In California, a dozen Edible magazines serve the Golden State, each singularly focused on the local, agrarian stories that shape our daily lives. Yet, a huge chapter of that story has gone mostly untold, certainly in this magazine—cannabis. It is cultivated up and down California, tucked under redwood trees, hidden in neighborhoods and rural areas alike, and soon, grown in industrial greenhouses across the valley floor. As 2018 brings unprecedented change to California’s agricultural landscape, stories about the farmers, families, and migrant workers of the cannabis industry will finally be shared. This article focuses the lens on the most fundamental intersection between cannabis and food—edibles. More particularly, those of the sweet kind prepared nearby.
A tricky moniker, the definition of edible is simply fit to be eaten. But more often, when talking about an edible, people refer to food products infused with a liquid, powder, or fat form of cannabis. The chemical compounds contained within the cannabis flowers and leaves are known as cannabinoids, which bind to various receptors in the human body. The most famous cannabinoid, THC, is responsible for creating a powerful psychoactive effect on humans—it’s been getting teenagers (and their parents) high since the 60s. But with cannabis reform sweeping the international community, a proliferation of medical research has revealed much greater detail about cannabis’s potential for healing a range of modern illnesses. Novice cannabis consumers are finding that cannabis strains high in CBD, the second most abundant cannabinoid, are providing serious relief against chronic pain, anxiety, seizures, and immunodeficiency disorders. But many new canna-curious Americans are still finding that smoking is either a serious health risk or social killjoy. Edibles to the rescue —why smoke it, when you can have your cake and eat your cannabis too?
Elkiya Menes believes that nothing is more important than what we put in our bodies. An inquisitive foodie and talented pastry chef, Menes has a passion for gluten-free desserts that use best quality, organic ingredients. Last July, she opened her artisan caramel business, HumYum, in the heart of the Emerald Triangle. Using organic dairy from grass-fed Humboldt Creamery cows, Menes leaned on her classical French training from the Cordon Bleu to perfect her rich and elegant confections. Living in Humboldt County and having a passion for holistic wellness, it was only natural for Menes to add a line of low-dose cannabis caramels.
“I wanted to put something out there that was actually quality,” says Menes. “I didn’t see anything at the dispensaries that was good for your body, or gluten-free.”
Menes knew there had to be a more sophisticated market for people wanting to consume edibles. All the HumYum cannabis caramels are her classic sea salt flavor, allowing the caramels’ complex flavors to linger long after they’ve disappeared. The cannabis line comes in three doses: 1.5 mg THC, 3 mg THC and a 24:1 CBD/THC, in each caramel. Regardless of the dosage, the taste of cannabis is largely undetectable, though Menes’ stylish packages have the dosage information prominently labeled.
“I don’t want my products to make anybody feel bad,” says Menes, explaining that she intentionally keeps THC levels in her caramels appreciably modest.
Menes wants HumYums to be a safe jumping off point for wider audiences who might benefit from medicinal cannabis. In a sample of a 1.5 mg THC candy, the caramels lived up to their medicinal reputation, softening the hard edges of anxiety, without altering one’s headspace. Even HumYum’s 3 mg THC caramels offer a significantly lower dose of medicinal cannabis than most edibles currently offered in California dispensaries. Menes uses CO2 oil rendered from organically farmed, sun-grown cannabis farms in Humboldt County. Currently, only one Bay Area dispensary, 7 Stars in El Cerrito, carries HumYum’s edible caramels, but Menes expects to expand her cannabis line in 2018 as the market for low-dose edibles grows.
After living in Humboldt County for fifteen years, Wendy Baker couldn’t believe how many more edibles were available in dispensaries in the city. Believing that her own cannabis community deserved similar quality and selection, she enrolled in a candy making class. Using an ice water hash method to extract THC, Baker discovered that she loved the science and process behind melting sugar and crafting old-fashioned candies. Her signature product is a cannabis-infused riff on a gum drop, called Space Drops, a corn-free and vegan candy dosed with exactly 13.3 mg of THC. Baker uses organic fruits and vegetables to flavor and color the Space Drops and her second best seller, the Mind Expanding Belt, a sour gummy rope packed with 300 mg of THC.
