Cannabis, commonly known as marijuana, has a rich history as a source of fiber, food and medicine (Li 437). Since 1785, physicians and scientists alike have worked to discover the active chemical components and medical effectiveness of this plant (Touw 2; Aldrich). Despite its complicated legal history, marijuana has retained a place culturally and, in some countries, scientifically as an effective medical agent. As a medically edible ingredient, cannabis has also been more recently heralded as a new, even cutting edge flavor, opening a new frontier to the culinary community.
After the isolation of the main active ingredient in cannabis, δ-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), in 1964, various physicians and scientists conducted research demonstrating its therapeutic medical efficacy for a variety of illnesses including glaucoma, cancer, AIDS, anorexia, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and pain management (Watson et. al. 548). Over a decade has passed since cannabis first became legalized for medical use in California in 1996 (Eddy 8). Subsequently, 18 other states, including the District of Columbia, legalized cannabis for medical use.
Individuals who have received a doctor’s recommendation for its use are authorized to consume cannabis for medical purposes. Although it is commonly ingested by inhalation, many individuals prefer to consume marijuana through edible products. Due to an increased interest in careful cultivation practices, biochemical evaluation of the product, and quality control efforts, a market for medical edibles has developed. Many chefs have begun experimenting with cannabis, using it as a spice or flavor, to create a sensory food experience. Savvy chefs, such as Scott Van Rixel, Kristi Knoblich, Eric Underwood, Julie Dooley and Julianna Carella entered this new market with both entrepreneurial and altruistic interest in creating medical marijuana edibles, tapping into the new flavor frontier this product provides.
It is interesting that in the culinary world’s constant search for new and exciting flavor discoveries, the medical edibles industry has not received much mainstream interest. Little data has been compiled supporting the potential this ancient plant may bring to cuisine (Watson et. al. 548). Now, due to the application of ancient and experimental techniques, these innovative chefs are blazing the trail for the culinary community.
This paper investigates edible medical marijuana as a viable frontier and niche market from a legal, medical and culinary perspective. It reviews the etymology and the history of cannabis, as well as current legal, medicinal and cultivation guidelines. This is accomplished through an overview of four states’ dispensary policies, as well as the creative culinary accomplishments of representative edible establishments. This study also draws on the results of two surveys: one directed to the edible product developers, dispensers, and vendors, the other survey directed to authorized patients of the dispensaries. The data collected is intended to confirm the emergence of a unique culinary product, its value, increased distribution, and potential for success in this newly developed market.
Wolkowicz, Ariella H., "Edible Marijuana: A New Frontier in the Culinary World" (2012). Honors Theses - Providence Campus. 8.