GOOD

How Cannabis-Infused Dinner Parties Became The New Normal

“The biggest weed chefs, they only do about one milligram per plate”

Cannabis has a funny way of monopolizing words. Ask anyone who has tried to describe a musty room as “dank” or wanted to cook in a “pot” only to hear stifled giggles. Get your mind out of the bong, Shaggy. Those words have other meanings.


The term “edible” is one of those words. The dictionary says it means “able to be eaten” (and you could make the argument that Edible Arrangements, the fruit bouquet company, tried to claim dibs on the word association), but—more than anything—it has come to mean dank pot cooked into a delightful treat.

“Edibles” is a broad term for food infused with cannabis. And thanks to stoners’ ingenuity, it has expanded far beyond pot brownies. If it’s a food, it’s probably been edible-ized. Every flavor cookie, brownie, bar, or chocolate you can think of probably exists. But those are child’s play. The more advanced tier has cereal, cupcakes, K-cup coffee pods, vegan chocolates, hot sauce, hemp milk, pizza sauce, sour gummies, blueberry pie, granola, chili lime peanuts, savory pretzels, and even edible lube.

But within the expansive world of edibles is also one of the more controversial elements in the fight for legal cannabis. Most people who have experimented with them have some story or another involving a time when they “ate too much.”

But did they really? Dr. J.H. Atkinson, the co-director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, says that the metabolization process actually delivers less tetrahydrocannabanoids (THC, the psychoactive material in cannabis) to the bloodstream than smoking.

“After a drug is swallowed, it is absorbed by the digestive system and is carried through the portal vein into the liver before it reaches the rest of the body,” he says. “The liver metabolizes many drugs, sometimes to such an extent that only a small amount of active drug emerges from the liver to the rest of the circulatory system. In the case of cannabis, oral intake produces peak plasma levels of THC one-fifth or one-sixth than when THC is absorbed after smoking.”

But the amount of THC isn’t always the only factor in measuring its effects, says Dr. Atkinson.

“Even though the oral dose plasma concentration of orally ingested cannabis is lower, psychoactive effects following oral consumption can be more problematic,” he explains. “This is thought to result from the active metabolite of THC, 11-hydroxy THC, which is approximately three times higher in concentration after oral than after smoking. Because concentrations of both THC and 11-OH-THC peak between approximately 2 to 6 hours after oral dosing (and then decline over several days), psychoactive effects following oral administration of cannabis are delayed compared to when cannabis is inhaled.”

Cannabis edible products in a dispensary in Amsterdam

The problem, says Dr. Atkinson, compounds when you consider that people have a hard time titrating, or adjusting, the intoxicating effects of cannabis due to the delayed and variable onset of edibles.

“Consequently, edibles have been tied to the ingestion of excessive amounts of cannabis under the incorrect assumption that the initial dose had not produced the desired effect,” he says. “This is not unlike the situation that occurs with the inadvertent overdosing from opioids. Although methadone accounts for only five percent of opioid prescriptions, it accounts for 40 percent of overdose deaths. A nonmedical user might take repeated doses several minutes apart in an attempt to get high, only to succumb to delayed respiratory depression. It is our hope that the same inadvertent overdosing does not occur with edibles.”

On the bright side, overdosing is almost always benign when it comes to edibles. Usually, a user will be incapacitated for a few hours or have elevated feelings of anxiety. The website Medical Jane even has a “survival guide” for when you’ve eaten more than you can handle, with suggestions ranging from boosting your blood sugar level to staying hydrated. Usually, the site says, the effects will last for a few hours, and then you’ll return to normal. But it’s the exceptions that get the media attention.

In 2015, Food Safety News reported on the deaths of three separate individuals under the influence of cannabis edibles. The ultimate causes of death were varied, via suicide or murder, but all were reported as being linked to the ingestion of edibles in higher quantities than is suggested on packages. A law enacted in 2015 requires Colorado edible manufacturers to break their serving sizes up into 10-milligram (or fewer) dosages.

A "Low Dose" bag of Dr. Norm's contains cookies with 5 milligrams of THC per cookie

Some companies have recently made moves to educate edible users on the difficulty of evaluating dosage. Dr. Norm’s Chocolate Chips, a chef-driven cannabis cookie company based in Los Angeles, offers dogmatic instructions on how to avoid overdoing it. Their tagline is “Know Your Dose” printed in large, bold, green capital letters on their packaging.

Peter Lograsso, co-founder of Green Gold Baking Company, agrees that keeping dosage low for edibles is the way forward, especially for nascent users.

“As it becomes more and more aboveground, people are going to read more about edibles,” he told me in an interview two years ago for a separate publication. “If someone has never eaten an edible before, there should be a product out there that they can take safely. I believe five or 10 milligrams is the maximum dose for somebody for the first time. The reason THC content is too high is because, in California, there’s all these stoners that’ve been getting high since 1996, and they want the strongest chocolate bar possible, because that’s what they’re paying for. What I want to try and change is the acceptability that someone can pay for THC in a manageable amount, and also for something that is healthy, organic, sugar-free, and made with coconut oil.”

