Counting calories

Oakland edibles classes usher marijuana chefs onto a higher plane

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Then and now: the evolution of cannabis edibles
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY CAITLIN DONOHUE

caitlin@sfbg.com

HERBWISE An old factory sits in the outskirts of Oakland. In decades past, this building produced name brand snacks, but the smell of baking still permeates the factory air.

And weed. It smells like weed too. Bhang Chocolate churns out medicinal marijuana sweets here, bars that are smartly packaged in Bhang's sleek black, orange, and green boxes that are a far cry from the plain wax envelopes and saran wrap that most marijuana edibles used to be sold in. The company is part of the current expansion in edible products — these days, patients can buy medicated cheesecakes, and even savory trail mix.

Adjacent to Bhang's factory floor, about ten marijuana edibles producers are listening to a man talk about quality control for weed food. Robert Martin, Ph.D., worked for years in corporate food product development and quality assurance. He tells the class his specialty was frozen foods.

Martin is the co-founder of C.W. Analytical, a business that consults marijuana producers and has cannabis testing facilities. A patient himself, he says that marijuana-medicated foods are technically subject to all the same guidelines for commercially-produced non-pot products, although actual enforcement is sparse. C.W. offers these classes for free to interested entrepreneurs. They teach professional skills and serve as an introduction to the for-sale services the business provides.

The students are being treated to quality assurance fail stories from Martin's career in the corporate world. A sherbet producer he once knew bought a wildly expensive machine to make fudge bars, but when he failed to make the proper tests on his treats, they caused a nasty spate of diarrhea in consumers and he ended up losing his shirt.

"That's the kind of crap that can happen to you guys," cautions Martin, and starts reading from a tongue-in-cheek guide to how you can tell food has gone bad. "Flour is spoiled when it wiggles," he reads. This is quality assurance humor. "I love this stuff!"

One of the day's students Lacey (not her real name) says she learned a lot from the class that she'll be able to implement in her own business, Laced Cakes Bakery. She's been making prettily iced cannabis cookies and brownies since 2007 and has seen the industry requirements shift dramatically.

"Years ago, you could just bring down a tray [to a dispensary] and drop it off," she says. Nowadays, to sell in San Francisco she has to package the sweets in opaque material and make sure that the design can't be interpreted as too appealing to kids. "The laws keep changing."

She had heard about C.W. Analytical at some of the cannabis expos she's been a vendor at — the firm will have a booth at next weekend's West Coast Cannabis Expo as well — and was happy that the class was offered for free. She hadn't finalized her opinion, however, on Martin's suggestion that producers get their foods analyzed by the company so that they can put nutrition labels on their packaging. "It seems like they might just be trying to make money off of us," she mused. 

WEST COAST CANNABIS EXPO

Oct. 7-9. Fri/7, 3-9 p.m.; Sat/8, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun/9 11 a.m.-7 p.m., $18 one day/$45 weekend pass

Cow Palace

Geneva and Santos, Daly City

(650) 591-0420

www.westcoastcannabisexpo.com

 

Comments

It seems to me that publicly disclosing the location of a marijuana baking facility, medical, or not, is a horrible idea. Not only does it put you in the line of fire of dangerous criminal entities, but it also tells the federal authorities - who still categorize any kind of cannabis as illegal - that you are a sophisticated business with big ideas for the future or marijuana.

Despite the positive press this publication gives to mmj, both of these threats, the criminal and the legal, are very real. And, while most would-be perpetrators may not be spending their Sunday mornings sipping tea and reading the guardian, thanks to this article any one of them could get wind of this information and take action. Let me clarify that these kind of people don't care if your dope comes in a bag or baked into a cupcake. If it gets you high or is worth money it is worth stealing. Publishing this article basically draws them a map to where the weed is, and dangling drugs in front of a violent criminal's face can lead to a bad end.

Equally as dangerous is the Federal government's ongoing war on drugs. Ask any criminal defense attorney and they'll tell you that people are still doing jail time for weed - yes, even in California. Prosecutors aren't pushing as hard to dish out big sentences for small offenders, but, Bhang Chocolate, give them a reason to go after an operation as seemingly complex and profitable as you, and I'm sure they will...

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2011 @ 3:42 am

Thanks for your comment. We've deleted the line you're talking about from the article. Per my response to your email:

Your email points out a lot of really good points. I was not informed that there was any sensitive information I was being made privy to at the factory, nor did I scout out the nearest school location to the factory. As a general rule of thumb, when reporting I consider everything on the record unless I'm specifically told that it's not. I RSVP'd to the class in question specifically as a Guardian reporter, so everyone would know what was up.

I'll keep your comments in mind in the future, however. I understand safety is a top priority for all people and not just those that are producing cannabis food.

----

It's certainly complicated working with conflicting sets of laws and with a substance that is deemed a drug by many. We at the Guardian want to be responsible community members, and regret any actions that put people in undue danger. Producers and distributors too, should be clear with members of the press when there is something that needs to be off the record.

Posted by caitlin on Oct. 03, 2011 @ 10:02 am

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