Last fall, the food writer Laurie Wolf invited me to a dinner party at her home. It promised to be a master class in rustic entertaining. Wolf lives in a floating house on the Willamette River, just south of Portland, Oregon. When she has people over, she told me, she has a few rules for herself. First, “have as much done in advance as possible.” She goes so far as to set the table the night before and put out serving platters with sticky notes assigning their contents. Next, be sure to check your guests’ dietary requirements. These days, everybody has a health concern or a food allergy, and she says, “I always try to accommodate in a big way.” Some of Wolf’s recommendations are more esoteric. For example: “Start with a sativa and end with an indica.” This applies only to Wolf’s area of expertise: marijuana edibles.
Wolf is sometimes called the Martha Stewart of edibles. The designation owes something to superficial similarities. At sixty-two, Wolf resembles a crunchier version of the domestic icon: she has an ample figure, graying hair, and glasses, and she wears loose linen outfits, generally paired with Crocs. But the designation also refers to her role as an educator, schooling people on how best to cook with marijuana. She is the author or co-author of several cookbooks, including “Herb,” which seeks to “elevate the art and science of cooking with cannabis” and “The Medical Marijuana Dispensary,” which features soothing dishes, like stuffed sweet potato, that will get you stoned. Her recipes appear in all the major cannabis publications: High Times, Dope, and Culture, as well as the Cannabist, a Denver Post Web site devoted to the booming legal-marijuana industry. There you can watch her instructional videos on making infused delicacies like the creamy chicken-based Mama Leone’s soup. (“This soup is worth its weight in weed.”)
Oregon, where Wolf lives, legalized recreational marijuana in 2014. Four more states followed suit in last fall’s election: California, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Maine. More than twenty per cent of Americans now live in states where recreational weed is legal. President Trump’s appointee for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is an opponent of marijuana and is widely seen as a threat to the industry. But over the long term, proponents argue, the country is on a path toward legalization. (Last week, Canada’s Prime Minister unveiled a bill, which is expected to pass, legalizing recreational marijuana in that country.) Amy Margolis, Wolf’s lawyer and one of Oregon’s most prominent cannabis advocates, said, “I think we’re seeing an extremely rapid sea change in the way people perceive the safety of cannabis use and the legalization process. There are other issues that have followed the same trajectory, like gay rights—all of a sudden you see the switch flip.”
According to the Arcview Group, a market-research firm, the legal-marijuana business in Canada and the United States did almost seven billion dollars in sales last year. Arcview estimates that the industry will grow to more than twenty-two billion dollars by 2020. These profits have brought innovation. Cannabis can now be vaporized, absorbed under the tongue, or smoked in a hyper-concentrated form, a process known as dabbing. Edibles—a category that used to begin and end with the bone-dry pot brownie, served in a college dorm room—have been undergoing a particularly marked revolution. The finer dispensaries in Boulder now sell cannabis-infused candy, breath sprays, spritzers, and savory foods, from bacon to smoked salmon. In Los Angeles, thrill-seekers are paying as much as five hundred dollars a head to have a cannabis chef cater multicourse meals, pairing different cannabis strains with their culinary complements (heirloom-tomato bisque infused with a lemony Sour Diesel, for example).
All of this has produced a new category of cannabis user: people trying it for the first time, to see what the fuss is about, or coming back to it after a decades-long hiatus. Businesspeople see a future in which cannabis is part of a functional, even aspirational life style. Like Julia Child introducing Americans to French cuisine, Wolf serves as both a guide and an ambassador to this world. She was a chef and a food editor for many years, and she stands out as a source of reliable information in a nascent industry without dependable methods for cooking and dosing. Ricardo Baca, the founding editor of the Cannabist, told me, “Laurie represents a voice in the food-and-cannabis space that can be trusted.” Her columns are full of global ingredients and lush food photography meant to attract what she calls “the CB2 and West Elm crowd.” Her books would not seem out of place on the shelf next to the latest tome from the Barefoot Contessa or Yotam Ottolenghi. Evan Senn, the editor of the California-based cannabis magazine Culture, told me that, increasingly, foodies are the target audience for pot. “I love to drink wine, and I’m kind of a snob about it,” she said. “I’m not going to drink Franzia out of a cardboard box. I’m going to buy a nice bottle of Pinot Noir and aerate it and enjoy it. I have the same approach to edibles.”
