Arts and Entertainment

The Food Connection: Beyond the brownie

Are you ready? The next big thing in food is coming — at least to Washington, anyway. Get ready for the brave new world of marijuana-infused foodstuffs! Now that adult recreational use of marijuana has been legalized in Colorado and Washington (and with more than two dozen other states considering reform legislation) we are witnessing the birth of a new industry. Colorado has been leading the way, and so far we have learned that consumers REALLY want to, well, consume. Marijuana retailers in Colorado have witnessed an incredibly strong demand for marijuana-infused foods since opening to the public in January. They report that many consumers wish to avoid the negative aspects of smoking, while others prefer the slightly different “high” that comes from eating, rather than smoking, marijuana. Denver-based Dixie Elixirs and Edibles (featured recently on 60 Minutes) manufactures a wide variety of foodstuffs and sodas which are sold at marijuana retail outlets. They watched a month’s supply of food products disappear in the first three days of sales in January and have been working around the clock to try to meet the ongoing demand. Their story has been mirrored by dozens of other food producers in that state. But retail stores aren’t the only places that edibles are found. It is not uncommon to find enhanced goodies passed on trays at gallery openings, weddings and parties of all kinds. Catering companies and party planners are even creating non-enhanced menus to pair with marijuana. Jane West of Edible Events in Denver says, “Marijuana is not the new prescription drug, it’s the new wine. It should be paired with meals.” THC, the primary cannabinoid in marijuana, is soluble in fat and alcohol. Most home cooks make their own special butter or oil. Recipes which can be made at home range from appetizers like “enhanced” bacon-wrapped jalapeños, to stir fry and pasta dishes, to soups and stews, to sweets of every kind. Back in the business world, marijuana food companies in Colorado are looking to create proper food safety regulations, which cannot be handled under the traditional (federally funded) system. Companies such as CannLabs have sprung up to meet the demand – employing a team of chemists to test marijuana products to see if they are safe to eat. Owner Genifer Murray is preparing to move to a facility four times the size of the current one. One thing all this business means is jobs. Industry-wide in Colorado, experts are planning for something like 10,000 new jobs. Here in Washington it is likely we will see even more. Nearly 6,000 new businesses are being created in Washington – just like that – and most of them will have more than one employee. A successful food processing company could employ dozens. The enhanced food business could be a big deal here on the peninsula. Our area boasts access to some of the best organically grown fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts available anywhere. The peninsula is already home to experienced, creative, award-winning food producers of all kinds. Our local hard cider businesses are even experienced with helping to create a new industry…did you ever even think about “hard cider” before a few years ago? The marijuana-enhanced food business is on its way and it will be here soon. If we encourage the entrepreneurs who are pioneering this brave new world, we just might help foster a new kind of industry here at home. Eat well and be well! Mark Ozias and Lisa Boulware are owners of The Red Rooster Grocery. Reach them at columnists@sequimgazette.com.

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