Cooking With ... Marijuana? Cookbook A Sign of Changing Attitudes

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Like so many other cookbook authors, Sandy Moriarty included recipes for a variety of foods, including desserts, appetizers and entrees.

But Moriarty's recipes include what she calls a special "magic ingredient."

"I'm known for my very potent cannabutter," said the 58-year-old Moriarty. Cannabutter, she explained, is butter mixed with marijuana and is used as the main ingredient in many of the recipes in her Aunt Sandy's Medical Marijuana Cookbook.

Moriarty's interest in medical marijuana developed as a result of her own medical condition. She has a non-growing tumor in her skull and because of her high blood pressure, she suffers periodically from excruciating headaches.

"The cannabis complements my blood pressure medication that keeps my pressure down, and I don't get headaches," said Moriarty.

She is author of one of the latest cookbooks to feature marijuana as an ingredient, and it's also just one of what experts say is a rapidly expanding marijuana industry featuring a wide range of marijuana-inspired products, including drinks, clothing, medical marijuana formulations and others. The booming business of pot, the experts say, is a natural outgrowth of the huge push to legalize medical marijuana.

"The medical marijuana movement has been critical in terms of giving some credibility to marijuana that isn't about stoners or recreational use," said Wendy Chapkis, professor of sociology at the University of Southern Maine in Portland and a co-author of the book Dying to Get High. "It's also mainstreamed it in some way."

Chapkis said cookbooks provide an easy way for many people to get marijuana for medicinal purposes.

"For people who were not already users, eating is the way to go. It's much easier to ingest than smoking," she said.

That's part of the reason Moriarty said she decided to compile the recipes in her book.

"If it works for my situation, imagine what it can do for people with very serious diseases, like cancer," she said.

Ellen Lenox Smith of Scituate, R.I., is a medical marijuana user who said while she can't eat foods with marijuana because of a number of sensitivities to food, she is glad that books like Moriarty's and other marijuana-inspired products are available to help educate people about the benefits of pot.

"I think the more educated people get the more they're going to realize there's nothing to be scared of," said Smith, who is an ambassador for the Arthritis Foundation and an advocate for the American Pain Foundation.

Smith said she suffers from two rare diseases: sarcoidosis, a condition that produces tiny lumps of cells on various body organs that can affect organ function, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which causes fragile skin and joint instability. She tried numerous other traditional remedies, but couldn't tolerate them.

Every day, she makes a marijuana tincture and takes a few teaspoons of it to help with her pain.

"If I take it during the day, it allows me to sit at my computer and work. I can also think and move, and at night, it allows me to get sleep," said Smith.

She said the marijuana she takes doesn't make her stoned.

"I don't get any of those feelings at all," she said.

Debate Over Medical Benefit

Patients like Smith have made it their mission to educate people about the benefits of medical marijuana. Some physicians also say the main active chemical in marijuana, THC, shows promise to help relieve certain types of pain and muscle spasticity.

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