The other day, I learned heaps from Jamie Evans, a lively cannabis educator and an innovative cannabis cook, who will speak at the third annual Wine & Weed Symposium in August. (wine-weed.com/nc/) Evans isn’t just cooped up in a kitchen or at one of the many cannabis events she produces. She gets out and about and into fields.
“I love cannabis cultivators,” Evans told me. “I go to their farms and see that they’re similar in many ways to grape growers. They care about their crops.”
A California native and a graduate of Cal Poly, where she studied viticulture, Evans lives in Sausalito and travels widely, though her business, Herb Somm, (a play on the word sommelier), is based in San Francisco.
Evans learned about wine at Cal Poly and in Australia and Switzerland. In Sonoma County, she worked with the marketing team at Kendal Jackson. Now, she’s involved with Crop-to-Kitchen, a group that aims to connect the culinary arts to cannabis and create cannabis-infused foods.
“You have to be very careful with edibles,” Evans said. “It’s easy to overdose.”
She’s learning about foods infused with cannabis from a German-born chef named Coreen Carroll, who created the Cannaisseur Series, and Mike Magallanwa, the founder of the Opulent Chef.
Along with Carroll and Magallanwa, Evans is new school.
“I came along after Prop 215 and respect the early pioneers who helped push this movement forward,” Evans said. “Without them, we wouldn't be where we are today!”
She’s part of the changing of the guard that’s taking place in the cannabis industry. Members of the older generations are moving on, retiring from the business entirely or reinventing themselves. Some are joining the younger generation that’s experimenting with cannabis, setting new standards and building their own networks.
Old school farmers and dealers learned to live with the Prohibition against pot, along with police raids, arrests and paranoia. The younger generation, to which Evans belongs, doesn’t have that baggage and isn’t weighed down by that past. Enthusiasm infuses new school people.
“We’re blessed in California because we have some of the best wines and some of the best marijuana in the world,” Evans said. “It makes sense for the two industries to join forces.”
Evans is commonsensical whether she’s talking about proper dosing, how to chose the best cannabis flowers (known as “buds”), or about the key organic compounds in marijuana: THC, CBD, and the terpenes, which give the cannabis plant its aroma and flavor. In case you forget, Evans reminds you that marijuana is a plant and an herb. After all, her company is Herb Somm.
“I always tell people ‘Your nose knows,’” she said. “Smell is critical when choosing the right buds. I put cannabis in a wine glass and sniff the way I would sniff wine.”
Evans urges fledgling cannabis users to go slow and go low. She also encourages beginners to be adventurous, try different strains and different methods of consuming. It’s essential, she insists, for each individual to find out what works and what doesn’t, since no two individuals are the same when it comes to cannabis.
“My own grandmother, whom I never would have thought would be interested in cannabis, is now using it as a topical,” Evans said.
She suggests that beginners think of THC and CBD as the engine of the cannabis vehicle and the terpens as the steering wheel and the tires. You need all the parts to get where you want to go, whether it’s wellness and health or a high — or some of both. Balance is Evans’ mantra.
Evans is the co-editor of the Cooking Journal, and she likes to cook with cannabis. On her website, she offers spectacular photos of some of her favorite dishes: CBD mint pea pesto crostini with burrata, prosciutto and a balsamic reduction; and a strawberry apricot CBD tartlet. One look and you want to eat and come back for more.
Yes, there’s a changing of the cannabis guard, but don’t count out veterans who have been around for decades and who are still making valuable contributions to our understanding of the plant.
Jonah Raskin, a professor emeritus at Sonoma State University, is the author most recently of “Dark Day, Dark Night: A Marijuana Murder Mystery.”