An alcohol-free, marijuana-infused dinner party hosted illegally by an upstanding Maine citizen
By Louise Gasnier
I like marijuana, I like that it’s a beautiful, green, and natural herb. I like that when grown properly, with care and attention, it smells so good and sweet it’ll make your mouth water.
On and off since high school, I’ve indulged in marijuana similarly to alcohol (socially, and occasionally more than a couple days in a row of moderate use). I always come to the same conclusion: I like marijuana better.
These days, I use marijuana infrequently. Alcohol is the substance of choice at every social occasion, and despite how progressive and laid-back my friend group is, marijuana is not nearly as popular as a six-pack or bottle of wine.
I’m interested in changing that.
So I sent an email to friends inviting them to a marijuana feast at my house.
In recent years, there’s been increased interest in cannabis dinner parties in states where the plant is legal for recreational use — states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. Renowned chefs (like Mindy Segal, a James Beard Foundation-nominated pastry chef five years in a row) have hosted lavish, multi-course celebrations attended by prominent writers, artists, advocacy groups, and national TV anchors, and people have even started marijuana dinner catering and event-planning businesses.
Recreational pot is not legal in Maine — not yet. Mainers will vote in November on Question 1, the “Maine Marijuana Legalization Measure.” If passed, marijuana dinner parties could become more commonplace.
As a Mainer, I was interested in how a dinner infused with cannabis could differ from a party that pairs food with wine, beer, or spirits. Alcohol is everywhere. But if another product were legal and accessible, would alcohol still call all the shots? Besides, if in moderation everything is pretty much ok, then isn’t marijuana? Tobacco and alcohol are legal (and widely available), yet both have been proven to cause life-threatening illnesses. No deadly disease is linked to marijuana. And for a culture that likes to experiment ad nauseam with food, why not explore marijuana as simply one more gastronomic ingredient?
So I procured about six ounces of marijuana trim (the leaves of the plant left behind after harvest, trim contains cannabinoid content and can be used in cooking). Because I’m not a registered medical marijuana patient in Maine, this was technically illegal — though, to be fair, the trim wasn’t purchased, it was a gift. It’s similar to, say, how breweries donate their spent grain to farms to be used as compost and animal feed.
What follows is a telling of that night, my first (and perhaps not last) marijuana dinner party.
✦ 5:00 p.m.
Unlike dinners I’ve hosted or attended over the years, I asked guests to arrive promptly at the unusual hour of 5 p.m. This would allow enough time for the marijuana edibles (food infused with marijuana that’s typically been cooked in oil or butter) to metabolize and kick in. It takes anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours to feel the psychoactive effects of the THC.
Alcohol was strictly off the menu for the night, and guests were asked to refrain from driving or biking. Operating a car or bicycle while high should still be considered “under the influence,” and I didn’t want to be responsible for anyone getting home unsafely. When it comes to marijuana, there is a substantial lack of research on potency and dosing, and so many folks simply don’t know when enough is enough, or how much to ingest.
To ensure a more predictable dosing system for the dinner, I took one for the team and tested the cannabis butter the night before the party. I consumed very little, about a quarter teaspoon of infused butter. (For the butter, I combined one ounce of trim with a half-pound of unsalted butter in a crock pot set on low for about six hours, then strained the leaf matter out, collected the green butter in a jar and placed it in the fridge.) Made with the trim of a sativa plant — one of the two types of cannabis plants, the other being indica — the high was energetic, uplifting, and amusing. I may have arrived home from the corner store with one of those Kellogg’s eight-count assorted cereal fun packs. Devoured two boxes.
The night of the party, my boyfriend was there as our “safety” person (something that’s not usually designated when alcohol is around) and to provide a contrast in behavior. If people ended up needing a ride home, he would be available.
Instead of contributing a bottle of wine or side dish, I asked the guests to bring their choice of art supplies, crafts, games, or other ideas.
Our bellies warm and full of potato, brisket, and marijuana, we were chatty and relaxed, and more intentional with our words than with alcohol.
✦ 5:20 p.m.
