Cannabis foods (including pot brownies and space cakes) are food products made with cannabis in herbal or resin form as an ingredient. They are consumed as an alternate delivery means to experience the effects and benefits of cannabinoids without smoking marijuana or hashish. Instead, the cannabinoids are put into cake, cookie, brownie, or other foods, and are consumed for recreational or medicinal purposes.
There are many different names and slang terms for the recipes. Prefixes such as hash, cannabis, weed, space, cosmic, magic, special, enhanced, medicated are added to the name of the food that they are prepared with: "hash cakes," "special brownies" etc.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active substance in cannabis, and other cannabinoids are hydrophobic oils, which are insoluble in water but soluble in lipids (oil/fat) and alcohol. Using either one of these to extract THC from cannabis is required to have the cooked product be psychoactive. During preparation the cannabis or its extract must be heated sufficiently or dehydrated to cause decarboxylation of its most abundant cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, into psychoactive THC.
The oil-solubility of cannabis extracts has been known since ancient times, when Sanskrit recipes from India required that the cannabis (ganja) be sautéed in ghee before mixing it with other ingredients. Making a tea by boiling cannabis in water is a highly inefficient way to extract cannabinoids, although if the cannabis is of good quality and has plenty of resin on the outside, a portion of resin can be softened by the heat and float out into the water.
Some authors claim that oral consumption of cannabis, when properly cooked, is a more efficient way to absorb cannabinoids than smoking it. Oral consumption of cannabinoids can result in a similar psychoactive effect or "high" as smoking marijuana, although it may be delayed or mitigated due to slower absorption of the THC from the digestive tract. Whereas the effects from smoking cannabis are usually felt within a few minutes, it can take up to two hours to reach full effects after ingesting it.
Medical cannabis users report finding many reliefs from food-based cannabis medicines. Many companies in California produce these medicines for cannabis dispensing collectives throughout the state. Compassion Medicinal Edibles, formerly known as Tainted Inc. were one of the state's largest producers of non-smoked cannabis edibles until the Drug Enforcement Agents shut down their operation in September of 2007.
"Cannaoils" or "marijuana oils" are cooking oil based products that have been infused with cannabinoids. This is accomplished by performing a cannabis extraction into the oils through various methods. Cannabis cooking oils are available to Medical Marijuana patients in a variety of organic blends for various cooking applications. The extraction process can be as easy as using a frying pan or pot, double-boiler, or a slow cooker. Cannaoils can be used in any recipe that calls for oil and that does not go above the temperature at which THC becomes soluble in the oil solution, which is approximately 210-215 degrees Celsius (410-420 degrees Fahrenheit).
"Cannabutter" or "marijuana butter" is a butter-based solution which has been infused with cannabinoids. This is achieved by heating the raw cannabis along with butter and allowing the cannabinoids to be extracted by the fat. The equipment necessary for the manufacture of cannabutter can be as simple as a sauce pan and spatula or as complicated as a double-boiler, or slow cooker, cheese cloth or tea strainer and funnel.
Because cannabis resins are soluble in alcohol, an effective way of adding them into dishes is through cooking brandy or rum infused with cannabinoids. Generally, stems and leaves of the marijuana plant are used due to their lower THC content when smoked. When infused in high-proof grain-based alcohol (such as vodka) it becomes what is commonly known as Green Dragon. Creme de Gras is a flavored liqueur made from cannabis. It can be added to coffee and other beverages.
Hash cookies, also known as space cookies, are relatively common in regions with liberal drug policies, including parts of Europe (particularly the Netherlands). They are bakery products made using one of the forms of cannabis, including hashish.
Hash cookies are essentially the same as marijuana cookies but are more potent. They can be seen in cake, ball, and brownie form as well. To make them, large amounts of hash (typically half a gram to as much as a gram a cookie) are baked into the product in careful steps, so that the user is able to achieve a high without smoking. Some users report that the high is different from smoking, it is usually more powerful and much longer lasting but more subtle. The high produced by hash products is generally associated with a feeling of lightness, commonly referred to as a "body high". The main benefits to preparing these cookies is that they do not cause the respiratory system harm that smoke does and can be used in many places where smoking is not convenient, as they can easily be brought to parties, cafes etc. One is not usually able to tell the difference between regular baked goods and those containing drugs before consumption, but they tend to have a slight greenish tinge with marijuana, and they often emit a faint odor. A mild flavor can be detectable if sufficient quantities are used. Many resources for recipes, preparation, and dosage are available online, though they vary greatly in effectiveness and quality.
The writer Alice B. Toklas's inclusion of her friend Brion Gysin's recipe for "Haschich Fudge" in her 1954 literary memoir The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook caused a sensation at the time, and led to her name becoming associated with cannabis food with the use of the phrase "Alice B. Toklas brownies" for many years afterwards. (A common eggcorn of the term is as "toke-less brownies".)
The brownie was used in the 1968 film I Love You, Alice B. Toklas, in which a character portrayed by Peter Sellers becomes disillusioned with his mainstream life after falling in love with a free spirit, only to become just as disillusioned with the hippie subculture. Marijuana-spiked brownies are a key plot element.
The brownie also plays a major role on That '70s Show, where the gang of kids enjoy them as snacks and as a source of getting high. Especially in the episode "Garage Sale", where Red (Kurtwood Smith) eats all of Hyde's (Danny Masterson) "special brownies" and sells his son Eric's (Topher Grace) car while under the influence.
It has been featured as a plot device in numerous TV shows, including Grounded for Life, ("Henry's Working for the Drug Squad"), Arrested Development ("Afternoon Delight"),Taxi, Laverne and Shirley, Barney Miller, Family Guy, American Dad, Desperate Housewives, One Tree Hill (TV Series), "Gilmore Girls", The Young And The Restless, Weeds, The L Word, My Name is Earl, 90210, Swingtown, The Big Bang Theory and Frasier ("High Holidays"), as well as in movies such as "Love and Other Disasters", Eurotrip, Next Friday, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, Never Been Kissed, Adventureland, Grandma's Boy, Can't Hardly Wait, and Empire Records. The film "Smiley Face" is based entirely on a woman who consumes a large amount of cannabis cupcakes.
Stand-up comedian Bill Bailey performs a riff in his Part Troll live show in which he asks members of the audience for suggestions for foods to place cannabis in. They include shepherd's pie, beef stroganoff and "just toast".