It smells like cannabis in Julie Dooley's northeast Denver commercial kitchen. It's not the pungent Cheech and Chong odor though. It's slightly aromatic and not at all unpleasant.
Dooley is the owner and co-creator of Julie & Kate Baked Goods. Her company makes gluten-free, cannabis-infused edibles like granola and sunflower and pumpkin-seed mix. She sells those products, along with her cannabis-infused butter — commonly called cannabutter — wholesale to medical-marijuana dispensaries.
Marijuana-infused edibles might be easy for a devoted foodie to dismiss — if you think wayward teens and pot brownies — but cooking with cannabis is, in its own way, a high art.
In 2012, the passage of Amendment 64 legalized limited recreational marijuana sales and possession in Colorado. The state is still developing regulations for the industry, but early next year it may be possible for a home cook (age 21 or older) to buy cannabutter or oil from a recreational marijuana store — an availability that might make for some very curious Colorado cocktail parties.
"Sugar trim." "Tetrahydrocannabinol." "Decarboxylation."
It's time to talk elevated cuisine.
Edibles can be made by partially substituting cannabis-infused butter or oil for regular products.
For Dooley, cannabis is a medicine, so monitoring dosage and quality is imperative.
"I believe that everything you put in your body really matters," said Dooley. "Lab testing products is critical to ensure a positive experience."
Her cannabutter, which sells for around $25-$30 retail per 1.5 ounce jar, is lab-tested to determine THC content — the psychoactive cannabinoid that gets people high.
Genifer Murray , CEO at CannLabs, a cannabis-product testing lab, said active THC in edibles sold retail will likely be capped at 100 milligrams in Colorado — and that's a good thing, according to her.
"It stops you and makes you think about what you're doing," she said.
The limit would help retail consumers measure their intake. Murray said people should use only edibles that have been tested. Edibles will have to be labeled with accurate THC numbers if regulations proposed by the Amendment 64 Task Force are adopted.
Dooley said making cannabutter is a "very, very easy and earthy process." You can make cannabutter or oil at home if you grow your own plants, but it's time-consuming, and without lab tests, the final product's THC content is a mystery.
Cannabutter or oil is usually made from "sugar trim" leaves, which are high in THC and grow just below the larger leaves on a marijuana plant.
Dooley brews her sugar trim with clarified butter for up to 24 hours. She said keeping the brew between 280 and 325 degrees for that duration gives her cannabutter the optimum THC content. Right now, Dooley doesn't have plans to sell her cannabutter at the 100-milligram level. Instead, it'll be available to medical-marijuana patients at the 200-milligram level.
Photos: Cooking and baking with marijuana
Butter tastes better
Mike Brodeur, manager at Ganja Gourmet, a medical-marijuana dispensary and edible store (1810 S. Broadway, Denver), said edibles offer a viable alternative to smoking cannabis, which isn't the best way to relieve pain, according to him. Smoking gets patients high from the shoulders up, but edibles work for the entire body and provide a more intense, longer-lasting high, he says.
"Smoking does nothing for pain," he said. "Edibles actually work for the real patient."
Using cannabutter, Brodeur said, makes edibles tastier than those made with oil. He said ghee, a clarified butter used in Indian cooking, is becoming popular in the market. Its nutty flavor helps mask the cannabis taste.
Brodeur said the tastiest edibles are usually made with butter, but "Ninety percent of the edibles sold through dispensaries in Colorado are made with oil."
Be warned that effects can take a few hours to appear. If you think you need another cookie or slice of bread — hurry up and wait.
Dooley is a firm believer in edibles' benefits. "We believe passionately that this can help people," she said.
Matt Phillips: twitter.com/mrphill25
Canna-Infused (or not) Zucchini Bread
Julie Dooley's recipe for gluten-free quick bread can be made with or without cannabutter. Those with medical marijuana licenses can purchase cannabutter at a dispensary. Other cooks can either make cannabutter at home legally or wait until it's available in retail stores. If you just want to make this bread without cannabis, use 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter total. Makes one 9-by-5-inch loaf, about 12 servings.
2 cups shredded zucchini
½ cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons cannabutter (If using Julie & Kate Baked Goods concentrated cannabutter, that would be approximately 200 milligrams activated THC)
5 tablespoons butter
1¼ cup gluten-free flour or blend of your choice
1½ teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon xanthan gum (Omit if gluten-free flour blend contains xanthan gum, which is a binding and thickening agent available at many grocery stores.)
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Optional: Add nuts of your choice
Heat oven to 325 degrees. (Maximum oven temperature for baking with cannabutter is 350 degrees, to preserve THC levels, says Dooley.)
Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.
Combine all wet ingredients in a bowl; set aside. Combine all dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients. Fold in nuts if using. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake for approximately one hour or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool before cutting.
NOTES: Divide portions according to how many milligrams of THC were used in the entire batch. The above recipe yields 12 servings with approximately 17 milligrams THC per serving. Total amount of butter is ½ cup (8 tablespoons). Cannabutter that isn't lab-tested may be more or less potent than specified in this recipe, so adjust accordingly.Keep away from pets!