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]The stigma is dying down. Moms and grandmas are smoking weed[/quote]

Moving even further away from the stereotype of the pot brownie are weed-infused dinner parties that have started sprouting up in states where cannabis is legalized. Rama Mayo, owner of cannabis marketing company Greet Street—the company who helped launch Dr. Norm’s—says these dinner parties are all anyone in the industry can talk about.

A recent dinner at Green Street I attended for the soft launch of the Dennis Hopper estate’s new cannabis company featured a full menu of regular food, as well as brussels sprouts with “medicated pesto.” I watched with amusement, as some attendees gingerly snacked on a single serving, while others grabbed multiple plates.

Brussels sprouts with medicated pesto

“The dinner party mentality is going to start coming in in a big way,” Mayo says. “We work with celebrity chefs like Chris Sayegh (aka The Herbal Chef) and Miguel Trinidad, who uses cannabis like another herb. The biggest weed chefs, they only do about one milligram per plate. That way, if you eat a whole plate, you’re not completely out of it, even if you’ve never smoked before.”

Mayo has seen edibles become normalized over the past few years, working with the band Sublime with Rome and Colorado-based edible manufacturer Dixie Elixir on the Orange Dynamite chocolate bar. It’s this kind of partnership with pop culture resonance that lifts edibles from being gray area mysteries to trusted products that offer the same kind of reliability that exists in, say, the regular packaged cookie industry.

Sublime with Rome x Dixie Elixir Orange Dynamite

“You have to remember, most of these brands are only about two to four years old,” Mayo says. “Edible brands are maturing like street wear did 10 years ago. It’s fine-tuning. The products are getting so much better, because people are testing. Here in California, no product has to be tested. It’s the equivalent of 7-Eleven just making the food with no info on it all day long. When we launched Dr. Norm’s, we did too many tests, because the people that run it are in the professional industry; they make noninfused cookies that they sell to other retailers, so they trade on their consistency. They spend an extra 75 bucks to test it two or three times. They overtest the batches, because their brand positioning is low-dosage, and they want to make sure they get that right.”

Cannabis edibles are growing up, and fast. The marijuana industry is booming, and edibles accounted for an estimated $3 billion in sales in 2016, according to Fortune.

“Theoretically, we suspect that edibles are chosen for one, health concerns about smoking; two, convenience of use; and three, avoidance of being caught smoking from the telltale aroma,” says Dr. J.H. Atkinson at CMCR.

“The stigma is dying down,” says Rama Mayo at Green Street. “Moms and grandmas are smoking weed. A couple of guys from Apple just came out with the best-looking edible for sure, Défoncé. I predict Chris Sayegh, the Herbal Chef, five years from now will have a show on the Food Network. Edibles are making weed more acceptable.”

Food

This article was produced in partnership with the United Nations to launch the biggest-ever global conversation on the role of cooperation in building the future we want.

When half of the world's population doesn't share the same opportunity or rights as the other half, the whole world suffers. Like a bird whose wings require equal strength to fly, humanity will never soar to its full potential until we achieve gender equality.

That's why the United Nations made one of its Sustainable Development Goals to "Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls." That goal includes providing women and girls equal access to education and health care, as well as addressing gender-based discrimination and violence against women and girls.

While there is still much work to be done, history shows us that we are capable of making big leaps forward on this issue. Check out some of the milestones humanity has already reached on the path to true equality.

Historic Leaps Toward Gender Equality

1848 The Seneca Falls Convention in New York, organized by Elizabeth Lady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, is the first U.S. women's convention to discuss the oppression of women in sociopolitical, economic, and religious life.

1893 New Zealand becomes the first self-governing nation to grant national voting rights to women.

1903 Marie Curie becomes the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. She is also the only woman to win multiple Nobel Prizes, for Physics in 1903 and Chemistry in 1911.

1920 The 19th Amendment is passed in the U.S. giving women the right to vote in all 50 U.S. states.

1973 The U.S. Open becomes the first major sports tournament of its kind to offer equal pay to women, after tennis star Billie Jean King threatened to boycott.

1975 The first World Conference on Women is held in Mexico, where a 10-year World Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women is formed. The first International Women's Day is commemorated by the UN in the same year.

1979 The UN General Assembly adopts the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), also known as the "Women's Bill of Rights." It is the most comprehensive international document protecting the rights of women, and the second most ratified UN human rights treaty after the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

1980 Vigdis Finnbogadottir of Iceland becomes the first woman to be elected head of state in a national election.

1993 The UN General Assembly adopts the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, the first international instrument to explicitly define forms of violence against women and lay out a framework for global action.

2010 The UN General Assembly creates the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) to speed progress on meeting the needs of women and girls around the world.

2018 The UN and European Union join forces on the Spotlight Initiative, a global, multi-year initiative focused on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls.

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As the UN celebrates its 75th anniversary, it is redoubling its commitment to reach all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including gender equality. But it will take action and effort from everyone to ensure that women and girls are free from discrimination and violence. Learn more about what is being done to address gender equality and see how you can get involved here.

And join the global conversation about the role of international cooperation in building the future by taking the UN75 survey here.

Let's make sure we all have a say in the future we want to see.

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