Food and Marijuana: Does Legalization Transcend Industries?

Source: ALEJANDRO PAGNI/Getty Images

Source: ALEJANDRO PAGNI/Getty Images

Marijuana and food — for many, a match made in heaven. Now that prohibition is falling in different states and jurisdictions across the country, a whole new industry seems primed to take off within the sphere of traditional restaurants and eateries. But for those hoping to one day venture into eating establishments offering up gourmet pot-infused options, there are still some big hurdles to overcome.

While most people typically think of magic brownies or cookies when they see the words “marijuana” and “food” paired together, the truth is that the newest draftees into the world of pot edibles are taking things further than anyone could have ever imagined just a few years ago. Walk into any legal marijuana shop or medical dispensary, and you’re likely to run into the usual and expected items: baked goods, maybe some candy, perhaps even some chocolate bars. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Pretty much any food item you can imagine is now being infused with marijuana, from sodas and beers to granola and cake-pops. Even pizza is going green.

Although a handful of states have voted to legalize, the concept of mixing marijuana with readily available foods, like in restaurants, has really yet to be addressed. In a recent article from The Huffington Post, it’s explained that a group of people recently paid $250 for a weekend of marijuana-infused food celebrations, only be let down. Colorado’s law prohibits on-site consumption and open and public use, even at private parties held by licensed businesses. As far as Colorado goes, this has been the major hangup that has the marijuana dining industry still sitting on the sidelines.

“There’s so much potential here, and the interest is unbelievable. But right now, everybody’s kind of scared to be doing it,” Chris Lanter, owner and executive chef at Aspen’s tony Cache Cache restaurant, told Huffpost.

While foodies in Colorado appear to be getting the short end of the stick, has marijuana been able to infiltrate the world of food in other states?

Source: FREDERIC J. BROWN/Getty Images

Source: FREDERIC J. BROWN/Getty Images

Washington is so far the only other state that has had time to get its legal market and laws together, and it too has a ban on selling pot-infused food items. “Those business models are incompatible with the regulatory structure of I-502 and will not be licensed,” the Washington State Liquor Control Board writes regarding opening a food truck or marijuana-based restaurant. That hasn’t stopped some entrepreneurs from trying, and even marketing processors to help people construct their own marijuana-based meals.

Despite the laws against it, there are still some companies catering to food-lovers hoping to get a taste of the forbidden fruit marijuana legalization has borne. In the aforementioned Huffington Post piece, there are mentions of a couple companies doing just that — and businesses that operate marijuana-friendly hotels. Some offer samples of different marijuana strains alongside hotel-provided meals, offering guests the next-best thing. And there’s a strong push to move away from the stereotypical-stoner foods, like baked goods or candy, and toward a more high-brow form of marijuana-infused treats.

“You know, it was a lot like this — just a couple hundred people getting together to talk about their love of food. And wine. Or in this case, marijuana,” Marcy DiSalvo, an attendee at chef Lanter’s Aspen restaurant, said. “This is classy. It’s done right. It’s not a bunch of stoners; it’s people with a gourmet approach.”

That’s the approach that may be key in getting the regulations surround the stunted marijuana food industry loosened. Evidently, there is a market for it, and people are interested. Not only that, but that interest is coming from people of all different social statuses and backgrounds, not just those that have traditionally been associated with cannabis use, i.e. lazy, unemployed freeloaders. But getting trained chefs and licensed party companies in places like Aspen on board, perhaps it will have policymakers rethinking the stringent rules that have thus far kept marijuana and food distant from one another.

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