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What you need to know before you make cannabis edibles

So you want to try making your own marijuana edibles. Maybe someone you love is suffering from an illness, and you’re looking for ways to help alleviate their suffering and symptoms — legally, and in a pleasurable way. Or maybe you live in a state with chill marijuana laws and want to explore recreationally. Either way, we got some tips from an expert.

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Just this week, Chicago pastry chef and owner of the Hot Chocolate restaurant Mindy Segal launched a pop-up brand of edibles. Segal’s Dark Chocolate Toffee Brittle with smoked almonds and salted caramel and Mindy’s Milk Chocolate Peanut Brittle with whipped peanut butter are available at select dispensaries in Illinois. Each piece contains exactly 10 milligrams of THC, and Segal plans to introduce more varieties.

I spoke with Segal briefly while she was supervising the production of her new edibles, and I walked away with one very clear message: Creating edibles isn’t all fun and games.

Mindy Segal
Image: Jennifer Olson Photography

This was a big reality check for me. Yes, a lot of people create edibles recreationally, because the only thing better than pot is pot in a form of a delicious treat. But the reason edibles are really taking off is that for many more people, pot is medicine. And if you’re treating with medical marijuana, you need to be as exact with your potency as possible. No monkey business.

More: Cooking with cannabis oil: 5 essential tips you need to know

Think about it. When you open a bottle of ibuprofen, you know exactly how much you’re getting. THC may be more natural, may be gentler, but it’s still a substance, and you still need to be careful with it.

Edible makers like Segal deal with strict regulations to create products for sale. In fact, every single edible she creates is lab tested to verify its potency. And that’s not just to make law enforcement happy — it’s because that’s what the people who take her edibles need.

“I think the worst thing you could do is eat an edible and not have any idea what the milligram dosage is and take too much and have a really bad experience,” Segal told me. “We want a quality, consistent product.”

As a commercial edible chef, Segal has access to a flavorless THC extraction created by a high-tech lab. It’s expensive stuff — more than the average home cook can afford. So if you’re in your kitchen, infusing coconut oil to make cannabis butter (a common approach to DIY edibles), start off small.

“Everyone should be aware of what’s too much for them,” Segal says. And keep in mind, that can vary. “It really all depends on what you’ve eaten that day, what’s already in your bloodstream, if you’re fatigued, if you’re taking other medication. [There are] a lot of factors.”

Another pastry chef who is (quietly!) planning a line of edibles shared a helpful work-around for controlling potency: Cook with lab-tested cannabis-infused chocolate bars.

Home edibles chefs also need to keep in mind the strong-scented terpenes in marijuana. There are over 100 cannabis terpenes, each with a different flavor profile, and a home cook isn’t going to be able to cook them out. So you may want to think about how to harmonize with those flavors.

Some people actually like the taste of turpenes. “It’s a divided world out there,” Segal tells me. “Some people believe they get the cannabinoids into the system better, that they have health benefits.” So it’s not necessarily a bad thing. “It’s a plant,” she says, “and like any other living thing, [there are] multiple properties.”

And with that, Segal had to exit our interview to continue supervising her kitchen. She’ll be listening closely to her customers’ feedback to see what works best for them so she can calibrate the next edibles in her line to their preferences and needs. Everyone else working in their kitchens would be wise to do the same.

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