health inspected, industrial kitchen.  Shaman Healers is one of many companies that rents a commercial kitchen for after-hours usage, but by doing so the kitchen that holds the state registered kitchen license is in jeopardy of losing their license for having cannabis on site. 

“We should not be chastised for doing things the right way; we should be rewarded for it…. It’s against the law to do the right thing, and that’s what we are trying to change.” Scott pushed.  In the state of California, like many others, cannabis (even for medical use) is considered an adulterated substance or ingredient.  Actively trying to implement regulations and standards for all cannabis food producers, Scott has already filed the paperwork with the State of California to remove cannabis from the adulterated ingredient list, hoping to get this issue mandated by the end of the year.  If California makes the change, the state will be able to issue health permits, therefore allowing cannabis businesses to legally operated in a commercial kitchen under regulatory agencies.

Frederick too was interested in opening a restaurant four years ago, but was also blocked for a different legal reason, cannabis products do not follow HACCP requirements.  HACCP, Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point, is a “science-based food safety management systemthat has become the preferred method of ensuring safe food all over the world.” This agency requires data be kept for all grown and manufactured food, from seed, to water and chemicals used, all the way to your table; this is how food borne illnesses can be traced and recalls are effective.  “Cannabis, where does it come from? There’s no control over that. No regulatory information.” Frederick added. 

Scott put it this way, “Never in a million years would a grocery store buy something you made in your kitchen and sell it on their shelves.  Not only would they not do it, but it’s against the law, to protect the consumer. We are a step further because our consumers are patients, many whom have a compromised immune system. A small amount of bacteria can cause detrimental effects to a patient. The people that end up suffering in this lack of regulations are the patients.  It can only serve to benefit patients!” 
Delicious cannabis oil infused edamame - Unknown Vendor 24Jun2012

Home Baked: Cooking Cannabis at Home

For consumers that are intimidated by dispensaries and mystery medical edibles, learning to cook at home allows you to customize your diet to your needs and it’s really not that intimidating.  Bryce noted that although patients have not been requesting healthier products, many customers are purchasing cookbooks, watching demonstrations, and learning to cook at home.  There are many wonderful cookbooks and forums out there for every cook to educate themselves and also places like Oaksterdam University and teachers like Frederick, who touts of a 6 point infusion cooking demo that he provides his patients.

Cheri continuously advocated to making your edibles at home, proclaiming “the challenges of commercial edibles go away when you make it yourself.  Keep cooking at home and you’ll have the edibles that are right for you all the time.” By making cannabis infused foods at home you can control the ingredients and strength to fit your own dietary needs.  Both Frederick and Sandy whom spend their days teaching others how to cook and infuse food with cannabis in various forms, suggest you can make anything into a healthy medical edible.  “For whatever you’re making, all that matters in the end is that you are comfortable,” Sandy said. Scott added “The beauty of cannabis is there is a right way for each person in this room.”

Sandy insists “there really isn’t a recipe you can’t infuse!” and I think she’s right.  To prove that point, here are just a few simple yet ingenious recipe tips and ideas these panelists shared:
  • Rule #1: Always check your temperature and time scales. If cannabis is overcooked, its medical properties are lost at an exponential rate.
  • Butter is universal and often the simplest solution to infuse cannabis in your diet. *ProTip: When processing butter, most likely you will recook the butter in future recipes, do not decarboxlate THC during the initial cook.
  • Chocolate is a great option because it share reciprocal properties that are easy and effective to process. *Fact: Cocoa butter is the one of only fats that enters the body as a poly-saturated fat, releasing cannabanoids like that of prescription medications, elevating to bring you to titration point with a much slower metabolism for longer duration and slower comedown.
  • Alcohol, glycerin, and oils are an exceptional choice as all have either high metabolic rates.
  • For foods with high cooking temp, like pizza, cook first then drizzle with infused olive oil when removed from heat.
  • Try infusing with your favorite garnishes like salad dressing, hot sauce, or adding to can of nuts or trial mix.
  • Cook down flowers with sugar and water to create a simple syrup that can be added to cocktails, fruit, pie, etc.
  • If you are trying to avoid fats, oils, and sugar, its easy to add keif to any recipe after cooked.
  • Blend green leaf trim into fine power like flour, use to make bread, dough, or breading for chicken.
  • Try infusing small amounts into everyday foods like chicken stock or mashed potatoes.
  • If you do not like cannabis flavors in your food, try using with rosemary or other evergreen spices.
  • For a no-brainer approach, use infused oil in any crock pot meal.

I would like to personally thank each member of this discussion panel.  Elise (The Official HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cookbook), Sandy (Aunt Sandy's Medical Marijuana Cookbook), Scott (Bhang Chocolate), Cheri (The Cannabis Gourmet Cookbook), Frederick (Cannabis Catering) and Bryce (Shaman Healers). I feel I learned so much valuable information I am deeply grateful, enlightened, and inspired.  

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