America's first retail marijuana stores are open – and they're full of cannabis-infused food.
Marijuana plant via.
Yesterday was the historical marker for weed's first legal retail holiday. For the first time in US history, anyone over the age of 21 in Washington state and Colorado could legally purchase up to an ounce of recreational pot and weed-laced substances from marijuana retailers without a medical marijuana card. Ganja lovers can openly share an ounce of cannabis with friends, so long as no money is exchanged, and re-selling the legally purchased product is illegal. Colorado has 500 medical dispensaries, but only 160 of those have applied for recreational licenses for 2014. The impressive rows of plump bud at any top-of-the-line Colorado dispensary – now known simply as "stores" – give rise to a whole line of products that wouldn't look out of place on a Whole Foods shelf.
But beyond the basic labyrinth of weed strains, marijuana edibles are part of a rising culinary trend that cannot rely on body highs and THC levels alone. Many of these edibles are transforming into sophisticated creations that could compete with pastries, candies and sodas found in artisanal food markets and supermarkets even if marijuana was left out of the recipe.
Elise McDonough, event designer at High Times, runs the Denver-based Cannabis Cup, the nation's largest annual weekend weed festival. She is also author of the High Times cookbook, and believes that, "Compared to other markets in California and Washington, I think Colorado edibles makers are on another level." Many brands of Colorado edibles, or MIPs – marijuana-infused products – include the kind of nutritional information you'd find on a supermarket box of cookies, and are required to state the quantity of active THC in the mix. The state considers 10 mg to be a "dose", while retail products are capped at 100 mg per unit, whether it’s a single slice of cheesecake, or an entire bar of chocolate.
This professionalism is a relatively new development. Medical marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2000, but since the passing of House Bill 1284, licensing has tightened up, requiring that all dispensaries grow 70 percent of their own product, but only sell 30 percent of what they grow.
Making cannabutter and THC tinctures requires a huge volume of trim – the leaves, stalks and other THC-active parts of the plant that are left over when the eminently smokeable buds are snipped. According to Bob Eschino – one of the partners behind the booming MIPs company Medically Correct – people were thoughtlessly throwing away trim in 2010, a wasteful action that any edibles chef could rescue for prime usage in the kitchen. Dispensaries have begun to use 70 percent of their total product by getting creative, and the extract market started picking up steam. Dabs, vape-ready hash oil and other assorted byproducts all used up the trim supply that, back in the day, went straight into edibles.
The edibles scene has dropped from more than 300 MIP makers to the approximate 20 that still exist on today's market. The resilient companies that continue to flourish are the ones that had the organisational acumen and cash flow to survive the changing landscape, and the cash to handle re-ups on newly squeezed trim supply. In honour of America's first legal munchies holiday, here’s an overview of some of the top contenders in the Colorado edibles landscape that actually taste delicious, with or without the green.
The elixirs via Dixie Elixirs
Dixie Elixirs have been getting medical marijuana card patrons and guys with bong-water stained shirts buzzed with their effervescent elixirs, a variety of carbonated re-cappable sodas with flavours like grapefruit, peach, red currant and sarsaparilla. The fizzy beverages are dosed between 40 and 75 mg per bottle. Unlike many of their competitors, Dixie Elixirs began lab testing and labelling their products before they were officially required to, which has made their transition to the retail market relatively smooth.
Cheeba Chews in the making via Cheeba Chews
Cheeba Chews are the zen master of the edibles market, dedicated to crafting chewy, bite-sized chocolate taffies dosed with 70 mg of weed per piece.
Almond Joy bars via Medically Correct
Medically Correct started small with their "Incredibles" line of chocolates, from peanut butter Buddha to the monkey bar, which is filled with bananas and walnuts. They also offer “Top Shelf Extracts” – such as hash oil and Sweetstone candy, made by a THC candy company that features medicated gummy bears under its operational umbrella.
Blueberry pie bar via Mountain Medicine.
This company pumps out pastry counter quality goods, like their High Times Cannabis Cup award-winning blueberry pie bar, and the walnut joy coconut chocolate that serves up a potent 300 mg dosage.
Dispensary budtenders – weed counter clerks – can recommend what tastes and “feels” good for a delicious experience, like proper sommeliers. Colorado tourists are limited to purchase a quarter-ounce at retail stores, but MIP makers and dispensary owners are unclear as to how this will apply to buying edibles in 2014. If you’re standing in a long line at a weed shop in Denver today, you can’t smoke inside the shop, toke in the great outdoors, or vaporise at your local bar. And although no big plumes of the kush will be seen out on the streets in honour of this historical moment, edibles wrapped up in the form of candy bars, soda bottles and puff-pastry are harder to spot from the view of a cop car. Just remember to recycle the wrapper.