When I arrived at Wolf’s house for dinner, she was puttering around the kitchen. The rest of the Wolf family—which is also a kind of professional support team—congregated in the living room. Laurie’s husband, Bruce, is a commercial photographer who takes all the pictures for his wife’s columns. Their adult son, Nick, works at an education startup, but his wife, Mary, a thirty-two-year-old Oklahoman, is Wolf’s business partner. She helps run their baked-goods operation, which sells a line of edibles under the name Laurie & MaryJane. Bruce made a joke about the family business: “They call us the Wolf Cartel.”
That evening’s festivities were business, of a kind. Dope, a “cannabis lifestyle” magazine, was hosting its annual Oregon Dope Cup in Portland. The event is one of many that aspire to be the Oscars of the legal-cannabis industry. Laurie & MaryJane had won a Best Edible trophy at the previous Dope Cup, in Seattle, for its savory nuts. Last year, the company agreed to host an edibles dinner for the magazine’s guests, including the cup’s judges, who had flown in from Colorado.
Wolf gave me a preview of the meal: marijuana-free chicken Marbella and couscous, paired with infused sides and appetizers. The dishes had been set out on a sideboard. Next to each one was a card with the potency level noted in calligraphy: “Stuffed Mushrooms, 5 mg THC each.” (Five milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol is about the equivalent of a few puffs from a joint.) The secret to cooking with cannabis is fat. THC, the main psychoactive ingredient, bonds to fat molecules when heated. There are high-tech ways of doing this, but Wolf prefers to do it “the old-fashioned way, with good butter and good oil.” Her cookbooks always begin with recipes for what she calls canna-butter and canna-oil.
Wolf pulled a Mason jar of infused olive oil from a shelf and encouraged me to smell it. It had a powerfully green scent. “Olive oil infuses beautifully,” she said. “It’s very earthy.” A jar of infused canola oil, on the other hand, smelled like bong water. Wolf had used the infused olive oil to make the stuffed mushrooms as well as a spinach tart. Those who wanted even more weed could slather their food with an infused feta sauce made with olive oil, garlic, parsley, and red onion. “Strong flavors help conceal the taste,” Wolf said. “It is a challenge to keep the foods from tasting like cannabis. That’s probably the hardest thing about making edibles.” Dessert was a “mildly infused” strawberry trifle in a big glass bowl. For palate cleansers, there were frozen grapes—an old standby for Wolf. “They’re wonderful when people get stoned,” she explained.
The guests began to arrive. Zach Phillips, the Oregon State director of Dope, greeted Wolf with a hug, as did Amy Margolis. “I’m not really an eater,” Margolis said, taking off her coat.
“O.K.,” Wolf said. “Do you prefer joints?”
Margolis nodded. “Joints, vape pens. I like the patch a lot.” She elaborated: “It’s like a NicoDerm patch.” Margolis wears it on her neck; her mother uses it for sciatica.
Next came the Dope Cup judges: Max Montrose, Jeff Greenswag, and Jim Nathanson. They work for a Colorado-based outfit called the Trichome Institute, named for the tiny crystal-like hairs that cover marijuana buds and leaves. Wolf ushered them into the living room, where smoking materials had been arrayed on the coffee table, including five cannisters with strains of marijuana from a local grower called 7 Points Oregon. “We have a Volcano”—a type of vaporizer—“set up and a couple of other things,” she said.
Montrose, a bearded redhead with glasses and a professorial air, sat down in front of the vaporizer. The marijuana industry, as a former black-market business, still lacks the governing bodies and institutions of, say, the wine world, a situation that the Trichome Institute is hoping to remedy. “Most cannabis cups are just complete, utter bullshit,” Montrose said. “There’s no standard for who’s certified to be doing the judging, what the platform is, and how you quantify cannabis quality.” He and his partners had developed a “sommelier program for cannabis,” to teach people to classify plants by their structures and by compounds that produce fragrance, called terpenes, rather than by strain names. “In each cannabis sample, there are actually sixty to a hundred different types of cannabinoids, two hundred different types of terpenes, and, like, a dozen flavonoids,” he said. “That ratio combination is what makes you feel what you feel.” The institute had created an in-house smartphone app to help grade weed, and the three men had spent the day using it to judge the entries in the Dope Cup competition. “We look at the trichomes, the ripeness, the flush factor, the cola structures, the style, and the stigma,” he said, referring to various biological features of the plant. “All that is done completely sober.”
