Inside the budding industry of cannabis cuisine

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LONG BEACH, Calif. – Cannabis cuisine has exploded in California over the last six months. Professional chefs and amateur cooks alike are learning about the medicinal benefits of cooking with marijuana and rapidly changing the culinary world.

Medical marijuana is a multi-billion dollar industry that consists of much more than just smoking or selling pot.

Marijuana is being used in everything from lotions to sodas to ice cream, and one of the fastest growing trends involves the kitchen.

Cheri Sicard has been a cook all her life, but only in the last few years she started experimenting with marijuana. She has a cannabis cookbook and teaches private cooking lessons geared around herb.

foodShe has a medical marijuana card for a severe nausea problem, so it’s legal for her to grow it, cook with it and eat it.

“This has so many medical benefits it’s astounding. It will shock people,” said Sicard. “I’ve seen it with myself, I’ve seen it with patients I work with and I’ve seen it with patients I taught to cook and it’s just done miracles.”

The medical community may not be as convinced. Many doctors still don’t recommend marijuana, or if they do, can’t legally prescribe it.

Medical marijuana is legal in California, but it is still illegal on the federal level. Dozens of dispensaries in San Diego have been raided by the Drug Enforcement Agency and U.S Attorney Laura Duffy vows to continue shutting them down.

CANNABIS PICDespite the risks, “edibles” is still an exploding industry and it’s gone way beyond pot brownies.

“Luckily, we can now make any food product infused with marijuana at a level that will be medicinal and that’s the goal,” said Robert Calkin, CEO Cannabis Career Institute.

The Cannabis Career Institute is an organization that helps people gain the knowledge and resources needed to start any business related to pot. He recently held a seminar in San Diego in which a dozen people showed up.

“Most people are intimidated by the idea of smoking marijuana, especially the elderly. They think that’s the only delivery system or way to use marijuana is to smoke it,” Calkin said.

Sicard said elderly people are one of the largest segment of edible cannabis users. Most either cook with it or have meals prepared for them using marijuana.

Eating marijuana instead of smoking it gives users a longer, more relaxed “high,” according to Sicard. It takes longer to for the patient to feel the effects, which is why dosing is so important.

Advocates acknowledge eating too much marijuana is one of the fastest way to get sick.

According to Sicard, the easiest way to cook with marijuana is by infusing either butter or oil. For oil, Sicard soaks the leaves of the marijuana in regular olive oil and water, then cooks it in a slow cooker for several hours. The goal is to release the drug’s THC, the chemical responsible for the psycho active properties.

The marijuana must be heated to at least 325 degrees to release the THC.

“You can eat or juice marijuana raw and it has amazing health benefits and you won’t get high. In the next few years, juicing marijuana will be the next ‘wheat grass,’” Calkin said.

Advocates for medical marijuana anticipate California will legalize it by 2016, similar to laws passed in Colorado and Washington.

Until then, chefs like Sicard said they will continue creating cannabis cuisine cookbooks, cooking for patients and hosting cooking lessons.

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