Medical marijuana has arrived in Arkansas at last. But card-carrying patients who want to enjoy the benefits of cannabis without smoking the stuff will find their options are limited. As of mid-June, the state’s two operational dispensaries offered only a single edible product, a grape-flavored gummy.
More edibles are sure to land on shelves in the coming months as more dispensaries open their doors and cultivation centers rev up production. Even then, don’t expect to find the spread of THC-infused candies and cookies now commonplace in states like Colorado. Arkansas prohibits selling medical marijuana products that “closely resemble foods or beverages that are attractive to minors … including without limitation candy, cookies, cakes, pastries, chewing gum and brownies,” according to a law passed by the legislature this spring. (The state Medical Marijuana Commission had already established a similar rule.)
Fortunately, there are no such restrictions on what patients or caregivers do at home, and it’s easy (and fun) to make homemade edibles. All you need is medical marijuana flower, a few sticks of butter and a good chunk of time. Once you extract the THC from the plant matter, you’ll be left with “cannabutter,” which can be used in place of butter in just about any recipe of your choosing. If you wish, you can even make your confections “in the shape of an animal, vehicle, person or character” — another statutory no-go line for products sold in dispensaries.
That being said, edibles are not to be taken lightly. Here are a few cardinal rules to follow:
Take it slow and be cautious. Many people feel eating THC is healthier than smoking, but edibles come with one big risk: It’s easy to overdo it. Medical marijuana is potent stuff, and accurate dosing is difficult when it comes to homemade treats. So whatever you do with your cannabutter, test the most modest of portions to begin with. If you think a single cookie is a reasonable dose, first try a half of one instead, or even less. And don’t scarf down more if you don’t feel anything right away — it can take quite a while for orally ingested THC to kick in. Wait 90 minutes, then assess how you feel. Diving headfirst into a tray of unusually strong pot brownies probably won’t kill you, but it can be a tremendously unpleasant experience and may even spark a visit to the emergency room. Play it safe!
Keep away from kids. This should go without saying, but keep any edible cannabis product well away from children and pets, as well as any adult who shouldn’t be indulging. Scott Hardin, a spokesperson for the parent agency of the Medical Marijuana Commission, confirmed by email that “a patient may create any product in the home. The only restriction would be the requirement that the product remain in a childproof container.”
Be mindful of the law. Remember that the only people who can legally bake or cook with medical marijuana are card-carrying patients or their card-carrying caregivers. Only patients are legally allowed to ingest the finished product, of course.
Follow the cannabutter recipe below. This rule is otherwise known as “don’t just dump a bunch of weed in some brownie mix.” If you put ground marijuana flower directly in your food, you’ll end up with something that both tastes terrible and likely won’t get you high. Making edibles requires carefully prepping the marijuana first, an hourslong process that’s as much chemistry as it is cooking. It’s not difficult, but it does need to be done right.
Here’s how we made our first batch of legal Arkansas cannabutter — and what we did with it afterward:
Strain Notes: We infused our cannabutter with a (legally obtained) eighth-ounce of Sour Tangie, a sativa-forward strain with a robust 29 percent THC concentration. (At the time we purchased the Sour Tangie, the strains offered by two medical marijuana dispensaries in Hot Springs ranged from 9 percent to 30 percent.) Green Springs Medical describes Sour Tangie as rendering a “creative, elevating buzz and strong citrus overtones.”
1/8 ounce (3.5 grams) legally obtained medical marijuana, ground finely
1 cup (2 sticks or 226 grams) unsalted butter
1 cup water
Preheat oven to 245 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Spread the ground marijuana evenly in the center in a thin layer. Bake the marijuana for 30-40 minutes, gently shaking the pan from time to time to ensure even exposure to heat. (This roasting process is called “decarboxylation”; suffice it to say it’s a necessary step and should not be skipped.)
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, adding water once it begins to melt. Add the decarboxylated marijuana flower and simmer on very low heat for 3 hours, stirring occasionally and never letting the mixture come to a rolling boil.
Remove the pan from heat and let the butter and water cool to room temperature. Strain the mixture through cheesecloth into a glass bowl or other small glass container with a wide mouth to remove the plant matter. Refrigerate overnight.
When it has fully cooled, the cannabutter should have separated from any remaining water in the container. Remove the disc of cannabutter, discard the water, daub off any residual moisture and refrigerate the cannabutter until ready to use.
Matcha Cannabutter Mini-Cupcakes
Makes (and generously frosts) about 30 mini-cupcakes.
We opted for simple vanilla mini-cupcakes with (canna)buttercream frosting for a few reasons. For starters, making cupcakes gives us not one, but two excuses to use the cannabutter — once for the cake and again for the buttercream frosting. And, unlike chocolate-based edibles, the vanilla-and-buttercream color palette let us showcase the green color with a little more flair, instead of hiding it in a batch of cocoa brownies. We amped up the color, in fact, with the help of some matcha (green tea) powder. Finally, because medicinal marijuana can yield such potent edibles, smaller portions are generally better. Mini-cupcakes lend more flexibility and control to your dosing — as opposed to, say, a slice of three-layer cake.
1 cup (110 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup matcha (green tea powder)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick or 113 grams) cannabutter, slightly softened
1 cup (215 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup half-and-half
Mini-cupcake baking sheet
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Add flour, matcha, baking powder and salt in a bowl and sift together. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, cream together sugar and cannabutter with an electric mixer or stand mixer on medium-high speed (paddle attachment) until fluffy. Beat in one egg at a time on medium speed. Add vanilla; beat on medium speed just until combined. Add about half of the flour mixture and stir gently to combine. Add the half-and-half; stir gently to combine. Add the remaining flour and fold in gently until combined.
Line a mini-cupcake baking pan with mini-cupcake liners and fill each 3/4 full. Bake 8-9 minutes, until a toothpick comes out of the cupcake clean, or until just set. (Don’t overcook; the cupcakes will continue to cook in the pan as they cool down.) Rest cupcakes 10 minutes in the baking sheet, then cool completely on a wire rack until ready to frost.
1/2 cup (1 stick or 113 grams) cannabutter,
1 1/2 cups (165 grams) powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 cup matcha (green tea powder)
2 tablespoons half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sift together matcha and powdered sugar and set aside.
Cream the cannabutter with an electric mixer or stand mixer until fluffy. Add sugar/matcha mixture 1/4 cup at a time until combined and smooth. Gently beat in half-and-half and vanilla. If not using immediately, refrigerate; restore the buttercream to room temperature before using.