Get Baked With the UK's New Boujee Weed Edible Makers

Those super-stoned Royal Mail postal workers know what's up.
A woman holds a weed-infused brownie
Image: Sam Boxer; photo: Oleg Bolochev

Eating cannabis is not a novel habit, with some historians claiming that our Stone Age descendants were munching down on cannabis flower some 50,000 years ago. But, just like humans, the preferred method of ingestion has evolved, and the UK has seen the flourishing of a new, boujee breed of marijuana edibles bakers.

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Whilst a broadly underground concern until now – at least in the sense they are mostly used by social media-savvy millennials and Generation Zers – edibles recently had a mainstream moment when a viral video showed a group of sweetly confused Clapham postal workers struggling to function after consuming a box of hash brownies that had been sitting undelivered in their local delivery office.

Of course, if you know where to look, finding people selling drugs on Instagram and other social media sites is not particularly hard. But while vendors previously seemed to be working in the shadows, these new edibles creators are often professional and proud, posting adroitly composed pictures of unctuous looking cakes and gummies and inviting customer reviews and selling merch. They refer to themselves as chefs and chocolatiers: one I spoke to even had business cards. So who are they, what’s their game plan and what’s the chances of them being shut down? I slid into some sugary-smelling DMs to find out.

Sara (not her real name) is a middle-aged woman and prescribed cannabis patient. She started her weed edibles business during lockdown after being given two weeks to leave her tech job, and now sells what she describes as  “afternoon tea” edibles like scones, jam, hot chocolate and fudge.

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Most of her customers are women like her who need cannabis for pain relief; she "wanted to create something a little less intimidating for people in my demographic to approach”.

"I do a 'cream tea for two' package that is four scones, a pot of jam, and a pot of sugar from £55,” Sara explains, “with a choice of strengths on the scones and the sugar.”

Encouragingly, she also has plenty of chefs amongst her clientele. I ask whether it’s because of their years hunched painfully over boiling stoves. “Yeah,” she replies. “But also quite a lot have had addiction to other substances – alcoholics or people that have taken a lot of coke. They are using them [weed edibles] to tone that down.”

Sara has an Instagram page, but it functions more as a product showcase, so she can direct potential customers to her moreish-looking pictures. She says she receives “quite a lot” of messages from random people asking to purchase, but she “would never sell it to someone I didn’t know - it’s too risky for lots of reasons”.

One of the reasons for this is that she doesn’t want her lovingly produced, medicinal treats to fall into the hands of children, and VICE reported in 2021 on a spate of hospitalisations of under-18s who were purchasing weed-infused sweets made by DIY UK producers. This commitment to responsibility also extends to renewing her food hygiene certificate – “just because I can’t have a professional business doesn’t mean I can’t have everything else to a professional standard,” she says.

This instant feedback world of drug acquisition that is a long way from the drizzly street corner, and professionalism and quality have become totems for any purveyor of narcotics that wants to build a reliable customer base. Another UK-based premium edibles maker, best known for infused gummies and baked goods, tells me over email: “Our ethos is grounded on being the best at what we do: whether it’s looking at the bioavailability of our confectionery, or the shelf life of our bakes; to our order process and customer service.”

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“We receive so much feedback about the positive effect our products have on people’s mental health, and being a natural alternative to ‘traditional’ medicine, and we believe that’s really where our true value lies.” 

Weed infused edible gummies

The gummies produced by one edibles baker. Photo: courtesy of subject

Professionalism aside, these businesses are, of course, still officially operating outside the law, despite a tentative easing of some UK rules in recent years. There’s been the legalisation of medical cannabis (though it still remains gallingly expensive) plus drug diversion schemes, which divert users found with small amounts of narcotics away from the criminal justice system, now found in police forces across England and Wales. In 2021, Scotland announced its own diversion scheme to counteract the record drug deaths affecting its population.

So, are the police likely to be banging down the doors of these friendly bakers?

“In terms of police priorities, there is an increasing awareness of social media drug selling,” says Harry Sumnall, a professor in substance use at the Public Health Institute, “but it tends to focus on messaging services like Snapchat, or TikTok to an extent. The National Crime Agency has been focused on exploitation – which ties into the political priority around county lines – and how that might be achieved through messaging services rather than direct sales accounts.”

That would appear to count these type of operations out, though Sumnall does preach some caution: “I think what will probably happen is that pressure will be put on the social media companies. But whether that will translate into meaningful action, I’m doubtful. I suspect that unless there’s intelligence about a major operation – which these Instagram sellers seemingly are not – I don’t think the police will be hugely interested.”

When contacted for comment, Instagram pointed out that they recently launched a partnership with FRANK, the government’s drug advice and information service. When anyone searches for drug-related terms on Instagram, they now receive a message warning that “this may be associated with the sale of drugs”. The message also offers an option to get help, which links directly to FRANK’s website.

I ask Sara if she’s worried about the police. “Meh,” she breezily replies. “If they catch me they catch me. It’s not going to be any worse than five years ago.” She lays her insouciance down to her life as a public cannabis champion: “I’ve been an activist for so many years, and a patient who relied on this stuff, and wasn’t afraid to tell anyone.”

I suspect not everyone shares her blasé attitude, though, as I received a number of knockbacks for interview requests, including some makers of psilocybin edibles. Henry Fisher, chief scientific officer at Clerkenwell Health, a clinical research organisation specialising in psychedelic drugs, tells me that the emergence of these products can be attributed to a confluence of reasons. “Partly it’s the research [into psychedelic’s potential as a device for treating mental health conditions] but also just a cultural awareness of psychedelics. The interest that we saw with cannabis five years ago is now happening with magic mushrooms – it’s not just associated with a psychonaut or hippy subset.”

Lily Temperton, consultant at Hanway Associates, a London-based cannabis sector advisory firm, says that UK edibles culture is now starting to mirror the US. The American weed edibles market is scheduled to grow from $2.37 billion in 2018 to $11.56 billion in 2025, according to one forecast. Temperton says the UK is lagging five years behind, meaning the US is leading the way in new products. “With edibles [in America] there is such a huge portion of premium products,” she says. “One of the product innovations we are seeing is low-dose edibles and rapid onset products.”

With this in mind, I wonder whether today’s premium – but still illicit – edibles makers have one eye on the future: when, hopefully, the UK will follow countries like Canada, Germany, Uruguay and Mexico in moving to a regulatory model for recreational cannabis.

"We hear a few whispers and it’s definitely coming at some point,” says one edibles baker. “It’s hard to ignore the fact we’re operating in an essential industry, so in the meantime we need to keep busy and move forward with what’s been built.”

Sara is a little more forthright: “I have three reasons for doing this: providing access for patients who don’t trust cannabis enough to pay the high medical costs; building an extra income for me; and future building. I want to establish a brand now so when the inevitable legalisation happens I can bust out a professional, legal edibles business.”

@dhillierwrites