Pot 101: Cooking with cannabis

Vape, smoke or bake? A medical marijuana CEO explains how to cook cannabis, and talks about the business potential of cannabis edibles.

Medical marijuana CEO clears the air on modes of cannabis consumption

Cannabis is weighed on a scale. (Associated Press)

To vape, smoke or bake? Shekhar Parmar, the CEO of Harvest Medicine, a medical marijuana producer, spoke to The Homestretch Wednesday as part of its ongoing Pot 101 series, to help clear the air around cannabis consumption techniques.

Q: What do you recommend between smoking or eating, when it comes to consuming cannabis?

A: I think a lot of people find edibles to be more approachable as a way to consume their medication currently — and I think when we [eventually] go into the recreational capacity, you can avoid the downsides of obviously smoking it. A lot of people don't like the taste aspect as well — so edibles are just a very easy approach [to consuming cannabis].

Shekhar Parmar, the CEO of Harvest Medicine. (Shekhar Parmar)

Q: Does eating your cannabis affect you differently than inhaling it?

A: A lot of people report that when they have edibles, that they get more of a couch-lock feeling. Of course, the big thing to note with [consuming] edibles is the onset is different.

When you inhale cannabis — whether through vaping or smoking it — the onset is usually between 10 to 30 seconds and the effects will last a couple of hours.

When you eat it, the onset will take 30 minutes to an hour to kick in, but it will last between four and eight hours.

Q: Explain the term 'couch lock.'

A: It means you feel very sedative —  it means you get this body high feeling and that people feel it more significantly, because the actual metabolic pathway when you have edibles is a different process than when you inhale it.

Q: What's involved with cooking cannabis?

A: The active ingredients in cannabis are something that's fat soluble for the most part so what it requires is that you can't actually eat cannabis by itself — it requires heat and a bit of fat to coax those active ingredients out.

In the market today, you can either get dried cannabis and you can decarboxylate it yourself, which is heating the cannabis to release the active ingredients, or you can buy edible oil … and when you do those processes, you can essentially mix it in with any place where you would have fat in the recipe.

That could be your avocado toast, your brownies that are very famous, or even drinks now.

Marijuana chocolates are sorted and packaged at Evergreen Herbal's edibles factory in Seattle. (Simon Charland/CBC)

Q: What's easiest?

A: The oil is definitely the easiest way to go if you are looking to bake really quick — and the other thing that's great about that is that preparing dried cannabis so that it can be used in an edible format does tend to sort of stink up your house a little bit.

Oil comes ready to go. You can essentially drop it into anything that you can buy from even Safeway, and now it's a medicated product.

Q: They say cannabis you ingest is stronger than when you smoke it. Is that true?

A:  What's important to realize here is the different metabolic pathway that the molecule goes through.

When you're inhaling, it's called Delta-9-THC, and when you eat it, it actually goes through your liver and becomes 11-Hydrox-THC and that actually makes it a lot more of an intense impact for people.

So controlling dosing is something that's been problematic with cannabis in an edible format, which is why you don't see it in the legal regime because that part hasn't been fully figured out by a lot of people.

Q: You're the CEO of a medical marijuana clinic. What percentage of clients would you say prefer edibles?

A: It also depends on condition state. I'll give you a great example: something like insomnia. People have two different challenges with insomnia. One is falling asleep. Two is staying asleep.

So people may want to vape to fall asleep, but they might want an edible to help with that longer duration onset to stay asleep.

Q: Colorado sells edibles. How has their experience with them been?

A:  It's been a very successful market there. You've seen the whole range of companies pop up — everything from really artisanal, hand-painted chocolates, truffles, to your gummy bears [and] Cheeba Chews. 

You have the whole spectrum and I think that's what you're going to see in the cannabis market: you're going to find brands and products that are right for people right across the whole spectrum.

Q: How big a business could this be?

A: Huge. I don't think in the course of our lifetime, we have very many opportunities to give birth to an industry of this scope.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Gummy products containing THC and shaped like humans or animals were banned in Colorado last October.

With files from The Homestretch


Stephen Hunt

Digital Writer

Stephen Hunt is a digital writer at the CBC in Calgary. Email: