High & Healthy

With the nation’s leading raw-foods chef soon to debut a new line of marijuana-infused edibles, and with dispensaries nationwide starting to provide healthier alternatives to the pot brownie, there’s never been a better time to investigate cannabis as part of your highly balanced diet.

By Elise McDonough

Originally published in High Times' Medical Marijuana #11, Fall 2012

Hailed by the New York Times as “America’s #1 premier raw living chef,” Juliano Brotman is very passionate about healthy living, including eating a diet of exclusively organic, plant-based vegan foods, practicing yoga regularly, and vaporizing Humboldt County’s finest outdoor organic-cannabis flowers.

pressphoto2A true pioneer who helped to popularize the concept of raw cuisine worldwide, Brotman first learned the culinary arts from his father (also a chef), but soon rejected the idea of cooking and eating meat in favor of developing new “raw” recipes by manipulating ingredients with a variety of techniques like dehydrating, soaking and blending to create dishes bursting with fresh, bold flavors. Brotman shares the results with the public at Planet Raw, his restaurant in Santa Monica, CA—one of the most venerable institutions on the raw-foods scene. And soon, state-legal medical-marijuana patients will be able to purchase cannabis-infused versions of his most popular desserts through a partnership with the Union Collective in Los Angeles. Raw cheesecakes, chocolate truffles, Irish moss parfait, and even unique drinks like medicated kombucha tea and coconut water will all be available.

 “This new business is important to me because, as a connoisseur, I like being able to choose edibles made with great outdoor organic cannabis—and I also believe there’s no reason to cook all the other ingredients,” Brotman says.

When preparing raw cuisine, ingredients must be kept below 115ºF at all times, preserving the nutrients and beneficial enzymes destroyed at higher temperatures.     
“We want the greatest healing potential possible for our patients,” says a Union Collective staff member. “A lot of the edibles that are out there, with all the refined sugar—it’s just like candy with a high. The pairing of cannabis with raw foods gives a certain nutritional boost, which is its own kind of high, along with the medicine.”
Even as the cannabis-edibles industry in legal medical-marijuana states continues to grow in size and professionalism, it remains perplexing to find so few healthy choices on the shelves of dispensaries, which overwhelmingly traffic in refined white sugar—a truly addictive and harmful substance (unlike pot). Besides contributing to our national epidemic of obesity and diabetes, sugar feeds cancerous cells and nourishes a host of diseases.

“White sugar is the last thing you want to eat when you’re trying to beat cancer,” says Naomi Weiner, proprietor of the Inner High Co-op in Santa Cruz. “I was just in a dispensary the other day, and I saw big, huge bricks of sugary Rice Krispies treats. I hope patients would know better than to consume that—it’s not a judgment, it’s more of a concern. When I had my health scare with cancer years ago, the first thing I was told by a nutritionist was not to consume sugars—especially processed white sugar.”

Determined to provide an alternative, Naomi has been offering cannabis-infused treats made with superfoods like maca, yacón root and Peruvian lúcuma powder—an organic, low-glycemic sweetener—since 2010 through her delivery service. Her most popular product is the Peppermint Pammy, a raw, vegan chocolate bon-bon with an “invigorating, minty filling of coconut and creamed cashew.”

The good news is that, as more and more patients become educated about the effects of diet on their health, the demand for better alternatives has been growing, making room for niche producers. Even the more traditional medical-marijuana edibles-makers have started adapting by adding new product lines.

Julianna Carella, founder of Auntie Dolores, a San Francisco–based bakery, still sells a lot of her popular brownies and cookies, but she’s also added vegan, sugar-free and gluten-free items. “We have a lot of cancer patients using our products, and they don’t want sugar, so they go for the sugar-free options, which are savory pretzels, chili-lime peanuts and Italian cheese crackers.”

A NorCal native with training in homeopathy, Julianna has adopted a “small bite, large taste” philosophy in order to avoid having her customers ingest large portions of sweets just to feel the medicinal effects. “We figured out how to make our extract so strong that you only need a little bit to make that product very potent, enabling smaller portion sizes.”

Appealing to patients with dietary restrictions was also the motivation for Dixie Elixirs and Edibles, one of Colorado’s leading medical-marijuana edibles companies, to develop their Dixie Chills line of vegan, lactose-free and gluten-free medicated ice creams. “We design the products to serve the greatest amount of patients that we can,” says Tripp Keber, managing director for Dixie. “When we designate a product as a medicine, we want to assure that the largest number of patients can get access to it.”

Medical-cannabis patients without access to a dispensary, or in search of their own ideal edible, can easily make their own cannabis-infused foods at home. The Official High Times Cannabis Cookbook includes a wide variety of healthy options, and most standard cookbook recipes can be adapted for edibles as well. So now there are no more excuses: It’s time to cut back on sugar, fats and other unhealthy ingredients, and start seeking out food that will nourish your health and support the healing power that cannabis provides.