By Erian Bradley
On one cold October night, she walks into her galley kitchen barefoot, scratching her head before switching on the light above the oven. She reaches into her light brown cabinet to grab her white hand mixer and a bowl to start her first batch for the night.
Bang, bang, bang. She hits the pots that are stacked up in the cabinet as she tries to find another bowl to mix her “special” ingredient.
She grabs the bowl, sits at her dining room table and goes through her recipe to make sure she has everything she needs to perfect her special treats.
Tiandra, 23, of Louisville, had dreamed of baking for a living since the eighth grade. Her next-door neighbor baked cakes and she would go and help sometimes. She fell in love with it.
She found out in her teens that she didn’t need any help baking cakes, whether it be a pound cake or chocolate fudge, and she could make money by making them.
Tiandra started making cakes for baby showers, birthdays, and other events for people in Louisville. After making cakes for customers in 2015, she saw a trend of edible marijuana treats, and it was making people lots of money. She had already smoked marijuana and knew the benefits, and she wanted to see what the hype was about. To become more experienced, she watched YouTube videos and searched online for ideas on how to make them taste great.
“I figured out how easy it was, and people just started buying it,” she said.
She started out making plain chocolate brownies and those sold well. But she said she prefers now to make strawberry brownies because customers seem to enjoy their taste more. She’s also made cake pops and Rice Krispies treats, but they didn’t sell as well.
She found a business that works and has a positive impact on her bank account. Unfortunately, it’s illegal.
“Marijuana is illegal and I definitely know that, but it’s how I make a living,” she said. “I sell them on social media and I know there might be cops watching.”
As of September 2017, 29 states and the District of Columbia have laws legalizing marijuana in some form.
Kentucky is not one of them.
There have been bills introduced in the state legislature for years, but none have made it through. In most of the states that have legalized marijuana, it was done through ballot initiatives — something Kentucky doesn’t have.
Although marijuana isn’t legal, its relative, hemp, is legal in Kentucky for industrial hemp research. In 2014, President Barack Obama signed an Agriculture Act (or Farm Bill) that allowed universities and state departments of agriculture to begin cultivating industrial hemp for limited purposes. Kentucky has a commercial licensing program to allow hemp cultivation for any legal purpose, but the state doesn’t recognize any legal purpose for marijuana.
Many people believe that marijuana has health benefits. While the federal government has not approved it for medical use, FDA-approved medications containing synthetic THC, one of the active chemicals in marijuana, are known to help AIDs patients with appetite, treat multiple sclerosis, and treat cancer-related pain, according to a Harvard Medical School article by Dr. Wynne Armand.
Smoking marijuana, might not solve everyone’s problems, but a legislator in Kentucky said it might save the economy.
Sen. Dan Seum told WDRB in October that taxing marijuana for adult use could potentially create jobs and fix the economy — including helping to solve Kentucky’s public pension crisis. Seum, the Senate Majority Caucus Chairman, said he believes that taxing marijuana could generate $100 million a year in revenue.
“Twenty-eight states now have one form or another of legalized cannabis, or marijuana,” Seum said.
In Colorado, where marijuana was legalized for recreational purposes in 2012, the state’s revenue from marijuana sales has steadily soared each year, with $205 million in revenue from taxes, licenses and fees collected from January to October 2017, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.
Matt Simon, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, said that it’s not a surprise that some legislators say no to the legalization of marijuana.
“Many legislators still believe the propaganda about marijuana being an extremely dangerous drug,” he said. “It’s hard for them to see that our marijuana policies actually do more harm to society than the plant itself.”
Like many other people who support legalizing marijuana, Simon said he believes that prohibition has failed and the government will eventually realize that. He said that they should be pursuing a more sensible approach.
“Marijuana has been left in the hands of criminals when it could be reasonably regulated by businesses in a safer way,” Simon said.
Tiandra walks into her bathroom, grabs a hand towel and wipes her hands off so she can put the edibles in the oven. She turns the oven on 350 degrees and sits on the phone looking through her contacts for her “weed man.”
“I can’t make the edibles all the time because I don’t have weed all the time, and I don’t have weed all the time because I don’t have the money,” she said.
Tiandra said she believes that marijuana should be legalized, but she knows it might end her business. If marijuana was legalized and sold commercially, she said her business wouldn’t do so well because it would be easier for people to get access legally, therefore forcing her to compete with other edible businesses.
