By WILL DIGRAVIO
This article originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on July 3, 2018. It can be found online, here.
Looking to make the most of your now legal weed? We’ve got you covered.
In light of Vermont’s July 1 legalization of marijuana, the Burlington Free Press interviewed a virtuoso: Ngaio Bealum, the resident “cannabis expert” on “Cooking on High,” a new Netflix show that premiered on June 22.
As the name suggests, “Cooking on High” is indeed a cooking show, where professional cannabis chefs put their culinary skills to the test by creating the best edibles they can for a panel of guest judges.
Each show, chefs are tasked with incorporating a certain type of marijuana strain, introduced by Bealum, into whatever kind of dish the challenge demands, like, say, a vegetarian dish or a food one may consume for an “afternoon delight.”
For more on the show, cannabis culture and ways in which Vermonters can make the most of legalization, read this interview with Bealum, which has been edited for flow and clarity.
Burlington Free Press: On July 1, marijuana became legal in Vermont. In your Twitter bio, you say you’re a parent. How do you talk to your children about marijuana? Do you have any advice for parents, especially in a state where it’s legal?
Ngaio Bealum: Treat it like wine or any other “adults only” activity. Studies show that states with legal cannabis have lower rates of teen consumption. There is a book called “It’s Just a Plant” by Ricardo Cortes that does a good job of explaining cannabis for younger children. I have had a strict “No drugs until college” rule with my kids since they were very young and it seems to be working well.
BFP: Do you have any advice for Vermonters looking to make use of marijuana products? What should they look for and ask for when buying?
NB: Follow your nose. That is really the best way. Smell it, and your body will let you know if you might like it or not. I prefer weed grown outdoors to indoor weed, but it’s really more of an aesthetic thing than a potency issue.
BFP: With legalization, there may be some Vermonters who will be trying marijuana for the first time. What’s your advice for a weed novice?
NB: Pace yourself. Stay hydrated. Wear comfortable shoes. There is no need to try to smoke all of the cannabis in Vermont on the first day. When it comes to edibles, err on the side of caution, Five-10 milligrams of THC per one hundred pounds of body weight is a good rule of thumb. You can always eat more, but you can’t un-eat a giant edible.
BFP: What stereotype about marijuana users drives you crazy? Why?
NB: That stoners are unproductive. It’s not that we are lazy, it’s that we have no tolerance for BS activities.
BFP: How can a home cook gauge how potent their batch would be? Asking for a friend.
NB: If you know the percentage of THC in your cannabis, you can do some quick and dirty math to get a rough idea. I wrote about it once, but I can’t find the article. Maybe one of your readers can break it down for us.
BFP: How did “Cooking on High” come into being? What’s the back story? What do you want this show to be?
NB: I am not sure. The good people at Conveyor Media called me and asked if I wanted to be on a cannabis and cooking show and I said: “Hell yes!” I mean, it has three of my favorite things: Cannabis, cooking and competition. I think the show is an excellent showcase for the culture and cuisine of cannabis.
BFP: Is a goal of the show to try and normalize cannabis culture? If so, how do you hope to accomplish that normalization?
NB: I mean, cannabis culture is already somewhat “normal”. People have been smoking weed for hundreds of years. Folks have been cooking with weed for just as long. Enjoying cannabis is already a “normal” activity for millions of people. It’s just against the law in some states, so folks have to keep it a secret. There’s no need for cannabis to be an underground thing. So instead of “normalizing” cannabis, I would say that we are showcasing the possibilities of cannabis.
BFP: You and the chefs on the show go into great detail describing what makes certain marijuana products high-quality, how to properly prepare cannabis for consumption, and really emphasize the knowledge and culinary skills needed to make the most of marijuana. Do you think this will change the public perception of those who use marijuana products? Is this a goal?
NB: Who knows? There are definitely some folks that will see this show and maybe come away with a more open-minded understanding of cannabis. There will also be a small percentage of people that will always want cannabis to remain illegal no matter what.
BFP: What do you think is missing from the conversation about cannabis?
NB: I think we really need to look at incarceration rates and how cannabis prohibition is used to further the interests of systemic racism. There is no reason for anyone to go to jail for pot and very good reasons to release anyone convicted of a non-violent cannabis offense. In Vermont, black people were 16 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis than white people, despite blacks and whites using cannabis at roughly the same rate.
BFP: Marijuana is a serious issue to a lot of people for myriad reasons. How do you balance making jokes and having fun on the show with this reality?
NB: I generally live by the phrase, “Embrace your dichotomies.” Cannabis is fun and cannabis is serious. It can be both. For folks that think cannabis discussions need to be all serious all the time, I would say, “Where is the fun in that?” You can be serious and goofy and sometimes seriously goofy while still getting shit done.
BFP: What is something you have learned recently about marijuana? How do you educate yourself?
NB: Lately, I have been getting into terpenes, which are the chemicals that give different strains their different flavors and effects. I learn from reading books mostly, and from talking to people in the industry and attending various conferences and festivals all over the world.
BFP: What should I know that I haven’t asked?
NB: How can I know the unknowable?