The four guests arrived in unison at 5:20 — acceptable tardiness, I thought, given the especially early feast. Two guests were old friends (I’ll refer to them in this story as “Phil” and “Tess”) who had just moved in together as roommates, and the other two (“Eric” and “Allie”) had met online and recently started dating. Eric was a new acquaintance for everyone else.
I invited the guests to munch on a pre-dinner bite of halved sun gold tomatoes wedged with fresh mozzarella and topped with garden herbs and a simple dressing of balsamic vinegar and cannabis coconut oil. (I made the cannabis oil the exact same way as the butter, measuring a half-pound of coconut oil to an ounce of trim.) Guests commented that they could only slightly taste the marijuana in the hors d’oeuvre, which they appreciated.
For a non-alcoholic beverage, I made a spritzer with basil simple syrup, fresh mint leaves, lime juice, and club soda.
✦ 6:00 p.m.
After some initial pleasantries and readying the table, I assembled a simple salad of butter lettuce and herb dressing — basil, tarragon, and cilantro blended lightly with sour cream and a few drops of the cannabis coconut oil. At this point, no one reported feeling the effects of the marijuana, so I prepped plates for the main course.
✦ 6:15 p.m.
From the oven, I retrieved a beef brisket made with a small amount (about a teaspoon and a half) of cannabis butter in the braising liquid (along with the remaining butter the recipe calls for) that had been cooking for about three hours. I had also prepared a sweet potato and apple shepherd’s pie, and incorporated about the same amount of cannabis butter as the brisket. The flavors of these dishes were intentionally rich and savory — fresh ginger, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, beef stock, dried apples, and chopped tomatoes — in order to mask the taste of marijuana, which can be overpowering for the palate and unappetizing after a few courses. I should mention that I made a non-cannabis plate for Safety Boyfriend, and a vegetarian version for Tess.
✦ 6:50 p.m.
Our bellies warm and full of potato, brisket, and marijuana, conversations became less wooden and predictable; plates were pushed aside, and Phil, a self-proclaimed marijuana trouper, suggested we all move into the living room for music and activities. If this had been a more traditional dinner party, many of us would have been on our second glass of wine or beer by now. Despite the difference in substance, we were all chatty and relaxed, perhaps even more so than with alcohol — we had slowed down just a bit, and seemed more intentional with our words, and outwardly calmer. I said aloud, “I think I’m starting to feel a little stoned.” Just before I joined the group in the living room, I thought to prep something for the dessert course (slices of cava cava oranges covered in a homemade caramel sauce — with the intention of using more marijuana butter — and crushed pistachios), but became uncharacteristically distracted and joined the company instead.
✦ 7:00–8:45 p.m.
It was during this span of time that the cannabis really started to take effect. I’d covered our coffee table with used paper grocery bags and colored pencils. Tess and Phil doodled, Eric and Allie sat together on the couch, and I sat with my legs in a V-shape on the floor slicing up oranges on a cutting board. (Safety Boyfriend sat back on the couch and observed, occasionally chiming in.) I didn’t want to be working away in the kitchen and miss out on the banter, but it was also a really pleasant activity — slicing through ripe, juicy fruit and letting the citrus run down my hands as I lined a baking tray with the segments.
The conversation became a mix tape of funny stoned stories (that time my mom bought me a top-of-the-line humidifier after I had facetiously asked her for a marijuana vaporizer for Christmas); descriptions of how we felt (“mild, warm undertones, background buzz getting stronger”); people in the world who can’t feel fear; fondue; magical “miracle” berries that, when eaten, cause sour foods to taste sweet; and ideas for games to play.
