Article by Corey Mintz, The Globe and Mail
Buying and selling marijuana in Canada is currently a very grey market – almost legal but with a shrug emoji attached. Along this legally nebulous frontier, no one has more of an uphill battle than the makers and distributors of edible products.
Caught between the fearful underground economy of yesterday and the optimistic, free-market opportunity of tomorrow, bakers and chefs (and marketers and investors) are currently toiling to develop delicious marijuana-infused foods. Their goal is to do away with the classic pot brownie – that gooey, Cheech and Chong era relic that more often than not fails to mask the flavour of the drug – and build a viable business selling food that makes you high.
Any food business struggles to be noticed in a competitive market and to keep labour and ingredient costs low while growing at a scalable pace. Edible-marijuana entrepreneurs also face some major challenges that most food businesses don’t, such as controlling the dose of the drug they’re administering; working with a product many people don’t like the taste of; and coping with the unpredictability of the law.
These are real cooks in real kitchens, people who know that marijuana is fat-soluble and has to be heated to activate the THC. They’re making bars of caramelized white chocolate with smoked sea salt, or pretzel and marshmallow blondies, and infusing marijuana into poutine gravy and Jamaican patties (both beef and vegan), as well as hot sauce and salad dressing.
And, since this it’s no longer the summer of ’69, they’re putting effort into social media and design.
Take Montreal company EP Infusions, run by a former construction worker turned amateur craft brewer who prefers not to use his name, since the Quebec marijuana business is still more black market than grey.
His bars are made with Belcolade and Cacao Barry chocolate, and come beautifully wrapped in ornate Japanese paper with the batch number written by hand. The initial inspiration was a friend’s challenge to produce something good from some dried, unsellable buds, and he certainly has: The bars have the lustre and snap of properly made confections and come in combinations such as dark chocolate with hazelnut pralines, cookies and cream and white chocolate with matsu matcha tea.
They are also as much about science as style, costing $10 to $20 and offering either 100 or 200 mg of THC, the key psychoactive component of marijuana. That specificity is appealing, since nothing is more important when ingesting edibles than controlling the dosage of cannabinoids.
Imagine being poured a glass of wine, being told it has notes of cherry, leather and oak. But, your host cautions, it has the alcoholic potency of anything from zero to five glasses, all or none of which might hit you for about half an hour. That’s a metaphor for the unpredictability of cooking with marijuana, which is one of its classic problems.