Now that cannabis has been legal long enough to generate some reliable sales data, people in the industry are starting to ask the question: What type of cannabis products do people really want? A great deal of data, for example, suggests that older consumers are much more likely to buy edibles than younger consumers.
Many industry insiders see edibles as the "bridge" that will allow cannabis to "go mainstream," since these are the only cannabis products that do not require smoking or vaping, something that many people—especially older folks—are reluctant to start doing. According to Headset, a company focused on analyzing data for cannabis businesses, consumers in their 40s, 50s, and 60s consume almost twice as many edibles as consumers in their 20s. In Colorado, edibles accounted for nearly half of all sales in 2015.
The hottest trend in cannabis seems to reflect this preference. Particularly adventurous gourmands are starting to pair foods with cannabis strains in the same way they have traditionally done with fine wines, beers, and cocktails. Now, in various places all over the country, the affluent and well-connected stoner can enjoy gourmet, multi-course, cannabis-infused meals catered by professional chefs.
Strictly speaking, such dinners are often illegal even in cannabis-legal states such as Oregon. Only licensed stores are allowed to sell cannabis products, so these chefs do not exactly advertise their services and their dinners are private, invitation-only events. But, as with other aspects of cannabis prohibition, the quasi-illegality has not stopped people from enjoying cannabis in this way.
The Herbal Chef (aka Chris Sayegh), based in Los Angeles, gets around these legal issues by catering dinners only for California medical marijuana patients. He charges between $200 and $500 per person and tailors the amount of cannabis in each dish to each diner's preferences. And his creations epitomize the fusion of high-end food and cannabis. A typical menu: curried carrot-confit gnocchi infused with Blue Dream, seared Japanese scallops atop a bed of barley, infused with Northern Lights and Candyland, and for dessert, a grapefruit rosemary sorbet with candied lavender on green sponge cake.
Another LA-based cannabis meal pioneer who is open about his work is Jeff, the 420 Chef (he does not give his last name). He has prepared cannabis-infused meals in California, Colorado and Oregon, and plans to do so in other cannabis-legal states as well. Jeff avoids legal problems by having his clients supply all the ingredients, including the cannabis, and by doing all the cooking for free.
Both chefs say their dinners are lively affairs where they see social barriers break down, and many people make new friends. Both obviously enjoy their work and see the potential for these dinners to open minds and, when the legal restrictions change, to become a popular activity for adults of all ages. "I'm not doing this for any other reason than to make peoples lives better," says Jeff.