Denver Any slacker living over his parents’ garage can make pot brownies. Gourmet chefs are taking the art of cooking with marijuana to a higher level.
In Denver, a new medical-marijuana shop called Ganja Gourmet serves cannabis-infused specialties such as pizza, hummus and lasagna. Across town in the Mile-High City, a Caribbean restaurant plans to offer classes on how to make multi-course meals with pot in every dish.
And in Southern California, a low-budget TV show called “Cannabis Planet” has won fans with a cooking segment showing viewers how to use weed in teriyaki chicken, shrimp capellini and steak sandwiches.
The evolution of pot cooking was perhaps inevitable given the explosion of medical marijuana around the country in recent years. Many health-conscious patients would rather eat the drug than smoke it. And they would prefer to eat something other than sugary treats.
“When I started using marijuana, I was eating a brownie every day. I gained a ton of weight,” said Michael DeLao, a former hotel chef who hosts the “Cannabis Planet” cooking segments on Los Angeles’ KJLA. “Then I learned how to really cook with marijuana, and once more people learn about all the possibilities, we’re going to see a lot more people wanting this in their food.”
Ganja Gourmet’s menu includes lasagna (“LaGanja”), “Panama Red Pizza” and an olive tapenade called “ganjanade,” along with sweets such as cheesecake, muffins and brownies. Employees wear tie-dyed T-shirts that proclaim, “Our food is so great, you need a license to eat it!!!”
All patrons at the Ganja Gourmet must show a medical marijuana card that proves they have a doctor’s permission to use pot for some kind of malady. The place opened last week, and so far, 90 percent of its business has been takeout.
The food isn’t cheap. A whole pizza sells for $89, and a dozen sweet treats called Almond Horns cost $120.
“The food is really good,” said Jamie Hillyer, a 41-year-old medical marijuana patient who paid $12 for a serving of vegetable LaGanja. Hillyer said that he can’t taste the weed in the food and that it gives him a “more mellow” buzz than smoking pot.
Chefs are able to use marijuana in cooking because its key ingredient, the mind-altering drug THC, is fat-soluble, meaning it binds with oils or fats.
Marijuana chefs say it takes 20 minutes to two hours for the pot-laced food to produce a high. The biggest problem, they say, is that users often eat too much, thinking the food isn’t working. While you can’t exactly overdose on marijuana food, people who eat too much may feel more sluggish or disoriented than they would like.
So at Ganja Gourmet, customers are allowed to eat only one menu item every 45 minutes.
(The drug takes so long to start working that there’s little chance of a customer developing a case of the munchies and getting hungrier the more he ate.)