Cannabis foods

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Various cannabis foods on display in Amsterdam

Cannabis foods (including hash brownies and space cakes), more informally known as edibles, 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 of cannabinoids without smoking or vaporizing cannabis 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 edibles, hash, cannabis, weed, space, cosmic, freaky, magic, special, enhanced, medicated, fabricated, buffed, stimulated, stimmed, superskunk, spiked, evolved, fortified, jumped, flight, locker are added to the name of the food that they are prepared with: "hash cakes," "special brownies" etc.

Ingredients and effects

Tetrahydrocannabinol is insoluble in water, but soluble in oil or alcohol.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is generally considered to be the primary active substance in cannabis. Along with other psychoactive cannabinoids, THC is a hydrophobic oil, meaning it is 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 (THCA), into psychoactive THC.

The oil-solubility of cannabis extracts has been known since ancient times, when Sanskrit recipes from India required that the cannabis 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. Adding milk (which contains fat, water, proteins and electrolytes as well as certain sugars) when steeping, however, makes it much more efficient than using plain water, and this technique has been used for thousands of years in India to make the drink bhang.

A cookie containing medical grade cannabis

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. Marijuana produces THCA, an acid with the carboxylic group (COOH) attached. THCA is not very psychoactive. It is only when the carboxyl group is removed that THC becomes psychoactive. When marijuana is smoked, the THC behind the hot spot is vaporized as the hot air from the burn is drawn through the joint or pipe or blunt or chillum to the unburned material. The liquid THC and other cannabinoids have a boiling point of between 180-200 °C (355-392 °F). Before they turn gaseous, the carboxyl group is released from the molecule as carbon dioxide and water vapor at around 106 °C (220 °F). In the cooking of edible psychoactive products, some research indicates heating cannabis to a temperature of 122 °C (251 °F) for 27 minutes to be the optimum method to optimize THC:THCA ratios.

Because oral doses are processed by the liver before entering the bloodstream, oral THC produces high levels of active metabolite 11-OH-THC, while smoked cannabis does not. 11-OH-THC is more potent than THC and crosses the blood–brain barrier more easily.


"Cannaoils" or "marijuana oils" are cooking oil based products that have been infused with cannabinoids. This is accomplished by performing an extraction of certain chemical constituents from the cannabis plant into the oil through various methods. Ground cannabis plant material must be "activated" by the decarboxylation of (−)-trans-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol acid to (−)-trans-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in order to become a psychoactive compound. This activation process can be done before or during the extraction into oil. A recent research study on the decarboxylation of THC performed by heating ground plant material found the highest yield of psychoactive THC to be achieved at 110 C after 110 minutes. Once this chemical conversion has been accomplished, the ground plant material must be solvated in a lipid solvent. Any cooking oil can be used for this. The activated plant material should be mixed with the oil vigorously for 5–10 minutes, and then the oil can be strained depending on preference. Activation and solvation can be accomplished simultaneously by mixing the plant material into pre-heated oil. Using a double boiler is a common method for this extraction technique as it keeps the temperature at a near-constant 100 C. As a general rule, a higher temperature leads to a faster reaction rate and therefore requires less cooking time to be activated; it should be noted however that temperatures above 140 C run the risk of beginning to vaporize compounds out of the mixture and temperatures below 90 C may not lead to significant chemical conversion on a time scale of less than 24 hours. Cannabis cooking oils are available to medical cannabis patients in a variety of organic blends for various cooking applications.


Making cannabutter

"Magical Butter", "Cannabutter", "butterjuana", or "marijuana butter" is a butter-based solution which has been infused with cannabinoids. This is achieved by heating the herbal cannabis or resin along with butter and allowing the cannabinoids to be extracted by the fat. A more complicated process is using a double-boiler, or slow cooker, cheesecloth or tea strainer and funnel. Cooking time varies from 10–15 minutes to 24 hours at 93 °C (199 °F), depending on the amount of cannabis used - .8 grams takes from 15–25 minutes,[citation needed] even though it is better to extend that time a bit more by not exceeding the 100 °C (212 °F) border, or even lowering to 90 °C (194 °F), to 24 hours for 30 grams.


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 Everclear) it becomes what is commonly known as Green Dragon. Creme de Gras (a play on the English "grass", as creme de gras translates literally as "cream of fat") is a flavored liqueur made from cannabis. It can be added to coffee and other beverages.

Hash cookie

A variety of space cakes from Amsterdam
Space cookies advertisement on Don Det, Laos

Hash cookies, also known as space cookies, 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. The high produced by hash products is generally associated with a feeling of lightness, commonly referred to as a "head high". The main benefits to preparing these cookies is that they do not cause the respiratory system harm that smoke does. They can be used in many places where smoking is not convenient, as they can easily be brought to parties, cafés 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.

"Space cakes" is a common name for muffins, brownies, and cookies baked with marijuana, which are very popular in the Netherlands, specifically Amsterdam. It used to sometimes be popular to frost these with psilocybin mushroom frosting, but this practice has since been discontinued when psilocybin mushrooms were banned in 2008.

Cultural influence

Space cake

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 enjoyed 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 The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Skins, Hall Pass, Grounded for Life, ("Henry's Working for the Drug Squad"), Arrested Development ("Afternoon Delight"), Taxi, Laverne & Shirley, Barney Miller, Family Guy, American Dad!, How I Met Your Mother, Desperate Housewives, One Tree Hill, Glee, That 70's Show, Gilmore Girls, The Young And The Restless, Weeds, The L Word, Degrassi: The Next Generation, My Name is Earl, I Love Keith Allen, 90210, Swingtown, The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, Bates Motel 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, Life as We Know It, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Empire Records. The Smiley Face (film) is based entirely on a woman who consumes a large amount of cannabis cupcakes. In popular music, the most memorable lyric from the song The Mambo Craze by downtempo jazz group De-Phazz mentions "Space Cake Break at the Titicaca Lake."

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".

The segue "Die Eier von Satan" (which literally translates to the "eggs of Satan", but "eggs" bear the connotation of testicles in German, like "balls" in English) from the 1996 Tool album Ænima has as its lyrical component a recipe in German that includes the ingredient "a knife-tip of Turkish hashish".