“I know it’s still candy, but I’m trying to use the highest quality ingredients I possibly can,” says Baker.
Since starting her cottage edible business in 2013, Baker has been flooded with positive feedback from her local community and the dozen plus dispensaries that stock her candies. Customers thank Baker for bringing them safe and reliable pain relief without prescription pain medication. A testimonial on the Space Gems website reads, “As my mom has fibromyalgia, this has been the only edible to make her feel comfortable and let her get a normal night’s rest without pharmaceutical drugs. You have changed my mom’s life!”
As the competition ramps up in 2018, Baker plans on staying true to her passion for old-fashioned candy making and using best quality ingredients for her medicated products. At the time this issue went to print in November of 2017, edible business owners like Baker were still awaiting the release of state regulations that will oversee edible production and sales. In anticipation of the mountain of paperwork that will accompany recreational sales, Baker is staying busy making organic, vegan, corn-free candies, filled with Humboldt grown cannabis and love.
Opening a box of Mellows, from a cannabis-infused marshmallow business in San Francisco, is a culinary exploration and treat. Started by professional chef Stephanie Hua in 2015, Mellows come in a variety of gourmet flavors, such as Strawberry Shortcake, Brown Butter Sage, and Mango with White Chocolate. The stylishly packaged Mellows are a labor of love, with each batch whipped, cut, and decorated by hand. Every Mellow is dosed with 5 mg of THC, such that the colorful candies provide an entry-level treat for the canna-curious.
“We wanted to create a low-dose edible that was pure delight, from the moment you picked up a box, to the first taste, to the mellow feeling imparted,” explains Hua. She created Mellows to offer wider audiences delicious and fun options for experimenting with edibles. Hua’s crayon box of flavors even offers foodies the option to get creative by cooking with Mellows—cannabis s’mores, anyone?
As 2018 approaches, Hua is excited about the growing edible marketplace. Currently, Mellows are available in a handful of Bay Area dispensaries and by delivery, but as the state regulations are revealed, she’s excited about the opportunity to expose new customers to the delight and joy of Mellows.
“With the influx of potential first-timers who are new to edibles, I think the need for a low-dose option will be even more important. We’re here to educate and provide the information and means for people who are canna-curious to dabble, enjoy responsibly, and have a great experience,” adds Hua.
Coming in 2018
The passage of Prop 64 is a culturally historic moment that will permanently transform the agricultural landscape of the Golden State. With legalization of recreational cultivation and sales, cannabis farmers and edible chefs will be regulated for quality and safety with far more scrutiny than any other agricultural industry. Despite the complex requirements for how to produce, package, distribute, and sell a food product that isn’t recognized by the FDA, cottage edible producers are poised to be a growing segment of our food system. Primarily operated by female entrepreneurs, these businesses reveal the creativity and passion behind small batch, artisan producers. While the majority of edibles on the marketplace are still confections or cookies, creators in Northern California are ensuring that their sweets are made with organic ingredients and safe, low-dose levels of cannabis. It’s an exciting time to seek relief or find enjoyment in something new in California’s edible food scene. Sample safely and bon appetit!
- For more information on HumYum’s cannabis caramels, email email@example.com
- To learn more about Wendy Baker’s take on gum drops, visit spacegemcandy.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Visit getmellows.com or email email@example.com for more about her cannabis-infused marshmallows.
Nora Mounce is a freelance writer specializing in telling stories about food, wine, recreation, cannabis and community. When not writing, Nora runs a vacation rental in her Victorian home in Eureka, California. Her perfect day includes a run in the redwoods, antique shopping with friends and making a pot homemade soup for dinner. She believes in working to preserve the beauty of Humboldt County by writing about local farms and food, rivers and redwoods, and strength of the community.