San Francisco's foodies are bringing new tastes and sensibilities to eating marijuana
He said the main difference between eating and smoking marijuana is duration and onset. Smoking it brings on the high within minutes and it usually last for less than two hours, whereas eating it takes about 45 minutes for the effects to kick in, but they can then last for six to eight hours.
"There are different forms for different symptoms," he said, noting that edibles are perfect for someone with insomnia or other symptoms that disturb normal sleep patterns, while someone who needs marijuana in the morning can smoke or vaporize it and have the effects mostly gone by the time they go to work.
"When you eat it, it goes through your limbic system, so it hits your brain differently," said Jay of Auntie Dolores, saying that she and many others prefer the subtle differences in the high they get from eating cannabis. Others who prefer edibles are those looking to just take the edge off without being too stoned. "A lot of the people who like the edibles are moms. They don't want to smell like pot or be too high," Mrs. Hippo said.
She noted that her chocolates are not as strong as many of the edibles out there, with each candy bar containing two doses. "It's a personal preference for how I want the bars to taste," she said, although she has been working on making a stronger version as well, which many dispensaries and their customers prefer.
But Mr. and Mrs. Hippo say they think taste is becoming as important as strength, calling it an emerging area of the market. "I have a dream that there could be just an edibles dispensary," Mr. Hippo said, envisioning a pot club with the look and feel of a high-end bakery.
For now, demand for edibles is still driven by "potency and packaging," says SPARC founder Erich Pearson. "I think people eat food to eat food and enjoy. They don't eat to get high." Yet as long as they're getting high in this competitive marijuana marketplace, the edibles makers have been making better and better tasting products.
Jade Miller makes 12 flavors of cannabis-infused drinks under the Sweet Relief label, with spiced apple cider being her top seller. She draws other training at New York City's Institute for Culinary Education to make some of the best-tasting drinks on the market.
"I got into it because I needed alternative pain relief when I had whooping cough and a torn shoulder muscle," Miller told us.
She was injured while on a cooking job with Whole Foods Catering in September 2006. She hated the opiates that she was prescribed for her shoulder pain, preferring marijuana. But when she contracted whooping cough, she couldn't smoke pot anymore without painful coughing, so she got into making edibles.
At the time, many of the pot-laced foods out there weren't very good or professionally made. "Some edibles were inedible," she said. "I became a one-woman campaign against brownies."
With a background in homeopathy and appreciation for marijuana, Jay started making edibles 10 years ago, informally helping two aunts battling cancer. But in the last couple of years she's honed her recipes, improved her packaging, and transformed her Auntie Dolores snacks into some of the best on the market, available in several local dispensaries, such as Medithrive, SPARC, Bernal Heights Dispensary, and Shambhala.
"I just knew I could make stronger and better-tasting stuff," she said. "The demand from the patients is really high for great products."
Horror stories abound about users who overdosed on edibles and ended up being incapacitated all day or night, but that's mostly been a problem of dosage, which modern technology has helped overcome. Choco-Potamus and other makers routinely send their batches to a lab for testing.