Wolf gasped. “Does that mean you’re not smoking them?” she asked.
“Oh, we will,” Montrose said, explaining that consumption quality would be judged at a later stage, but that it was essential to examine the plants first. “Some of the cannabis we looked at today, it looked, like, out of this world, outrageous, will blow you away. And you put it under the microscope and it’s full of webs and bugs and spiders, fecal matter, exoskeletons!”
“Seriously?” Wolf asked.
“Oh, yeah. There’s a lot more shit weed than there is high-quality cannabis.”
The edible portion of the evening commenced. In the dining room, the conversation turned, inevitably, to the subject of the Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who, in 2014, shortly after the first licensed cannabis retailers opened for business, travelled to Denver and bought a cannabis chocolate bar. Back in her hotel room, she ate part of the bar, and then, when she felt nothing, ate some more. She described what happened next in that week’s column:
I felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours. I was thirsty but couldn’t move to get water. Or even turn off the lights. I was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room-service waiter knocked and I didn’t answer, he’d call the police. . . .
Dowd later learned that she should have cut the bar into sixteen portions. The column sent shock waves through the industry. Wolf was still furious about it. “That was a disgrace!” she said. “It’s like if somebody offered you some vodka and said, ‘Just take one shot,’ and instead you drank the whole bottle.”
Nevertheless, the column brought up a hazard of cannabis edibles: eating too much can lead to a terrible experience. Symptoms include hallucinations, panic attacks, and paranoia. What’s more, different individuals’ responses to a given amount of cannabis can vary wildly. They’re affected by tolerance levels, but also by sex, age, genetics, and even what the person has eaten that day. Wolf admitted that this complicates the very idea of responsible dosing. “Tiny people can eat a two-hundred-milligram squib”—a powerful gummy candy—“and they barely feel it. Then there are three-hundred-pound men who eat one of our brownies, which have a five- to ten-milligram THC dose, and it wipes them out.” Since the effects of edibles take a long time to kick in—anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours on average—it’s easy for novice users to overindulge, resulting in horror stories along the lines of those described in a tweet by the comedian Bill Dixon:
Every story about edible weed:
1. Not high.
2. Not high.
3. Still not high.
4. Not high.
5. Please drive me to the emergency room.
It’s nearly impossible to ingest a lethal amount of marijuana. But people can do dangerous things while under the influence. In one notorious case, in 2014, a nineteen-year-old man jumped off a roof in Denver after eating a pot candy given to him by friends. This and other events prompted the state of Colorado to run a campaign called “Good to Know,” aimed at tourists and others whom Andrew Freedman, the state’s director of marijuana coördination at the time, called “the marijuana naïve.” The Dowd column “was our best possible public-education campaign” about the dangers of overconsuming, Freedman told me. The state has since changed its packaging rules, mandating that products like chocolate bars be split into clearly marked doses of ten milligrams.
Wolf advocates a cautious approach. “Our philosophy is ‘less is more,’ ” she said. “Figure out the littlest bit of cannabis that will get you to a good place and start with that.” The Trichome guys agreed. “Cannabis education is the most necessary thing in this industry, across the board!” Montrose said, piously. He talked about having a “number,” as for a Sleep Number bed. “I’m an eighty-milligram dude. I know my edible tolerance, because I’ve dialled it in so precisely,” he said. “I know that if I want a really pleasant experience, a relaxing, pain-relieving experience, eighty milligrams is perfect for me. If I want to go to sleep? One hundred and twenty milligrams. If I want to keep working? Fifteen milligrams.”
“I would say I’m a ten,” Wolf said. She’s had only one edibles disaster. Four years ago, in her rookie phase, she and a friend consumed too much cannabis before a Halloween party. She ended up accosting a partygoer who was dressed as a doctor and asking about a bunch of medical issues. “It was absolutely mortifying,” she said. “I forgot it was a costume party.” She has also had complications with LSD, which she told us about at the table. “Once, when I was tripping, I ate a cinnamon candle,” she said. She thought it was cinnamon toast.
Nathanson, one of the judges, popped a stuffed mushroom into his mouth and groaned with pleasure. “How did you make these mushrooms?” he asked Wolf.
She looked at him quizzically.
“Oh, sorry!” she said. “I’m a little high.”
Montrose was devouring a frozen grape. “These are so-o-o good!”
