Cannabis as Produce: Cooking, Healing and Wellness with Robyn Lawrence

It’s no secret that cannabis has been a central part of societies around the globe for thousands of years, only driven underground by more than 80 years of Prohibition-era policy in the United States and many other countries abroad. While our leaders in Washington debate the plant’s future, there is no denying that patients from coast to coast are finding relief now. Proponents like natural health and lifestyle expert Robyn Lawrence are pushing to bring this medicinal side of cannabis to the mainstream.

On this episode of Agrify’s The Future of Growth podcast, Chief Science Officer David Kessler discussed the benefits of edibles with Lawrence, who has written a pair of best selling books on the subject. In addition to her book writing credits, Lawrence has remained active in the push for normalizing medical cannabis consumption by hosting catered events and media workshops centered around the plant.

Along with a drive to make cannabis edibles a part of the general health and wellness conversation, Kessler and Lawrence chat about the importance of understanding biochemistry when it comes to safely consuming edibles and the growing food movement in a post-pandemic world.

Lifting the veil on edibles recipes

Cooking with cannabis has gone gourmet, spawning countless cookbooks and even a television show or two in recent years. Yet there was a time where cannabis-infused recipes were considered an insider secret, of sorts. Lawrence remembers a time in the early 2000s where the only place to find cannabis-infused recipes was online.

“At that time on the forums, it was dudes who... knew a lot about growing, [but] nothing about cooking,” Lawrence said. “They would kind of put a lot of sometimes really scary opinions about what could happen if you cook the cannabis and did it wrong. How you could send people to the emergency room and all these terrible things.”

After seeing the state of discourse around the idea of cooking with cannabis, Lawrence said she “knew that I needed to write my own book.” While there had already been cannabis cookbooks in the past, and figures like Brownie Mary made edibles famous, Lawrence said her book became a collaborative effort after she called upon the expertise of actual chefs in states with legal cannabis programs to make her recipes stand out.

And while she admits that she expected a number of those chefs to keep their cannabis recipes secret, what she found instead was a community of professionals willing to help other people find comfort from culinary cannabis.

“I would say almost every single one of [the chefs] had either cured themselves or cured someone they love with cannabis in Canada. It was really important to them to...[show] how they do it,” she said. “I've written five books now, and this one is always going to be my favorite because writing is a pretty solitary pursuit, but this one was community.”

Biochemistry matters when it comes to edibles safety

Lawrence shared on the podcast that she pays particular attention to the highly individualized effect edibles can have on a person. Depending on a person’s digestive system, for example, certain recipes can have little to no effect, while others can be particularly potent. In some instances, a person could never feel an effect from consuming edibles at all.

“My favorite analogy I've ever heard is it's a lot like listening to music,” Kessler said. “We can both hear the same concerto from Mozart. It'll touch us differently. We'll experience it differently, even though we're listening to the same exact piece of music.”

Not only do both Kessler and Lawrence emphasize the importance of “start low and go slow” as a general safety tip, they also point out that everyone’s tolerance level is different. That’s why it’s important, Lawrence said, for the host to keep an eye out for other people consuming edibles, especially those new to them.

“I like to guide people and keep an eye on them because we are here to take care of them...but also let them be a little bit in charge of their own destiny,” she said. “There may be someone at one end of the table who has never done this before and 10 milligrams for the whole meal is going to be just fine for them. Then there could be someone like me who would need 100 milligrams.”

As for the recipes themselves, there’s more to it than just the brownies, gummies, or other sweet confectioneries. Lawrence, who has hosted plenty of her own cannabis-infused dinner parties, likes to explore unique savory options.

“If we're doing a porterhouse with chimichurri, the chimichurri will be infused, but not the porterhouse itself, and I will always offer a-non infused chimichurri as well,” she said. “And that’s the thing. You don’t want someone to say ‘wow, that’s an amazing chimichurri’ and then pile it on.”

The growing “food movement”

Non-GMO. Farm to Table. Organic. There are many movements in food that have gone from fringe topics to the mainstream. And while the cannabis-infusion train is still waiting to leave the station, proponents like Lawrence think it’s only a matter of time for edibles to have their “food moment,” but only after some further refinement.

“There’s not as much [growth] as I wish I would have seen… at least as far as offering people diversity and choice,” she said. “It's still [mostly] sugar.”

For the uninitiated, most of the conversation around edibles lands somewhere in the realm of sweet treats. That kind of one-dimensional thinking limits the conversation, Lawrence said, since “it's like trying to go find dinner at a 7-11... there’s just no sustenance.”

Though there’s no real consistent cannabis food movement at the moment other than what chefs across the U.S. are pursuing, Kessler said more consumers are beginning to realize the importance of safety and consistency. One way we can get to that level of consistency, he said, was by regulating cannabis at the national level.

“A regulated cannabis market is a good thing. It's going to ensure uniformity and safety. But to that end, I really think that there is a move from the consumer side that their products need to be more consistent,” Kessler said. “When you go and you buy some Blue Dream flower... and you enjoy cooking with it, you're going to cook with it again. And it'll give you that same experience, that same chemical profile.”

Sadly, Lawrence said, the cannabis industry isn’t producing repeatably consistent flower. Without the ability to rely on a cannabis cultivar at the same level of strength, she said other ways to boost the cannabis in your cooking is by “letting it shine through.”

“I want people to know they're eating cannabis,” she said. “You need to be reminded with each bite that this is cannabis food.”

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