Getting Baked: A Cannabis Cookbook
April 26, 2000
"Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. ... It is less hazardous than many common foods. ... One must reasonably conclude that there is accepted safety for use of Marijuana under medical supervision."--Francis J. Young, 1988 Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) administrative law judgePowerful words from an unlikely source. Although our lawmakers and the DEA ignored Judge Young's advice to decriminalize pot and allow it to be used medicinally, legalization advocates have apparently taken his words as a rallying cry. No longer content to wait for the cannabis plant to regain legal status, many activists have decided to act like it already is.How else can you explain a book like Tom Flowers' Marijuana Herbal Cookbook: Recipes For Recreation and Health (Flowers Publishing/Rosetta Books, $14.95)? Forget about that "just say no" crap, it's soooo '80s! This is the '90s--The Hemp Decade! Hemp is everywhere and everything. Hemp hats, hemp T-shirts, hemp cheese, hemp lotions ... even hemp sports shoes from Adidas. Along with all the cottage industries sprouting up around the cannabis weed, there's an astounding number of books that take a serious look at marijuana from a political, social or clinical standpoint. But only one, so far, looks at pot from the culinary perspective; the Marijuana Herbal Cookbook is an entertaining, honest and intelligent users' guide to the cannabis kitchen.I Eat CannabisEating food based on hemp is not a new idea. The cannabis plant is, after all, just a wild herb that grows naturally throughout the world. Most everyone is familiar with the classic pot brownie, but the hemp seed and its oil have actually been used as food for centuries. A highly nutritious source of protein, hemp can be prepared in many ways; almost anything you can do with a nut, seed or soybean can be achieved with the hemp seed.The effects of ingesting marijuana depends on what part of the plant you eat: The seeds (which contain no THC--the most powerful active drug agent in marijuana) provide nutrition and do not produce a high, while the drug-laced parts most certainly provide a buzz, as well as many medicinal effects.Along with his 50-odd recipes for herb-fortified desserts, beverages, main dishes and appetizers, Flowers devotes half of the 98-page book to discussions of preparing the plant, the pros and cons of smoking vs. eating pot, detailed dosage information, mixing pot with prepackaged dishes, alternate ways to use it medicinally, and the more than a dozen illnesses that can be treated with pot.Flowers--who uses cannabis to treat his rheumatoid arthritis, works with several medical marijuana patients' rights groups and teaches classes on cooking and making medicines with the herb--stresses caution and responsibility in the preparation and consumption of marijuana throughout the book. He explains that the high you get from eating a properly prepared pot dish may not take effect for more than an hour after ingestion, as opposed to a five- to 10-minute onset from smoking it. Because of this, Flowers advises both the cook and the eater to be well-educated on the potency of the pot used and the exact size of a single serving.Getting BakedNow, for the nitty gritty; after all, you can't very well review a cookbook without trying a few of the recipes, especially when they include intriguing selections such as Space Cake, Going Bananas Bread, Blazed Guacamole, Half-Baked Beans, Holland Daze Sauce, and the all-too-obvious Pot Stickers and Chicken Pot Pie. Fortunately, yours truly had about a half a coffee can of the leafy green stuff just lying around to toss into the, um, pot.Preparation of the leaves offers several opportunities. Most of the recipes call for marijuana flour: leaves sent through a blender or coffee grinder and turned into a fine powder. Many recipes can also be made with marijuana butter, oil or extract. Leaf flour is the easiest to prepare, but the alternatives provide a different flavor and possibly a more potent outcome.I chose to split my stash and try both. Grinding most of it into a flour to try out the banana bread and guacamole recipes, I saved enough to make butter for the Marijuana Butter Frosting (which Flowers sternly warns to "spread on ready-made cakes and muffins. Do not use on any of the psychoactive recipes in this book").I started out with the Blazed Guacamole because of its no-cooking simplicity; what could be easier than mixing an avocado with some garlic, sour cream and leaf flour? Hell, it usually takes me longer to roll a joint. An important ingredient in any marijuana recipe is oil. Some kind of oil or butter is included in every recipe because it does the job of dissolving the plant's capitate glands--which contain the THC--allowing it to mix evenly with the other ingredients. In guacamole, the avocado itself supplies the oil.I made enough for two servings and proceeded to dip my chips. After 45 minutes, I began to feel effects. Unlike smoking pot, which brings the high almost immediately, the slow onset from eating it felt more like a very mild acid trip. At 90 minutes, I felt what Flowers calls the first medicinal effect--appetite stimulation. Beyond that, the effect was quite weak. Then again, Flowers did warn that "it is possible to eat pot and not get high at all, but still get the medicinal effects, which are present even in small doses." Too bad I didn't need any medicine.After two hours, feeling only mild physical effects without the mental fun, I succumbed to the munchies, ate some junk food and went to bed.My next effort was Going Bananas Bread; like the guacamole, the recipe is very straightforward, except for the three tablespoons of herb and the gray-green color of the batter. While the loaf cooked, the house filled with the pleasantly homey scent of baking bread, tinged with a familiar odor that was almost