High-End Eats: The Future of Marijuana Edibles in D.C.
In most states where marijuana is even somewhat legal, edible ways to ingest it run the gourmet gamut: cupcakes, pizza, baklava, fruit punch, ice cream, beef jerky—even wedding cakes.
But if you want edibles (legally) in D.C.? You’re out of luck—for now. The city’s medical marijuana business is too new, with too few patients, for pot producers to justify expanding their product lines and building out expensive kitchens. Pot brownies, it turns out, are a second-tier priority.
Only cultivation centers (the places where they grow the stuff) can be licensed to produce edibles. And like every restaurant or food retail space in the city, they must have Department of Health–regulated kitchens. So far, only three of the six licensed cultivation centers are up and running, and none of them has the health department’s stamp of approval for food production yet.
But none of them has a kitchen yet, either. That’s because even with the proper kitchens, it’s not yet economically viable for cultivation centers to make all the different products that they would need to satisfy lots of different people, especially with such a small patient base. (About 60 people are legally approved in D.C.) On top of the fact that medical marijuana users might be ingesting different strands to deal with different problems, there are lots of dietary restrictions, allergies, and taste preferences to take into account. “Some people think it’s a good idea to eat five brownies a day…other people would be horrified with that and want it infused in hummus or pasta sauce,” says Takoma Wellness Center founder Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn.
Capital City Cultivation, which is connected to Capital City Care dispensary, plans to build a kitchen that will produce edibles eventually, but that’s a far-off goal at this point. Spokesman Scott Morgan says it’s too soon to know when edibles may become available or what the offerings may include.
District Growers owner Corey Barnette says his cultivation center plans to build out a small kitchen—outfitted with ovens, freezer space, and possibly even some fryers—in the next three to six months, assuming demand for medical pot continues to rise. The offerings will likely start with butters that people can use to prepare their own food and expand to include products ranging from beverages to sprays that could be used to dress a salad. Rather than the obvious baked goods, Barnette says District Growers would prefer to produce small portable chocolates that patients could use to medicate while they’re out at the doctor’s office or a treatment center. “It’s hard to carry a brownie around all day,” he says.
Barnette previously operated a dispensary in San Diego, and many of the recipes will come from there. He didn’t want to get into specifics of the products because he hopes to be the first-to-market in some food categories.
Barnette adds that District Growers doesn’t want to produce any edibles that kids might be attracted to if they saw the products around the home of a marijuana patient. The packaging will be geared toward adults. “We plan to get completely away from cannabis leaves, Rastafarian coloring, and stuff like that,” Barnette says. “Because this is medicine, we intend to promote it as such. It’s not our desire to create a new Coke.”
Until D.C.’s marijuana growers also put on the chef’s hat, local dispensaries are doing their best to help the home cook.
“Almost everybody that we’ve been speaking to is really interested in other-than-smoking forms of ingestion,” says Kahn, who has about a dozen patients. “A lot of people aren’t excited about smoking medicine.” Eating pot also offers a long-lasting effect for patients who need pain relief throughout the day.
Capital City Care keeps a marijuana cookbook on the coffee table in its reception area, and Takoma Wellness Center has a collection of about a dozen books. (Kahn says Baked Italian: Over 50 Mediterranean Marijuana Meals is one of the most popular so far.) The dispensary also sell an appliance called Magical Butter that infuses butters and oils with herbs. Kahn says he plans to team up with the company behind the device for a demonstration.
“In D.C., we don’t have home cultivation. You can’t grow your own marijuana,” Kahn says. “But we do have home kitchens.”