Wolf, the younger of two children, grew up in Riverdale, a wealthy neighborhood in the Bronx. Her mother, a teacher, could be “extremely uptight,” she told me. Her father, a dentist, had anger issues. Good food was in short supply, as was good fun. “Looking back, I realize my parents were not at all happy with each other,” she said. She attended Calhoun, at the time an all-girl’s school, in Manhattan. One day, an administrator called to inform her parents that several girls were suspected of having smoked marijuana. Her mother rightly guessed that Laurie was one of them. “I got home to find her crying hysterically,” Wolf said. “She was, like, ‘How did I go wrong? You’re an addict! You let us down!’ ”
Wolf learned about food at friends’ homes and on vacations, which featured pit stops for roadside delicacies like fried apple pies. After college, at N.Y.U., she ran a catering business, then studied at the Culinary Institute of America, where her nickname was Noodles. She worked in several Manhattan restaurants, including the River Café and a small Upper East Side place called the Wine Bistro. In 1980, she met Bruce, who turned her on to food styling, the art of preparing food for photo shoots. She started doing freelance magazine work, writing recipes for Self, New York, and Mademoiselle, then moved to the parenting magazine Child, where, for nineteen years, she wrote a monthly column on family-friendly recipes.
Wolf’s own child-rearing was complicated by health issues. One day in the early eighties, not long after she’d had her first baby, she was at Barneys, shopping with a friend, when she began to feel dizzy. She woke up hours later, at home. “I couldn’t remember anything.” (She’d passed out on the floor of the tie department, and the friend had taken her home in a cab.) Terrified, she saw a doctor, who determined that she’d had a seizure. She was given a diagnosis of epilepsy, and began taking the anti-convulsant Tegretol. It controlled the seizures, but left her with unpleasant side effects: nausea, headaches, exhaustion. Trying to get pregnant for a second time, she went off the drug periodically, which led to seven or eight seizures a week.
In 2007, Child folded. The Wolfs decided to move to Oregon, seeking a change of pace. Laurie busied herself with a cookbook, “Portland, Oregon Chef’s Table,” for which she gathered recipes from local chefs. One day, when she was getting her car repaired, she struck up a conversation with a man in the service-station waiting room. “He stuck out his hand and said, ‘I’m Dr. Phil. Not that Dr. Phil. I’m a pot doctor.’ ” Medical marijuana had been legal in Oregon since 1998, and the doctor, Phil Leveque, was one of the state’s first practitioners. Wolf told him about her epilepsy and problems with Tegretol. “He told me, ‘Get off that stuff. It’s poison.’ ” Leveque wrote her a prescription for medical cannabis and instructed her to consume a small amount each morning. She found that it not only controlled her seizures but also stopped the “auras”—feelings of dizziness she’d continued to have on the anti-convulsant. She stopped taking Tegretol, and she hasn’t had a seizure since. “I don’t know if I can say I’m cured, but my symptoms are completely managed,” Wolf said.
In those days, dispensaries catered to what Wolf calls “the medical-stoner community,” heavy users and people with chronic pain. The edible offerings were informal. “You’d say, ‘What kind of edibles do you have?’ They’d say, ‘Well, my grandmother makes these pot brownies. And my stepmother’s cousin makes these.’ ” The dosage was usually very high—over a hundred milligrams of THC in a single brownie. The taste was “dreadful,” Wolf said. “It was like somebody took a bud and dipped it in chocolate.”
She decided that she could do better. At home, she came up with a recipe for infused almond bars, using the powerful taste of the almond extract to mask the taste of marijuana. “They had the texture of a thick sugar cookie,” she told me. “Crisp on the outside but chewy on the inside, with sliced almonds on top.” They contained a hundred and forty-five milligrams of THC. She sold them to local dispensaries, where they were a hit. The only complaint: even the heavy users were getting too stoned. You were supposed to eat only a fraction of the bar. “People would say, ‘They’re too delicious. I couldn’t stop eating it!’ ” Wolf said.
Two of the early taste-testers were her son, Nick, and his wife, Mary. Growing up, Nick was not a marijuana user. “I was a pure dare kid,” he told me. His mother was disappointed—which was probably the point. “I was, like, ‘Come on! A little pot,’ ” Wolf said. “We were terrified that he was going to become a Republican.” Mary grew up in Oklahoma, where her father was an Episcopal priest. She met Nick while working in marketing for a financial firm in New York. When Wolf began making her almond treats, she gave the couple a few samples, along with a cookie from another baker. They made the mistake of eating the entire cookie before deboning a chicken. (They had joined a “chicken share.”) As the edible kicked in, Nick recalled, he began to get the impression that he was deboning a baby. “I was, like, ‘This feels like human skin! I can’t do this anymore!’ ” He spent the night curled up by the toilet. Mary was calmer. “I just left the chicken there and went to bed,” she said. The experience put them off edibles for months, and spurred Wolf to make a low-dose version of the almond bar, with only twenty-five milligrams of THC.