the same as burning pot. It smelled a bit like pesto.The bread had a perfect golden brown crust on the outside, but an odd greenish tint on the inside. The loaf, according to the recipe, provided 16 slices/doses. I ate one slice as soon as it began to cool, but the effect was negligible. I began to wonder if my leaf supply was even weaker than I thought. I hoped that my next recipe, using pot butter instead of flour, would pack a wallop.The next day, alone for the afternoon, I ate two slices of the banana bread and the remaining half serving of the pot guacamole. Two hours later, I still hadn't felt any effects. But as soon as my spouse came home and we began to talk, I realized how baked I was. Interaction felt strange and being so stoned with such a long come-on was a very different feeling than smoking. It was a mellow, happy high and it lasted nearly six hours.My next culinary attempt was Marijuana Butter Frosting. The recipe called for powdered sugar, butter and milk, but I choose to use cream cheese instead of milk to make it thicker. After tasting the frosting, I decided a good helping of cocoa and a touch of cinnamon and vanilla would help a lot. I spread a serving on a graham cracker, munched away and waited.Oh, yeah. Butter, despite the labor involved, was definitely the way to go. Maybe I just ate more than a single dose worth, but the effect from the frosting was noticeably more powerful than the flour-based recipes. It kicked in after an hour and certainly lived up to Flowers' promise of a "long-lasting psychedelic" effect. No hallucinations, but not your average hemp high either. Tasty, too!Ultimately, the recipes in the Marijuana Herbal Cookbook were not created to produce the most flavorful dishes around; they taste pretty much like the recipe would taste without the herb. Rather, Flowers is offering an different way of ingesting and enjoying the effects, medicinal or otherwise, of marijuana. I finished my bowl of frosting over a week's time and gained a great appreciation for this alternative; I highly recommend it.Get RealThere are many who will be shocked by the very existence of a marijuana cookbook, not to mention this review of it. They will cry out how terrible it is that someone can so openly advocate the use of an illegal drug. They will overlook the fact that legal prescription drugs are often dangerous, addictive, cause side effects and kill thousands. They will ignore the expertise and research of countless doctors and scientists and instead place their trust in bureaucrats and politicians, many of whom are bought and paid for by the alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical industries. The government propaganda machine has been lying about cannabis for nearly 60 years, and the ignorance of the American populace runs deep.In defense of the medical user, I say, "Sick people are not criminals." Nobody should be denied any form of relief that they decide to use, legal or not.In defense of the recreational user, I ask, "What's so wrong with getting high?" If the act of willingly altering one's own consciousness is so horribly wrong, then why do we allow alcohol, nicotine and caffeine to be so widely used, not to mention chocolate, television and organized religion?SIDEBAR: The Hemporium"Then God said, 'I give you every herb bearing seed on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food."--Genesis 1:29 The movement to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use, and the cannabis hemp plant (from which the drug marijuana is derived) for industrial uses has had its share of highs and lows over the past 20 years, but currently, it seems to be enjoying its strongest surge yet. Case in point: the dozens of hemp-related products available on the market, despite the legal status of marijuana. Here is a selected guide of products made from hemp plant fibers, seeds or oils, as well as must-own publications for pro-hempsters.PRODUCTSThe Ohio HemperyThe premier hemp-product mail-order catalog. All kinds of clothes, shoes, hats, backpacks, etc., all made from hemp--the most versatile and durable natural fiber in the world. You can also buy twine, fabric, paper and all kinds of skin, hair and health products. Call (800) BUY-HEMP for a free catalog or check it out at http://WWW.Sativa.Com/Hempery.EcolutionHemp jeans and accessories. Call (703) 207-9001 for a free catalog.Inline Hemp CardsTrading cards with glossy color pictures of cannabis plants on one side with tons of facts and hemp-formation on the other. Available at Tower and many comic book and convenience stores.PUBLICATIONSMarijuana ReconsideredThe most thorough evaluation of the benefits and dangers of cannabis from Harvard professor and doctor Lester Grinspoon. Originally published in 1971 and updated in 1977, it reads like a textbook but is an essential reference. (Quick American Archives)The Emperor Wears No Clothes"The authoritative historical record of the cannabis plant, marijuana prohibition, and how hemp can still save the world." This re-legalization bible turned author Jack Herer into the godfather of the hemp movement. (H.E.M.P./Queen of Clubs Publishing)Hemp: Lifeline to the FutureAuthor Chris Conrad (editor of The Emperor Wears No Clothes) follows in Herer's footsteps with this fact-filled hemp study. He covers every pot related subject imaginable in an entertaining, highly readable style. (Creative Xpressions Publications)From Chocolate To MorphineThis book by Dr. Andrew Weil and Winefred Rosen is the most interesting and honest book about drugs around. Written for adults and teenagers, it explains the good and bad, facts and myths about every major mind-altering drug available and devotes an entire chapter to marijuana. (Houghton Mifflin)High TimesAfter 22 years, still the manual for the hemp movement. Unabashedly pro-stoner, the monthly magazine is also becoming more politically active in the effort to legalize.