While recreational marijuana will be legalized in Canada starting in July of this year, prepared edible cannabis products will not be greenlighted for at least another year but that’s not stopping one Calgary chef from getting a head start on bringing cannabis into the kitchen.

John Michael MacNeil, the executive chef of The Beltliner Diner and a self-described longtime cannabis advocate, is a champion of the health benefits and culinary uses of marijuana.

“When you taste raw cannabis, or even lightly roasted cannabis, it does have a little bit of a bitter taste to it,” explained MacNeil. “There’s different compounds that are found inside that can be comparable to some lightly dark roasted cocoa.”

“This is where kind of the recipes started to kind of churn into something special.”

MacNeil, who has a permit to possess marijuana under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR), says cannabis will be a welcome addition in his kitchen at the restaurant once prepared edibles are legalized. “It’s something very special to me,” said MacNeil. “It’s a brand new ingredient and that’s what a chef always looks for, something special to use. They’re always searching around the globe and we have some really great ingredients right here in Alberta.”

Years ago, MacNeil was approached by a group of Haskayne MBA students for a class project that evolved into Re-Treat, a premium cannabis edibles company. The business has been selling its cookie and brownie mixes online and plans are in place to start selling the product in dispensaries. “We have a rosemary sea salt chocolate chip cookie, we have a peanut butter oat and the coconut midnight brownie. They’re all gluten-free and dairy-free as well.”

Health Canada has declared edibles as the safest way to consume cannabis and some methods of cooking can prevent an individual from getting high.

Experts believe cannabis will emerge as a new health food trend.

“I expect cannabis to enable super-foods in the future to help consumers lead healthier lives,” said Syvlain Charlebois, Dean of Management at Dalhousie University and a co-author of the ‘Cannabis-infused food and Canadian consumers’ willingness to consider “recreational” cannabis as a food ingredient’ study (posted in its entirety below).

Brendan Bankowski, an owner of The Beltliner Diner, agrees that cannabis is likely to emerge as a coveted ingredient in Canadian restaurants and he hopes his restaurant will be among the first to adopt its use.

“We’ve got John in house so obviously I think we’d like to be on the front end of it,” said Bankowski. “It’s being done in other parts of the world, through Colorado and through Washington, and they have cannabis-based dinners and you can pair it with certain foods and wines and make a whole thing out of it.”

“I think as a nation we’re embracing it and Calgary’s a perfect spot to get this thing rolling.”

MacNeil says he hopes the legalization of edibles will help remove the negative stigma that surrounds cannabis use and believes education will assist newcomers in understanding the differences between strains and to ensure diners consume a reasonable quantity.

With files from CTV's Alesia Fieldberg

Cannabis-infused food and Canadian consumers’ willingness to consider “recreational” cannabis as a food ing... by CTV Calgary on Scribd