Nick and Mary eventually decided to follow his parents to Portland, where Mary began helping her mother-in-law with the company. She created a Facebook page and designed the logo, coming up with a whisk-and-marijuana-leaf motif. Before long, Mary told me, “I realized we could have a real business.” She and Wolf are an unlikely pair. In contrast to Wolf’s bohemian vibe, Mary exudes wholesomeness. She has short blond hair and rosy cheeks. “I call us Beauty and Obese,” Wolf said. In cooking videos on the Cannabist, they have an “Absolutely Fabulous” dynamic. When Mary says, “We’re going to mix it all into the pot, and it’s going to be delicious,” her mother-in-law exclaims, “Ha-ha. You said ‘pot!’ ” But their skills appear to be well matched. Wolf is the right-brain person, dreaming up recipe ideas, while Mary oversees the left-brain tasks, navigating Oregon’s complicated regulatory requirements.
Mary only recently told her family in Oklahoma about the new turn in her career. “I was so nervous,” she said. “I felt like I was coming out to them.” She was surprised to learn that they were curious about the medical uses of cannabis. One relative, who has chronic pain, started taking a Laurie & MaryJane brownie instead of painkillers to help him sleep. (He got his doctor’s approval.) Another uses their infused coconut oil to treat his aging dog’s epilepsy. (He mixes it with dog food.)
The day after the dinner party, Wolf picked me up in her car, a Kia Soul in a shade called kale green. “The perfect Portland color,” she said. Despite her affinity with the city, she still thinks of herself as a New Yorker, and seems to enjoy shocking West Coast sensibilities. “People here are so earnest,” she said. “I once told a group of people someone’s baby looked like a tampon. They were, like, ‘I’ve never heard anyone say that out loud.’ ”
We pulled up to Wolf’s “office,” a commercial kitchen called the Bitchin’ Kitchen, which was home to seventeen edible-marijuana startups. It has industrial-sized ovens, steel countertops, and a walk-in refrigerator with a vault door. Wolf opened a freezer to show me seventeen pounds of marijuana-infused butter. She and Mary made a fresh batch every week.
It was a busy day at the Bitchin’ Kitchen. Marijuana entrepreneurs bustled in and out. A team from Weedmaps, a “Yelp for pot” based in Irvine, California, was visiting the facility, and a photographer had set up a light box, which he was using to take pictures of pot cookies.
Wolf had given me a rundown of the legal-cannabis industry during our drive, dividing it into three broad categories. First are “the black-market people who’re forging on,” the original patchouli-scented pioneers. Then there are the profiteers: venture capitalists and M.B.A. types who’ve been pouring funds into the legalizing states, a phenomenon called the green rush. “These are people who’ve never smoked pot in their lives,” she said, with disapproval. “They’re just in it for the money.” The majority of pot entrepreneurs fall into the vast third category, driven by the complicated blend of motives—ambition, libertinism, a desire to help sick people—that drives the legalization movement as a whole.
Wolf places herself in the last category, but she admitted that her heart is with the hippies. She seemed troubled by the men of the Trichome Institute. Though they were obviously “passionate” about cannabis, she worried that they were a marketing operation. “ ‘Budtender’ classes online!” she moaned. She especially disliked a plan to regularize the grading system for cannabis. “To me, it’s like picking a baby,” Wolf said. “Like saying, ‘Well, you definitely want your baby to be blond, but maybe with green eyes.’ It feels so removed from the community aspect of this business. It’s making it soulless.”
Wolf told me that she, like many other people, sees an industry at a crossroads. Down one path is a future that resembles the wine business, or the farm-to-table movement: boutique pot growers turning out harvests that reflect local climates and customs. Down the other is Big Weed: industrial farms, joints by Marlboro and pot cookies by General Mills, Monsanto patenting genetically modified strains of Purple Kush. Wolf had already observed the corporate interests circling.
