"Ancient people almost exclusively ate their cannabis, saving seeds for food, and using the resinous flowers for medicinal, recreational, and spiritual use," the introduction to the new The Official High Times Cannabis Cookbook tells us in its fascinating introduction to humanity's long history of eating marijuana.
"One of the oldest recipes for cannabis-infused substance comes to us from India. Called bhang, this legendary cocktail of cannabis, milk, almonds, and garam masala adds a potent punch to a Hindu religious festival called Holi, celebrated each spring in honor of the cannabis-loving deity."
Just as many people are rediscovering the simple pleasures of eating local foods in seasons, High Times wants to educate Americans on the extensive and almost exclusively legal history of edible cannabis.
Smoking cannabis -- or pot, or weed, or bud, or whatever you choose to call it -- didn't even become popular until the early 20th century with the advent of jazz. In fact, edible cannabis was listed in the United States Pharmacopeia from 1850 until 1942 although pot itself had been made illegal by the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.
Cannabis remains mostly illegal to this day, despite the fact that it is wholly impossible to either overdose on or become physically addicted to marijuana. By comparison, alcohol -- long an accepted "drug of choice" in America -- is the only controlled substance whose withdrawal symptoms can lead to death.
The health benefits of ingesting your pot instead of smoking it are plentiful, especially for those people with medical conditions who require marijuana the most and for whom smoking is generally a poor idea. In addition, ingesting marijuana allows its cannabinoids -- the active chemicals in cannabis that cause drug-like effects throughout the body -- to have more powerful and long-lasting effects.
Two types of cannabinoids have been FDA approved to treat chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting, allowing cancer patients to keep their strength and appetite throughout the painful treatments. The National Cancer Institute provides links to studies in which cannabis has been proven to alleviate pain and anxiety in cancer patients, allowing them to heal more rapidly.
With the passage of California's historic Proposition 215 in 1996, greater numbers of people -- both patients and their caregivers -- have been able to learn firsthand how beneficial marijuana can be for cancer patients as well as those suffering from glaucoma, Alzheimer's, HIV/AIDS and many more conditions.
Yet despite these advancements, cannabis is not FDA approved as a full treatment for cancer and marijuana is still illegal to possess in 32 states (Texas among them). Of the 18 that have legalized medicinal marijuana, only a handful allow dispensaries to sell medical cannabis to patients. In every other state, "medibles" -- foods that contain appropriate dosages of medicinal marijuana -- have to be made and distributed at home and under the radar.
That's where The Official High Times Cannabis Cookbook comes in. Written by a ten-year veteran of the iconic magazine, Elise McDonough, the cookbook is humorous yet educational and compassionate yet still strongly counter-culture, as befitting the magazine's 40-year legacy. For those people who require medibles in their own lives or make them as part of underground compassionate care groups -- yes, we have those right here in Houston -- the book is a highly useful tool.
After a brief but fascinating introduction to the history of edible cannabis, the book jumps right into the essentials: infusing base products with marijuana, which are then used to create such recipes as French toast, tom yum and kale salad. And, naturally, there's a recipe for classic "kind bud brownies" in there too.
But the book is primarily aimed at those who need to ingest marijuana on a daily basis, and switches up recipes from comfort foods classics to tougher stuff like samosas and spanakopita. Just flipping through the cookbook, it's easy to see how someone wouldn't get bored with the recipes for at least a few months.
The book covers basic recipes for beginners, too, with simple instructions on how to make your own THC oil, cannacoconut oil (for vegans), cannabutter and even cannabis-infused mayonnaise. For those at a more expert level, the water-extraction method is covered in detail, but none of the recipes in the book require this long-simmering cannabutter as an ingredient -- the simple stuff will work just fine.
Read part two -- a test-drive of three of the book's recipes -- here.