Tiandra sells her edibles to locals for not only recreational purposes but also for people who have illnesses that cause a lot of pain and discomfort.
“I’ve had customers with diabetes, lung disorders, and I’ve had remission patients as well,” she said. “I have a loyal customer that has an immune disorder that fuses her joints. They’ve all given great reviews, and it’s helped their pain or satisfied them.”
Tiandra said that most of her customers who have illnesses say that marijuana helps with their pain when other medications haven’t helped much. It lets them relax and even eat and sleep.
Although she has been selling edibles while it’s still illegal, she has never been arrested for it. She’s had close calls by getting pulled over at times, but it was regular traffic stops. There is not a huge skunk-like smell with edibles like when marijuana is smoked.
“I never let that stop me from making as much money as I can…and any type of drug trafficking is risky, but that’s why I’m glad they’re edibles,” she said. “If I get pulled over or anything with them in the car, I can eat it.”
There are many reasons for people choosing edibles over smoking marijuana, and they have become very popular in the United States.
California’s marijuana-infused edible sales rose to a whopping $180 million in 2016, including food and drinks — 10 percent of the state’s cannabis sales, according to Arcview Market Research.
Simon, of the Marijuana Policy Project, said that people have been consuming marijuana in edible form for thousands of years. He said that since many people prefer not to smoke for health reasons, edible products have become very popular in the states that have legal, regulated markets.
“The advantage of edibles is obvious — you don’t have to smoke, and there’s no smell, etcetera,” he said. “The effect also lasts much longer than smoking or vaporizing. However, getting the right dosage can be more challenging with edibles.”
Simon said that the effects of edibles can take an hour or more before they are felt. If a person consumes too much, they can have an unpleasant experience that lasts several hours.
“The good news is that there has never been a fatal overdose associated with marijuana consumption,” he said.
Simon recommends that consumers should “start slow and go slow” to find a comfortable dose and avoid overconsumption. He said that Colorado and other states have adopted limits on serving sizes to limit the risk of overconsumption, and those reforms have had a positive impact.
Although there hasn’t been any deaths due to the consumption of marijuana, Colorado banned gummy bears and other edible marijuana shaped like animals, people, and fruit in October of this year. Children were mistaking them for candy and getting sick and adults were consuming too much of the candies, according to the Associated Press.
Larry Wolk, Colorado’s health agency’s executive director, told CBS that people call Colorado’s poison control hotline thousands of times each year when kids swallow household cleaners and prescription medications — far more often than they call about marijuana products.
Courtland known as “courddie” on social media, 22, is another marijuana edible maker in Kentucky. He has a passion for cooking as well. He started making brownie edibles and cereal bars in 2016 for summer fun with his friends.
He makes everything from marijuana-infused drinks, banana pudding, and queso. Queso is one of his more popular meals that his customers buy.
“I loved making sweets, but I wanted to bring something new to the table that most people weren’t doing,” Courtland said. “Now, I’m making meals every weekend.”
Unlike Tiandra, Courtland was in trouble with the law in 2017. He was almost a felon for the amount of drugs and edibles he was caught carrying.
“When you’re trying to be successful there will always be risks you have to take. I just beat a case for my business,” he said. “I’m planning on moving to a legalized state.”
In order to make these marijuana-infused treats, it takes patience and a long process.
Tiandra grinds the marijuana down in a crumb-like form, puts it in a crockpot with oil, and lets it marinate for hours.
“It can take up anywhere from two or three hours, and the extraction takes the longest,” she said.
Her customers may love her business but to some of her family, it’s not the business they want her in. Her mother does not approve of her making edibles due to the law. Some of her family supports her by buying her products and others just send encouraging words, she said.
Tiandra makes edibles but she also works a part-time job. She used her edible money to help pay some of the bills, but she soon found out she would need extra cash for a life-changing event that popped up.
In July, she found out she was pregnant.
She said she didn’t feel the need to stop making edibles because making them couldn’t harm the baby. She did stop smoking marijuana, though.
Tiandra has been making edibles for over three years and plans to eventually have her own edible bakery somewhere in a legalized state. She said she enjoys the hard work she puts into the marijuana-infused treats.
“If I can keep making edibles and actually do more than just sell them in Louisville, I’d be happy,” Tiandra said.