Joey (not his real name) has been creating edibles – food products infused with cannabis – for the past 14 years.
His menu includes lollipops, jub jub, rice-crispy treats, wine, rum, vodka, ponche de creme, barbecue sauce, pizza, brownies, and more.
His products are not just for recreational purposes, but medicinal as well. And he has done a lot of research to create the effects requested by his clients with the best possible taste.
For Joey, it started when his aunt was diagnosed with cancer in 2005. He had heard that marijuana was helpful to cancer patients and started researching the topic. He was a chef, and cooking continued to be a hobby, so he decided to use his skill to make edibles.
He said he did extensive research on the internet, by trial and error, and learned from people who had been making edibles for years. The end result was so helpful to his aunt that she told other cancer patients about his products. They started requesting edibles and so he started a business.
Since his focus is health, he bakes his products depending on the effects each customer wants. To do this he has to know the different strains of marijuana, the different types and concentrations of cannabinoids in each strain, and their different health benefits.
He explained there are two main types of marijuana: indica, which is sedating, and sativa which is said to be invigorating. There are also hybrid strains which are a balance of the two. All marijuana strains fall into these three categories.
He said tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are two of the most well-known cannabinoids because they “do the most” but there are many others that also have health benefits.
“You can’t separate the different cannabinoids without a lab, but you don’t necessarily have to separate them. Instead you can grow plants that are high in CBD, high in THC, high in other cannabinoids, and you pick and choose which ones you need...You have to know your plant index to choose what strain of plant has the chemical makeup to help with what you need.”
For example, he said cancer required both THC and CBD. He said THC destroys certain types of cancer cells, while CBD inhibits certain cancer-cell growth. It also helps with some of the effects of chemotherapy such as nausea, pain, weight loss, and even depression. Therefore, he uses White Widow or another high-THC strain for cancer patients.
Other strains include Chemdog, Granddaddy Purple, Charlotte's Web, Northern Lights, and Pineapple Express. He said many are available in TT, but with the decriminalisation of marijuana he believes people will bring in more strains.
Joey says how you make edibles depends what you want to make. He said for most people the easiest way is to infuse fats such as coconut oil, butter and even milk with cannabis resin and replace the regular ingredients with the cannabis-infused versions. But he said not everything required oil and fat, so he had to find other ways to get it into various products.
The first thing to be done is to extract the cannabis resin from the plant. He said THC is usually found in the plant as THC acid, which slowly converts to THC as the plant dries.
“When you add the heat it changes the chemical from THCA to THC. You do this by decarboxylating. You wrap it in foil and bake it gently for a short period of time. From there you can put it in your oil, butter or milk and double-boil it because if you put it directly on the flame it will get too hot and destroy the THC. The best way is low and long.
“I try to make a quality product, so I don’t use the shakes (leaves and stems) or seeds. I only use the pure bud. That’s where the highest concentration of THC comes from. But you can use the entire plant.”
He said people could also buy and use pure resin, and dissolve it in the fat of choice.
In the case of the candy, he uses the butter or other products that make the cannabinoids bind to the sugar. To create the rum and vodka, he lets the buds and leaves soak in the alcohol for months. He uses the infused rum to make ponche de creme but he said the wine was a different, more complicated process he did not wish to share.
He said some things taste more “weedy” than others, depending on the strain or grade used. The taste is also stronger if people use the whole plant rather than just the buds.
“You’re going to get different flavour notes, different floral scents, but it’s still going to taste like weed, because weed has a very pungent taste, but there will be different flavours.”
He added that if a person wanted to mask the taste more, they could do so by using chocolate, peanuts, and other “earthy” flavours.
Joey said when the Cannabis Control Bill is passed he plans to get all the licences needed to open a legal business. He said he already makes balms and tinctures and hopes to expand into CBD and THC lines of medical products, and export throughout the Caribbean.
He said until then he will continue to “play it safe” and operate as he does now. He also intends to continue making his products and perfecting his craft.