There’s a difference between tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). To really boil it down, THC is the compound in cannabis that’s typically associated with the “high” of smoking (or ingesting or whatever else you’re doing) marijuana. CBD is actually gaining more and more clout as a natural medicinal way to help with poor blood circulation, nausea, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, Crohn’s disease, cancer and seizures.
CBD, unlike THC, is not known to have psychoactive properties and it’s CBD that Brandon Hamm and the team at Green Halo in Tucson are infusing in treats of all kinds to help patients medicate with flavor. As the first “cannabis kitchen” in the state and the third dispensary, managing partner Murray Stein says they had the jump on a very new and constantly evolving market. Green Halo’s kitchen operation provides treats to over 50 other dispensaries around the state. However, Stein is also quick to remind that these treats are still medicine.
“They’re not for edible pleasure as much as they are a means to deliver medicine to our patients,” Stein says. “We try hard to educate the people that come here to avoid overmedicating but the trick is to take your time.”
While it is important that patients being cautious of their CBD intake, which is clearly labeled in milligrams on the packaging as any medicine would have, Hamm says it was vital for the kitchen to make sure their goods were consistent in their dose amounts. Stein explains that he hired his “dream team” in the kitchen just for those reasons.
“Really it’s about skill in production baking in large batches,” Stein says. “It’s critical that they’re consistent or a whole batch could be wasted.”
Under head chef Chad Johnson, Hamm and two others in the kitchen churn out caramels, lollipops, popcorn, brownies, baklava, cake, French macarons and gummies in “ocean shapes” like dolphins and fish. Hamm is working with a 3D printer currently to develop a better mold for his gummy creations.
“We look for things that can be a good vehicle for CBD that result in a consistent product,” Hamm says. “Also something that people can relate to.”
Not all of Green Halo’s creations are available at their wholesale locations, so if you have your card and you’re looking for an MMJ raspberry macaron with chocolate ganache, you’ll have to drive to the dispensary, which is attached to a Shell gas station off Wilmot Road and I-10. Specialty baked goods pop up at Green Halo on occasion, and the crew already has plans for some unique treats for customers on 4/20.
For the variety of confections the Green Halo kitchen is producing, the chefs—who are trained and all have worked in professional fine dining kitchens before working for Green Halo for the most part—use a few different extraction methods. Coconut oil, butter, glycerin tinctures and even wax (which is commonly known as something negative because amateurs tend to blow themselves up trying to make this highly potent substance that uses inert gases in its extraction) can be used as the delivery method to get CBD in foods.
The secret to a good extraction? Hamm says low temperatures and patience. Since plant matter of any kind, whether it’s cannabis or vegetables, lose phytochemicals, antioxidants and other nutrients at high temperatures, a good extraction can’t be rushed or those important enzymes will break down.
Really, then, Hamm says his work has become as much about being creative in a culinary capacity as it is “getting geeky” on the science of it all. Being a new and explosively profitable industry, there are constantly more studies coming out to keep up with advances in the field.
“CBD is a new territory and people are looking into it with a lot of science and research,” Hamm says. “The closest thing that you can really relate it to is molecular gastronomy at this point and what do you really learn or gain from that other that serving something cool?”
In Hamm’s two years in the Green Halo kitchen, he’s become the go-to guy for candies and chocolates. He’ll soon bump up production on the kitchen’s chocolate program. Hamm has three chocolate bar varieties planned out for the unveiling:
Cobblestone Court: The dispensary’s take on Rocky Road, which has lemon, toasted pistachio, marshmallow, pretzels and sea salt
Mint Chocolate: Think Andes mint style with a layer of peppermint fondant in the middle
Mexican Chocolate: Spiked with chiles “Because we’re in Tucson, of course,” Hamm says.
The experimentation and ability to help people is what attracted Hamm to Green Halo’s operation in the first place.
“It’s a new industry and that’s exciting,” Hamm says, adding jokingly, “Plus chefs and cooks all come from a background of substance abuse.”
All of Green Halo’s plants are grown in Maricopa County on a 35,000-foot farm. Stein is hoping that the more Green Halo can grow, the more the store can push their price point down per patient because for him that’s really what its about. Well, that and leaving the kitchen crew alone so they can work their magic.
“I try to just let them do their thing,” Stein says. “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it—you know?”