Saturday, October 03, 2015

Green Rush, Ground Floor

It's not like Laurie Wolf really planned on being in on the ground floor. A chef who trained at the Culinary Institute of America, she authored a number of successful cookbooks and worked as a food editor and stylist when she lived on the East Coast. Seeking to get out of the New York craziness, she and her family moved to Portland, Oregon, where she continued doing much the same, including authoring a well-received book named "The Portland, Oregon Chef's Table."

Laurie also has a seizure disorder which she found was treatable with marijuana. And with Oregon being one of the first states to pass a medical marijuana law in 1998, she was able to do something legally there that she was unable to do in the Empire State. Then one time at a dispensary Laurie decided to try some alternative forms of the drug, packaged as edible brownies. Her expert opinion? "They tasted horrible." And so she started experimenting, seeing if she could successfully marry the different highs you get from chocolate and pot.

Then this past July Oregon joined Colorado, Washington state, Alaska and the District of Columbia in legalizing recreational use of the drug. The so-called "Green Rush" was on, and suddenly lots of people were trying to see how they could have a finger in what is expected to be a multi-billion dollar brownie. And standing in the middle of it all was Laurie, having already baked it.

She started a company called "Laurie and MaryJane," and developed recipes for a variety of foods. All are organic, additive- and preservative-free, and have a consistent dosage of THC, the most psychoactive ingredient in Cannabis. There is a Fudgy Brownie of course, but also Almond Cake Bites and a Sweet n' Savory Nut mix, Peanut Butter, Cannabutter (a fusion of cannabis and butter), and Cannacoconut oil for cooking and baking. They have fun and funny sayings on the packaging like, "Go fudge yourself" and "Some of my best friends are nuts!." And not to brag or anything, but they are so good that the nuts placed first and the almond bites second in their respective categories at this year's Fourth Annual Dope Cup in Seattle.

Some might see Laurie's world as the ultimate kid in the candy store. She allows it's pretty great, but there are some downsides. "The testing and tasting has been challenging since I have gotten high when I need to be working. Aside from medicating for my seizure disorder which does not get me high, I only indulge in the evenings. Too many bad cases of the munchies!" Still, it's a business, and she has to make it work: "I can take a small taste or two and not get high. But just that. A whole one of our bites will be too strong. I know how much I can eat at this point." I asked her if she ever got tired of it: "I don't get sick of weed, so many different strains to try with different flavor profiles. In fact, I often make our products unmedicated for giveaways and demos, and never tire of the taste."

Aside from the product itself, one really unexpected upside of the new business is how she has involved her family. Her son's fiancé Mary does marketing, designs all the packaging and helps with production, while her husband Bruce, a well-known photographer, shoots the mouthwatering product shots. She smiled: "Having it all in the family is pretty terrific. I call us the Wolf Cartel."

I asked Laurie what she hoped people get from her products. Her answer echoes her own experiences: "I hope they get enjoyment from the high and the taste, but also relief from pain, anxiety, discomfort and life, if that's what they need." Beyond that, she's very proud of what is happening in Oregon and her part in it: "Portland is an amazing city and I love that it is so progressive. I hope that we do marijuana right. I was on the subcommittee for edibles for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. My hope is that the OLCC will support small cannabis businesses and let the roll out set an example for the rest of the country."

There are precious few opportunities any person ever gets to see something truly cutting edge, be it a piece of technology or a new social movement. This is one of those moments, and Laurie doesn't just have a ring side seat, she is a player. She shakes her heads and laughs about it: "It is great. I am learning so much. And to see this happen in my life is fantastic."


Marc Wollin of Bedford often enjoyed Laurie's unmedicated cooking. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at Glancing Askance, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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