The Bitchin’ Kitchen’s tenants represented a cross-section of this world. There was a businessman who had raised venture-capital funds to start a candy operation, and a married couple from Ohio who had saved their money and moved to Oregon to start a strain-specific cookie company called Titan’s Kind. Then there was the facility’s owner, a no-nonsense middle-aged woman named Nancy Jones, who started out as a living-room farmer with six plants. “I’ve been growing for nineteen years,” she told me. She is now involved in several enterprises, including Badass Dabs, which makes concentrates and extracts. She handed me a sample of her newest product: a vaginal suppository, which treats pain from menstrual cramps or endometriosis. It looked like a large vitamin. “It’s fifty milligrams of THC, seven milligrams of CBD, and coconut oil and beeswax. All organic,” she said.
I followed Wolf into a back room, where Mary was at work, wearing a green apron decorated with the Laurie & MaryJane logo. They’d been hired to provide the desserts for a cannabis dinner party, and Mary was testing some miniature pumpkin pies. She pulled a baking sheet full of pies from a cooling rack. “I used one of Laurie’s recipes from the Cannabist,” she told me. “We’ll have to taste it to see if the flavor is right.”
I nibbled a small pie: it tasted like pumpkin, but with a weedy aftertaste, which brought back Proustian memories of high school.
“It might make sense to increase the spices a little bit,” Mary suggested. “You could double the ginger.”
Her mother-in-law nodded. “I think vanilla would definitely help.”
In some ways, cooking with cannabis is just regular cooking, with a few adjustments for taste and technical considerations. The food can’t be cooked at temperatures higher than three hundred and forty degrees, because that would destroy the THC. “It’s been a little bit of a challenge cooking some foods that normally benefit from a really high heat start,” Wolf said. An example is fried chicken, which she recommends topping with infused oil or salsa.
In the early days, Wolf tried selling baklava at Oregon dispensaries, which baffled the medical-stoner crowd. “We were catering to the lowest element of pot smokers,” Wolf said. Since then, the audience has changed: sophisticated consumers are known today as “cannasseurs.” They appreciate savory foods, not only because savories avoid cliché—“everybody infuses desserts,” Wolf said—but also because many medical-marijuana users are diabetic, or avoiding sugar for other reasons. Wolf recommends having a bottle of infused salad dressing or pesto on hand. “Infusing a pesto is so easy,” she said. “You can make a bunch and toss it with noodles, and you’ve got a delicious meal.”
Wolf’s mixed nuts have had a lot of traction. She adapted them from a Danny Meyer recipe and added infused coconut oil, a staple in her kitchen because it can also be used topically, “so you’re getting more bang for your buck.” (An elderly friend of Wolf’s rubs it on his hands to treat his rheumatoid arthritis.) Wolf’s newest book, “Cooking with Cannabis,” emphasizes comfort foods like mac and cheese and meatloaf. There’s a chapter called “Recipes for One,” intended for solo eaters. “It’s great to be able to make yourself ramen,” she said. (The cannabis goes in the broth, mixed with sesame oil.)
At the end of the day, however, a great marijuana cook has to have a great pot brownie. “Once Mary came into the business, we tested about eight different brownie recipes,” Wolf said. They tried one from the back of a brownie-mix box and one that Wolf had learned at the Culinary Institute of America. Nigella Lawson’s brownie was delicious, but too mild to counter the weedy taste of canna-butter. Finally, they settled on an adaptation of a “fudgy” brownie developed by a magazine-editor friend of Wolf’s, Freddi Greenberg. Wolf’s version includes extra vanilla and cocoa as “flavor disguisers.” She uses a short baking time, to create a gooey interior. Last year, the cannabis Web site Leafly held a pot-brownie contest to coincide with college basketball’s March Madness tournament. Recipes from Martha Stewart, Mario Batali, and Julia Child faced off against pot-oriented recipes from publications like Edibles List and High Times. Wolf’s brownie won. The Cannabist called it “among the most heavenly creations known to ganja-loving humanity.” Wolf said, “It’s pretty fucking delicious, I have to say.”
Laurie & MaryJane’s brownies went on sale in February. They come in packages of five, which sell for twenty to thirty-three dollars, depending on potency. Wolf currently has them in thirty-five dispensaries and has developed new products: an almond-cake bite, a chocolate truffle, and a soon-to-be-launched savory cheese crisp. Ultimately, she hopes to conquer Oregon—and then to try for California. “The dream is to be everywhere it’s legal,” Wolf said, sounding a bit Big Weed herself. “To be the Mrs. Fields of cannabis foods.”