After announcing that he felt “pretty well titrated,” Phil asked if we were interested in the game he brought. He reached into his bag and slowly revealed a giant phallic stainless steel canister that contains BANG!, a “spaghetti western card game.” “That looks like a dick,” Tess declared. After a few minutes trying to explain how to play, the group of us, Safety Boyfriend included, had gone cross-eyed. As nicely as possible, I told Phil that the game seemed extremely complex, and perhaps the marijuana was making it hard for us to comprehend (it was). I was having a tough time focusing on dessert (still hadn’t made the caramel sauce), and decided to take a break in the kitchen. While I whisked the caramel sauce, Tess slunk up next to me to say she needed to run home quickly to walk her newly adopted dog, and asked if I thought that would mess up the vibe. I told her that it wouldn’t, but she was welcome to return on one condition — that she pick up an assortment of ice cream bars at the corner store (I still wasn’t sure if dessert was going to happen).
To my surprise, dessert did happen (without additional marijuana butter), despite the fact that I missed the part about needing to refrigerate the dish for at least three hours before serving. Oops.
✦ 9:00 p.m.
Tess returns, dumping the contents of her purse on the floor to reveal a variety of six ice cream bars. The group of us dove for our favorite bar, Safety Boyfriend included (had he caught a contact high?). As we sat in happy silence devouring our post-dessert treats, Phil piped up with another idea. “Does anyone have a dry erase marker?” he said. I left the room to dig through a junk drawer and returned with his request. He then stood up to a wall mirror and started to trace his face. When he stepped aside after a few minutes, an uncanny self-portrait was unveiled — we applauded his artistry and insisted we all take a turn. Half an hour later, all of our faces were traced in the mirror. (I erased my first self-portrait attempt because it looked like Chewbacca.)
Around 9:30, Eric and Allie departed, and soon after Tess followed — all on foot. Phil stayed on for another twenty minutes or so. Maybe he felt the need to leave when he caught me dozing on the couch — not my typical dinner party host position, but I also wasn’t feeling particularly embarrassed. Phil understood. Safety Boyfriend walked him out.
Despite the terrifying volcano of dishes in the kitchen, the mess of pencils, pens, wrappers, art, books, glassware, and a cutting board covered in orange juice, I went to bed. Cleanup could wait until morning.
The Next Day
The next morning, I walked into the living room in a haze that only slightly echoed the high from the night before. I felt tired, but not achy or bulldozed by a hangover. My head didn’t pound or spin like it might the morning after a few glasses of wine. My memory wasn’t crippled or stunned, and albeit fatigued, I wasn’t brain dead — I actually just felt relaxed. Bit by bit, I made our apartment recognizable again, all while thinking how low-key the night went, in a good way. No one got “too high.” Even better, no one didn’t not get high — my real fear. The pacing and dosing seemed appropriate. Responsible, even. My first marijuana dinner party was a success. I stood in front of the long mirror, the traced faces of my friends staring back at me. I thought, no way would we have drawn these at any old dinner party. Something about last night was different, and I liked it.
It was a great time! I liked the theme party feeling, and the group activity-ness of it, where we were all hanging out doing something together rather than a regular party where people are having lots of different experiences and you sometimes feel like you need to act normal when you just want to act weird or silly.
It might be fun to have a bigger art project, like with 3D materials like clay or something? Maybe face paints or body paints? The most memorable part of the evening was listening to stories and talking and laughing. It was nice to feel so comfortable at a party where I didn’t actually know other people that well. I feel like that is a rare thing!
I didn’t mind not having alcohol at the party. There were times when I thought I would have enjoyed a beer or a cocktail — especially when I dreamed up a Moxie, whiskey, and moose tracks ice cream float — but I also enjoyed the absence of alcohol and experiencing the effects of the cannabis in isolation.
The pacing was good, though it took the ganja a little long to kick in. Perhaps a more potent appetizer to start the evening would be a good idea. We’ll host the next one!
I honestly couldn’t taste the marijuana at all. Definitely not in the main dish or the dressing. At one point I dipped a bunch of pea shoots in the herb oil and I tasted it then, but otherwise didn’t notice.
I think people have really different reactions to different substances. Alcohol makes some people sleepy, some people assholes, some people stupid. Pot makes some people sleepy, some people assholes, some people stupid. Getting the right mix together is key, which I think we nailed. Personally, I’ll always take pot over alcohol, so the experience wasn’t all that different than normal life. I would like to do more edibles and less smoking for health reasons.