The Dope Cup was held on a Sunday. Laurie & MaryJane had entered its brownies and almond bites in the competition. The Wolfs arrived at 10 p.m., three hours after the event started, because, as Laurie told me, “everybody’s late in this business.” The atmosphere was part county fair, part tent revival. A rap group, the Pharcyde, performed on a stage, and reps from marijuana businesses had set up booths. Wolf mingled with the crowd, which was mostly young and male. There were the seven scruffy dudes from 7 Points Oregon, the boutique growers whose product she’d used at her dinner party, and there was a purchasing agent from a dispensary called Canna-Daddy’s, who was holding a twenty-three-inch blunt. He wrapped Wolf in a bear hug. “Laurie’s the nicest lady I’ve ever met,” he told me.
Wolf returned the compliment. “Andrew makes me wish I had a son,” she said. “And then I remember I do have a son.”
Nearby was the Trichome Institute’s booth. I recognized Montrose, who was wearing a white lab coat and instructing people on how to examine marijuana flowers under a microscope. He had a joint behind his ear. “There’s a hundred strains of cannabis in this one joint,” he said, when Wolf approached.
Wolf seemed to have softened toward him. “Were you impressed with the level of the weed?” she asked.
Montrose nodded vigorously. “Oregon killed it,” he said. “Seriously, some of the best-quality weed I’ve seen in my life.” Wolf seemed proud.
Soon, the awards ceremony began. A Dope employee with dark glasses and an Afro led the proceedings from in front of a table full of silver trophies. Wolf told me that her “main competition” was a Portland outfit called Elbe’s Edibles, a beloved purveyor of marijuana cake balls whose slogan is “My balls your mouth.”
The Best Savory Edible trophies were distributed to a two-man team called the Baker Bois, which won second place for its hot pocket, and to a company called Cannavore, which won first place for its smoked salmon. Wolf seemed discouraged. “They have a huge, huge grow that makes their cannabis,” she said of Cannavore.
A trophy for Best Sweet Edible, Medical, went to an outfit called Lunchbox Alchemy, for a grape-flavored squib. Wolf watched respectfully. “Their squib is tasty and ridiculously strong,” she said, as a young woman made an acceptance speech. “Thank you guys for loving the squib as much as we do,” one woman said. “We fuckin’ love you guys!”
Finally, the announcer came to the category of Best Sweet Edible, Recreational: “Brownie by Laurie & MaryJane!” The crowd cheered, and the Wolf women climbed onstage to accept their trophy. Like many of this year’s Oscar winners, Wolf made a political speech: “This is for Hillary!” she said, hoisting her trophy in the air.
When she returned, she was out of breath. “Wow,” she said. “Honestly, I thought if anything was going to win, it would be those almond things. But the fucking brownie! People just love it.”
CANNABIS-INFUSED CHOCOLATE BARK
From Laurie Wolf
Chef’s note: Keep water out of the bowl, don’t let the chocolate get too hot, and you will be fine. And you will be high. Know your dose—overdoing it is never pleasant. Try a small piece, and give it several hours before eating more.
1-2 tablespoons canna-butter
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 ounces white chocolate, chopped
1 cup roasted cashews
1 cup dried apricots, sliced
½ cup flaked coconut, toasted
¼ cup crystallized ginger, chopped
Prepare the canna-butter.
Place the bittersweet chocolate in a heat-safe bowl over a pot of simmering water. Melt over low heat while stirring. When melted, add the canna-butter and cocoa and stir well to distribute evenly. Remove the bowl from the heat but keep it over the warm water.
Place the white chocolate in a second heat-safe bowl over another pot of simmering water. Melt over low heat, stirring occasionally.
Cover a large baking sheet with parchment. Spread the dark chocolate over the paper, smoothing to make somewhat even, although slight differences in thickness are part of chocolate bark’s charm.
Immediately pour the white chocolate over the still-wet dark chocolate. Use a chopstick or a skewer to swirl the chocolates; so easy and so beautiful.
Distribute the toppings over the still-wet bark. Allow to sit until set, about an hour. If you want things to happen faster, place in the fridge. Break the bark into desired servings, and remember, with cannabis, less is more!
Yield: About 30 pieces, approximately the size of a matchbook. The THC content will vary depending on the potency of the cannabis.